Sep 12, 201310:07 AM
Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

Gordon Ramsay, 'MasterChef' and New Orleans

Gordon Ramsay

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.

Reader Comments:
Sep 12, 2013 11:55 am
 Posted by  Me

Zeke's closed .. only because the owner passed away .. NOT BECAUSE OF RAMSEY .. get your facts straight.

Sep 12, 2013 01:57 pm
 Posted by  guinness

I ate at a Gordon Ramsay resturant in London, Savoy Grill, a few months ago. I went there on a recomendation from a friend (who is from California) I have never seen any of his TV shows and will never again eat at one of his restaurants. The atmosphere was great, the wine was good, the service was fine, but the food was mediocre at best. Had i know of his personality i would have passed in the first place.

Sep 16, 2013 12:58 pm
 Posted by  Boss Kitchen

I've seen some episodes of Ramsay's shows and it seems to me to be split personalities for viewer preference. Reality TV, how much reality are we getting, really? I agree with you. If you are good at what you do then keep doing it. New Orleans is about tradition and that's what the tourist want ... to taste our culture and maybe bring a little back home to share. Don't be too hard on folks about that casting call for amateur cooks ... 250K is a lot of money. I even suggested my son try for it. If he does, I'll give him all my old family and restaurant secrets.

Sep 19, 2013 04:41 pm
 Posted by  GeorgeO

A lot of online reviewers rated Zeke's very highly after Ramsay's "makeover" and I have to agree. I was there about 5 months after the change, and I had some of the best food I've ever eaten in Metairie, and frankly the best bowl of chicken-sausage gumbo I've eaten anywhere. Indeed, I spent that week trying gumbos in 7 different places, and the 'new' Zeke's was heads above everyone else. I asked the chef what he had done, and he said that he had made a dry roux that wasn't as dark as the usual one (the obsession with super dark roux for every gumbo is an annoyance of mine). The mashed yams were spectacular and the broiled flounder was perfect. When I went back a year later, the menu had changed and the food was good, but not as good, so I had to conclude that Ramsay made the difference.

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Haute Plates

Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene

about

Robert D. Peyton was born at Ochsner Hospital and, apart from four years in Tennessee for college and three years in Baton Rouge for law school, has lived here his entire life. He is a strong believer in the importance of food to our local culture and in the importance of our local food culture, generally. He has practiced law since 1994, and began writing about food on his website, www.appetites.us, in 1999. He mainly wrote about partying that year, obviously.

In 2006, New Orleans Magazine named Appetites the best food blog in New Orleans. The choice was made relatively easy due to the fact that Appetites was, at the time, the only food blog in New Orleans.

He began writing the Restaurant Insider column for New Orleans Magazine in 2007 and has been published in St. Charles Avenue, Louisiana Life and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles magazines. He is the only person he knows personally who has been interviewed in GQ magazine, albeit for calling Alan Richman a nasty name. He is not proud of that, incidentally. (Yes, he is.)

Robert’s maternal grandmother is responsible for his love of good food, and he has never since had fried chicken or homemade biscuits as good as hers. He developed his curiosity about restaurant cooking in part from the venerable PBS cooking show "Great Chefs" and has an extensive collection of cookbooks, many of which do not require coloring, and some of which have not been defaced.

Robert lives in Mid-City with his wife Eve and their three children, and is fond of receiving comments and emails. Please humor him.

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