Gordon Ramsay, 'MasterChef' and New Orleans

Gordon Ramsay makes me angry. That is the effect he (or his producers) intends. He's made a fortune out of his abrasive personality, and if I could be an asshole for profit I'd probably do it too. I maintain my amateur-asshole status, reluctantly.

What prompts this particular bit of spittle and bile on my part is the news that Ramsay's show "MasterChef" is coming to New Orleans for a casting call. I've got the details on that towards the end of this post, but let's get back to Ramsay.

I stopped paying attention to shows like his a long time ago, but from time to time he's impossible to avoid. A couple of years ago he came to town to “rescue” a couple of local joints for his show “Kitchen Nightmares.” While here he performed his faux-angry “I'm a Scot, yeah?” crap on Oceana Grill, in the Quarter and Zeke's in Metairie.

I'd written about Oceana before his visit and I guess I damned it with faint praise. The place defined “tourist trap” when I ate there, and I wouldn't recommend it to Alabama fans. To be fair to Ramsay, I don't know whether he improved things or not, because I haven't been back. I never did watch that episode of the show, and though it's available online, the previews I've seen don't make me regret the omission. 

Zeke's was a decent local restaurant before Katrina, and it wasn't all that bad afterwards, but for some reason Ramsay was brought in to “fix” the place. The first time I dined there after he changed it up, I recall the waiter explaining to me that although the menu described a dish as “gumbo,” it wasn't really gumbo in any traditional sense. There was no roux, for example. What I was served was a sort of seafood stew over instant rice. Ramsay clearly understood New Orleans food about as well as Alan Richman, and the resulting makeover wasn't successful. Zeke's closed.

But Ramsay isn't limited to screaming at failed restaurateurs. On another one of his shows, "Hell's Kitchen," he screams at cooks with delusions of competency. The concept is that he takes young chefs and pits them in team competitions until one cook out-mediocres the rest and “wins.” In truth, however, what happens is that Ramsay yells things that are bleeped, calls bad cooks “Donkey” and gets very angry that the incompetent people are incompetent.

Then, and this may be the best part, morons pretending to be customers appear at mocked-up restaurants to act shocked, shocked, that the incompetents in the kitchen can't produce decent food on time and at the correct temperature. During this process, Ramsay calls more people “Donkey” and occasionally throws things. If there was ever a more damning indictment of American culture than the fact that the producers of "Hell's Kitchen" are able to get around 100 people to show up to sample what they have to know is going to be terrible food on the off chance their particular cutting comment will make it to the screen, I don't want to know about it.

So on Saturday, Oct. 5, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., you are invited to an open casting call at the Hyatt French Quarter. Do you think you can be the next "MasterChef"? Are you a “talented” home cook? Do you enjoy the idea of being on television? Are you photogenic? Are you devoid of a sense of shame? Are you willing to throw your competitors “under the bus”? Are you willing to use the phrase, “under the bus”? You may be perfect for "MasterChef"!

If this describes you, by all means show up at 800 Iberville St. on the date and at the time listed above. Good luck to you.

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