At this point in his career, Gordon Ramsay could technically coast on his larger than life reputation. He has Michelin stars, multiple television shows, and a following that includes the famous, the infamous, and the typical homegrown cook. He can even manage to mollify scandal, as when a notorious "mistress to the stars" suggested that she and the high profile celebrity shared a series of "intimate" encounters a few years back (an allegation Ramsay vehemently denied). Now, with his food service empire shaken by the recent economic crisis, the curse-word king remains a pop culture fixture. Last month, DVD distributor BFS released the first series of the entrepreneur's entertaining cooking-cum-chat show The f Word. Series 2 is now out on the digital domain, and while missing an important ingredient for any fan of Ramsay and his resilient public persona, it's another foray into food, fun, and one incredibly fascinating overblown public personality.
In addition, the overall series has a collection of unique themes. The first time around, Ramsay focused on a campaign to get women "back" in the kitchen. This time, he wants to bring Sunday lunch back to British families. 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. This series, they are raising their own hogs for a succulent summer feast.
Finally, in between all the celebrity chat and special reports from presenter Janice Street-Porter, Ramsay treats his customers to a competition. Famous faces step into the kitchen and match signature recipes with the master. After each one is complete, they are judged by a panel of specially chosen eaters. The winner earns f Word bragging rights. In case you're curious about the kinds of foods offered during the eight installments within this three DVD set, here's the individual dishes presented:
Episode 1 - Salad of Red Mullet, Saddle of Lamb, Summer Pudding
Episode 3 - Scrambled Eggs with Wild Mushrooms, Steamed Black Bream, Gratin Savion
Episode 4 - Summer Soup, Rabbit Fricassees, Rhubarb Soufflé
Episode 5 - Asian Calamari with Bok Choy, Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Leg, Crepes Suzette
Episode 6 - Prawn Toast with Cucumber Salad, Lemon Sole in Paper, Plum Tatin
Episode 7 - Onion Tart with Fried Quail Eggs, Breast of Duck with Gooseberry Sauce, Four Minute Chocolate Mousse
Episode 8 - Crab Rolls with Fresh Mango Salsa, Beef Filet with Mushroom Gratin, Hot Chocolate Fondant
Episode 9 - Scallops with Summer Truffles, Pressed Belly of Pork, Roast Lion of Pork, Baked Apples, Apple Tart
Ramsay is also a bit of a hypocrite this time around. Last series, he raised turkeys to take to the slaughter. It was Christmas Walking Bird for one and all. This time, it's pigs, and the sizeable step up the food chain seems to really effect him - at least, for a while. He loves these animals and makes sure they have as many amenities as possible during their stay in his back garden. He even takes them to a pig judging competition. In the penultimate episode, when his beloved prized sows are finally brought to the abattoir, Ramsay balks as they are electrocuted, bled, and then boiled in scorching water. The look on his face suggests that he is genuinely moved. He takes it very hard and appears to have an epiphany of sorts - that is, until he returns for the finale and practically drools over the lean meat he is about to prepare. Such mixed messages are the hardest part of The f Word. One minute, he's joking about some obscure ingredient. The next he's commenting on how the British no longer eat items like jellied eel.
The use of unschooled brigades is really the show's highlight. You'd think that merely mixing up the ingredients for a ripping chocolate mouse or grilling a few pieces of fish would be nothing for these self-professed gourmets. But the minute Ramsay actually makes demands of them, the second he stops being a celebrity and starts being a boss, the majority of these crews crumble. Watching them take the hit is part of The f Word's charm. It's also the show's major element of dissatisfaction. Watching people fail over and over again is not the most entertaining of broadcast pastimes, and when you've got cocky policemen or priggish college kids who really don't know what they're doing in a professional kitchen, the flop sweat can be stinky indeed. At least the celebrity cook-off challenges take the right approach. Thanks to their own inherent fame, Ramsay is less overbearing and the time they spend together is incredibly appealing. Overall, this second go round with The f Word shows some vast improvement over the lame chat show stylings of the first series. Things aren't perfect, and when dealing with someone like Ramsay, that's rare indeed.
Anyway, the show is presented in a letterboxed, 16x9 transfer in the UK, and the anamorphic Region 1 DVD version of The f Word maintains such a theatrical framing. The 1.78:1 image is translated over from PAL to NTSC with skill and care. There is no ghosting, lag, or any other element we come to expect when formats travel across the Atlantic. The visual element here is bright, detailed, and very well put together. Hats off to the various directors for keeping everything from tumbling over into chaos.