Gordon Ramsay may be a lot of things - loud, obnoxious, brash, arrogant, opinionated, foul-mouthed, egotistical, hilarious - but there is one thing that he is not, and that's un-talented. The man behind several sensational high end eateries in England and abroad may talk the haute cuisine talk, but with his many Michelin stars and critical acclaimed restaurants, this member of the Order of the British Empire can definitely walk the good food walk. With series like Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Hell's Kitchen, only one side of the Scottish firebrand is usually seen. While he can be compassionate and understanding, most fans come looking for him to drop the F-bomb like parsley on the side of the plate. Leave it to the able entrepreneur to understand all facets of such a reputation. He even named one of his more interesting TV experiments The f Word. Except, in this case, the middle term is not one referencing fornication. As with everything Ramsay deals with, it's all about the "food".
Along with the regular members of his staff, Ramsay also auditions several "commis" giving them a chance to work with him and, if they survive, earn a job at one of his restaurants. Out of thousands of applicants, he picks 12. Then, each week, two (or three) step into the f Word to prove their mantle. In addition, every series has a unique theme. The first focused on Ramsay's campaign to get women "back" in the kitchen. In essence, this means offering his skill and services to ladies who can't cook and feel embarrassed because of said inferred limitation. There's also a more personal aspect to the show, as Ramsay tries to raise his four young children to appreciate the food they eat. Up first - raising their own Christmas turkeys (FYI - we do seem them slaughtered - humanely - at the end of the run).
Finally, in between all the celebrity chat and special reports from food critic Giles Coren (and occasional input from journalist Rachel Cooke), Ramsay treats his customers to a competition. Famous faces step into the kitchen and match dessert recipes with the master. After each one is complete, they are judged by a panel of specially chosen eaters. The winner gets served in the f Word. In case you're curious about the kinds of foods offered during the nine installments within this three DVD set, here's the individual dishes presented:
Episode 1 - Foie Gras on a Bed of Lentils, Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb, Bread and Butter Pudding.
Episode 2 - Pumpkin Risotto, Roasted Monk Fish in Mussel Broth, Apple Pudding.
Episode 3 - Tagliatelle with Wild Mushrooms, Venison with Chocolate Sauce, Rhubarb Crumble.
Episode 4 - Pigeon Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette, Brill in Red Wine, Poached Pears in Crepes, Chocolate Fondant.
Episode 5 - Watercress Soup with Poached Egg, Roasted Chicken in Morel Mushroom Sauce, Chocolate Cheesecake.
Episode 6 - Roasted Sea Scallops with Cauliflower Puree, Beef Wellington, Trifle.
Episode 7 - Bean Soup with Tiger Prawns, Roasted Pheasant with Braised Cabbage in Bread Sauce, Chocolate Brownie.
Episode 8 - Duck Breast Ravioli in a Jerusalem Artichoke sauce, Pan Roasted Sea Bass in a Sweet and Sour Pepper Sauce, Fig Tart.
Episode 9 - Oyster Soup, Roast Christmas Turkey with the Trimmings, Chocolate-Chestnut Tart.
It's interesting to see how things have changed since Graham Kerr and Julia Child once ruled the broadcast how-to field. When Ramsay announces his "Getting Women Back in the Kitchen" campaign, built around helping disgruntled female cooks to fall back in love with their pantries, a fiery Feminist response makes it sound like he's arguing for a return to the "barefoot and pregnant" paradigm of 50 years ago (he clearly is/was not). Similarly, his competitive nature makes the guest recipe spot frequently uncomfortable. He often refers to the other people's dishes as "baby sick", "turds" and "garbage", yet he tends to lose much more than he wins. Even the weekly segments where his children learn lessons about growing their own food (and in the first season, raising six turkeys for Christmas dinner) appear to be met with a hyperbolic over-reaction that borders on the insane. Clearly, controversy is being ballyhooed for the sake of some ratings points (the series and its host are still wildly popular in the UK), but beneath the seemingly outlandish ideas are some interesting, inventive recipes.
This is where The f Word truly shines. Give Ramsay a freshly honed knife, a farm raised pigeon, some thyme and bay leaf, and an inherent knowledge of what makes food fabulous, and the series sores into a taste bud tantalizing atmosphere. During one installment, he makes a Beef Wellington that literally makes your mouth water, and when ditzy actress Martine McCutcheon finally discovers her cooker and turns out a full blown Sunday lunch, including roast, potatoes, and Yorkshire pudding, it's enough to put you off your microwaved mini-meal or Vegan repast all together. From scrumptious desserts to slightly avant-garde appetizers, Ramsay is truly a culinary genius. As was stated before, you can't earn all those Michelin stars and recognition from royalty and not have something special. As with many shows just starting out, The f Word contains a few uneven elements that keep it from being an outright success, but with Ramsay in the driver's seat, the series can only improve (and oddly enough, it did).