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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Kitchen Nightmares: Dillons

Posted By on Thu, Sep 27, 2007 at 2:15 PM

RFT editorial intern Jeanette Kozlowski is a big fan of bad-boy British chef Gordon Ramsay. Each week she'll recap the latest episode of Ramsay's new FOX series Kitchen Nightmares.

If you've ever been nervous about eating at an empty restaurant, this second installment of Kitchen Nightmares will certainly reinforce the natural instinct to flee when the only patrons are giant flies.

From past episodes of Kitchen Nightmares on BBC, you'll remember nauseating kitchen scenes like this one (NSFW due to Ramsay's uncensored rant):

But tonight Dillons takes the cake (and leaves it out for a month to feed the cockroaches and rats). Seriously, it's shocking that this unsanitary fly-infested haven wasn't shut down long before it made it on this show.

The Indian restaurant, located in Manhattan on West 54th Street, is a mere two blocks away from Gordon Ramsay's own. With three different managers (a floor manager, an operations manager and a general manager) and two head chefs for two separate menus (American and Indian), mass confusion is a constant theme of the night. Guests are baffled by the amount of choices, while Ramsay is in awe of the sheer disorganization of it all.

The first major disaster is Ramsay's meal. In a silent lunch-hour dining room with the walls blanketed in what he calls "hospital linens," he mutters to himself, "God, I'm lonely." His vegetarian appetizer is a "dehydrated turd" with lamb inside, the tomato roses served are rotten, and his beef turns out to be not only lamb but old lamb. His main course of salmon "looks like a doormat." Of course, he refuses to eat it. Instead, he makes the chef (who also happens to be the operations manager) eat it. All this occurs while flies buzz around Ramsay's head. Oh man, he has to know he's in for it.

The British general manger Martin is a complete dunderhead. Although not as intolerable as last week's Peter, Martin certainly comes close with his total obliviousness. It's not that he was spending money on designer suits or fast cars, he just wasn't spending time doing his job. Instead, he lies in a booth while one of the waitresses lovingly tousles his hair. That scene alone made it obvious he and Ramsay were not going to be friends.

Because of Martin's incompetence, the kitchen has become a breeding ground for lawsuits and a possible return of the Plague. Cooks stirring food in Tupperware containers on the floor; moldy hamburgers and putrid potatoes line the refrigerators. Most horrifying of all, mountains of rat droppings, boxes filled with cockroach parties and salad bags serving as homes to vagrant flies are unearthed just one story below dining level. Ramsay pulls back the plastic on a freezer lining to reveal at least five to ten creepy crawlies wandering about. It's like an episode of Fear Factor when busty blonds chew up insects -- except the only people eating here were the brave customers of Dillons, and they're paying to do so. Ramsay simply can't handle this. He explodes: "This will kill someone! Where are your standards?!" And all Martin can mutter is: "Things are looking pretty glum."

By now Ramsay is in such disgust he shuts down the kitchen for the night, and he shouts to patrons that it's their "lucky day" because they won't get food poisoning or die.

During the next segment, Ramsay returns to the restaurant in better spirits -- mostly because he's dressed in a white hazmat suit with a team of professional cleaners in tow. Ramsay then brings the Dillons team to his restaurant at the London hotel to show them how spotless and elegant his kitchen is kept -- and that the refrigerators are cleaned twice, daily. But we mustn't forget the reality of Ramsay's own situation:

It was in New York that Ramsay had his first real taste of failure, when his much-hyped eponymous restaurant at the London hotel was given a lukewarm reception by US critics. Frank Bruni from the New York Times said the venture lacked excitement and relied on "familiar French ideas and techniques that have been executed with more flair, more consistency and better judgment in restaurants with less vaunted pedigrees".

(Read the full article from the Guardian on the chef here.)

Still, Ramsay helps everyone at Dillons get back on their feet (with the exception of Martin). Ramsay brings in a crew to give the exterior and dining room a new look, rewrites the menu with the chef and also helps the owner decide on a new name -- Purnima. This new restaurant serves modern Indian food in a simple yet elegant environment. It sure looks pretty, but I still don't know if I'd ever eat there after what I saw. Would you?

Overall, the re-launch is successful, with a few hiccups caused by Martin -- who quits by the end of the show. This FOX series definitely feels more scripted than the BBC edition, though it's exciting to see a restaurant make such a dramatic change. Then again, anything is possible with a big budget.

Lesson learned: If the general manager lets food rot and cockroaches dance near any place where people dining, interrogate him about his standards until he quits in a guilt-ridden fury.

Next week: I'll admit to not paying attention during the previews, so all I remember is some chick who sounds like Fran Drescher. Great.

And if you have yet to catch an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, FOX now has a full-length version of this week's episode here on its Web site, and someone else has uploaded parts of last week's on YouTube.

- Jeanette Kozlowski

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