Hell’s Kitchen“. “Kitchen Nightmares“. You either love him or hate him, but Gordon Ramsay, London chef extraordinaire, will not leave you feeling indifferently toward him.

Watching just one episode of “Hell’s Kitchen” (any one episode from any of the 6 seasons), will adjust your perspective on being treated, well, poorly…by anyone. Chef Ramsay can make any boss look sweet and cuddly. He berates, insults, and belittles the contestants desperately clinging to some hope that they’ll be the ones chosen to be the head-chef at the next posh restaurant. It is evident that Ramsay has a standard, and that standard is perfection. And, there’s hell to pay if the standard isn’t achieved. Pun intended.

I’m an avid “Hell’s Kitchen” watcher–first introduced to the series in 2007. There is nothing I technically gain from watching the show, except–maybe–the gratitude that I’m not employed by such a man and that my toddlers don’t yell at me (quite) like that. I’m hooked. I’m simultaneously embarrassed for the contestants as they endure, weekly, Ramsay’s bouts of temper and disdain for their existence, but I don’t want him to stop (what will he do next?)…it’s so horrible but I can’t look away.

Last year, my husband introduced me to the other of Chef Ramsay’s TV shows: “Kitchen Nightmares”. Oh Boy, I thought. This is gonna be good! Chef Ramsay going out into the public (with “real people”) to “fix” restaurants and turn them from their horrible ways. Ooooo, what ever will he say?! “Kitchen Nightmares” is very similar to “Hell’s Kitchen” in that Ramsay is just as volatile and angry, but there is a twist: at some point in nearly every episode, Gordon Ramsay will stop insulting and demanding perfection from the restaurateurs and will, lovingly, connect with them at a deeper level. He’ll focus in on the main problem (which is never only behavior) and pour love into it, mending it, healing it. It’s here where the viewer (me) can see real changes start to happen.

For some time, I could not put my finger on it: is Gordon Ramsay Law or Grace? He comes in and changes happen. What was causing the changes? In the midst of watching an episode recently, it hit me. Gordon Ramsay, as seen in “Kitchen Nightmares”, is Law AND Grace. He’s the law: he comes in and says, essentially, “You’re failing! This is Horrible!” (In fact, he may have actually said those very words.) But then, part way through the episode, he draws them back in through Love and Grace. Not that he pours out praise for them– not that type of love–but he expresses true concern for the real issue: the heart. Most of the central characters in the episodes have a strained marriage, or a fractured Father/Son relationship, or are brothers at odds, or are chefs who’ve lost the passion and reason for why they’re even in this business. Chef Ramsay takes the time to address these heart matters. Then, and only then, do changes start happening.

Here are my two favorite “tear-jerking” episodes (they’re about 45 minutes in length, so watch them when you can):

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