Until yesterday, I had never watched an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but, according to its website, here’s how it works: Ramsay, a notoriously mean chef, visits struggling restaurants, observes them, and then tells the owners how to fix their restaurants. Knowing how I usually respond to criticism, I cannot see how this premise ever works. Instead, I would imagine every episode ending in denial, retreat, and, ultimately, violence.
In other words, I would imagine that every episode proceeds along the same lines as this episode, which features Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona:[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU6gHTIYnKY&w=600] [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZhzZPBanGk&w=600]
If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing now, I would recommend saving this for a time that you do. It is chock-full of theological lessons or (if you are more like me) mockability. To summarize, Amy and Samy met in Las Vegas, where Samy was apparently quite the playboy. They got married and, to take advantage of Amy’s (self-proclaimed) God-given gifts in the kitchen, invested $1 million in their Scottsdale restaurant. The restaurant got some bad reviews on the Internet, which spurred a response from Samy and Amy. Now Samy and Amy feel attacked from all sides and want Gordon Ramsay to come and let everyone know that their restaurant is, in fact, very good.
You can already see the crux of the problem. Samy and Amy want justification. They start by trying to justify themselves in their response to the Internet “haters.” When that doesn’t work, they seek salvation from the outside, in the form of Gordon Ramsay.
But the salvation they seek is not the type of salvation that Ramsay is offering. In his initial visit to the restaurant, Ramsay tastes Amy’s cakes and is extremely complimentary of them. However, when he tries to eat lunch at the restaurant, he immediately identifies numerous problems. Amy prepares all of the food herself. The wait for food is too long. When the food arrives, it isn’t properly prepared. Samy is the only person who uses the computer. The wait staff is not allowed to keep its tips. And, most outrageously, the pasta, which purports to be homemade, is NOT HOMEMADE. As Ramsay relays these criticisms to Samy and the wait staff, he realizes that the criticisms are not being relayed to Amy. Instead, because Amy reacts so poorly to criticism, everyone is afraid to be honest with her.
I’m with Amy on this one. I can’t stand to be criticized. When someone criticizes me, my immediate reaction is to try to figure out what possible psychological defect could cause that person to criticize me. Does the person not understand what I’m doing? Is the person just jealous? Is the person just stupid?
Once Ramsay delivers his criticisms directly to Amy, she goes through all of these phases. She denies the problems. She blames Ramsay for putting too much pressure on her. She lashes out at the staff. Eventually, she shuts down entirely, denying Ramsay’s expertise and refusing to engage with him.
And that is just part one. It gets worse from there. Ultimately, Ramsay gives up and leaves, deciding that Amy’s Baking Company cannot be saved.
Ramsay is right. Amy’s Baking Company cannot be saved by him, because he is not the type of savior that Amy’s Baking Company needs. Amy’s Baking Company is not looking for a savior that will tell it how to get better, that will tell it how to run a better kitchen or cook better food. Amy’s Baking Company is looking for a savior that will embrace it and replace it, that will stand between Amy’s Baking Company and the judgment of the world, that will say, with authority (and a relatively straight face) that “This is my beloved bakery, with whom I am well pleased.”,
Sadly, in the absence of this type of salvation and in the wake of Ramsay’s attempted intervention, Amy’s Baking Company is again attempting justify itself, taking to Facebook, Yelp, and Reddit to attack its detractors. Samy and Amy are refusing to go down without a fight, not quite understanding that the fight is finished and that only by dying to themselves can they, er, bake in freedom.