Judge Roy Hrab only knows the alphabet up to the letter "E."
Our reviews of The F Word: Series Five (published November 19th, 2011), The F Word: Series Four (published April 20th, 2010), The F Word: Series Three (published October 15th, 2009), and The F Word: Series Two (published March 14th, 2009) are also available.
Can You Stand The Heat?
Chef Gordon Ramsay (Hell's Kitchen) needs no introduction. His over-the-top harangues are world famous.
The F Word (the "F" stand for food), produced for British television, sees Ramsay and his staff preparing meals for guests invited to dine at his F Word restaurant. The restaurant operations, however, are not the focus of the show. There are three main threads in the 9-episode (each are just shy of 50 minutes), 3-disc The F Word: Series One. The first is a trainee competition that sees a group of commis chefs vying for a contract with Ramsay. The second is Ramsay's campaign to "Get Women Back in the Kitchen," motivated by his belief most young British women don't know how to cook. The last plot line is Ramsay raising a group of Turkeys in his backyard garden so he can teach his children where food comes from and ultimately serve the birds at the F Word restaurant for Christmas dinner.
The series is entertaining, but not all segments are created equal.
The commis chef competition is the weakest part of the show; the reason being Ramsay doesn't seem to care much about them. In many episodes, the commis chefs get minimal screen time. Yet this is a good thing because Ramsay's profanity-laced tirades at underlings for their lack of perfection—as seen in Hell's Kitchen—are absurd. In most cases, dinner is not a life or death situation, but Ramsay rages over petty things (e.g. overcooked pasta) with the same ferocity as serious errors (e.g. undercooked bacon).
How would you feel about being on an operating table with a surgeon who treated his assistants in the same manner Ramsay treats his sous-chefs? Or have your stitches pulled out and redone because they weren't perfect? Such behavior is completely irresponsible. Is it somehow more appropriate or effective in situations where the stakes are much, much lower?
The triviality of cooking may afford the luxury of striving for perfection, but what is gained? Tastes are subjective. I know many will not agree, but some, including Ramsay, contend scrambled eggs "are suppose to be" runny. C'est la vie.
Up next is Ramsay's "Get Women Back in the Kitchen" campaign. In these segments, Ramsay visits the kitchens of different women—a celebrity, the wife of a pastor, a couple of single women—and shows them how to cook a proper meal from scratch. I'm not going to comment on whether the premise of this campaign was sexist (the show does interview people on the street who give varied responses), but it does provide great dinner recipes and reveals that neither men nor women should feel intimidated in the kitchen.
The turkey segments aren't particularly remarkable. The only point of interest is you get to see Ramsay's family and learn how to raise turkeys.
In addition, the show features restaurant critic Giles Coren and food writer Rachel Cooke. Coren appears in every episode, reporting on a variety of subjects, including the ingredients in doner kabob, the relationship between diet and sperm count, dumpster diving for food, and the annoying things people do at restaurants. Cooke, who appears as often as Coren, presents some items on the (in)accuracy of food labeling. These segments are informative, occasionally humorous, and prevent Ramsay overload.
Finally, there is the pudding (dessert) challenge between Ramsay and a celebrity guest. Each prepares their own version of a dessert—trifle, cheesecake, brownies—which are judged by a small group of diners at the restaurant. The winning entry becomes the dessert served at the F Word restaurant during that episode. I found this to be the most enjoyable part of the show. I do quite a bit of dessert making myself, so I actually have some expertise in this area. The intriguing aspect of the pudding challenge is that Ramsay's cooking style changes dramatically. Typically, his recipes are quite simple, or "unpretentious" to use his own words. However, when it comes to desserts, he breaks his rules. Exhibit A: Ramsay's "brownies." These are made with melted dark chocolate (good) and contain white chocolate buttons (questionable) and pecans (good), but he then proceeds to bake them as individual servings in mini-pans (pretentious) coated with chocolate shavings (unnecessary) and tops the finished product with crème fraiche (pretentious). What is that? A brownie this is most definitely not. The competition was a brownie made simply with cocoa powder and baked en mass in a cake tin. Ramsay loses the challenge and is beside himself, refusing to serve the winning brownie. In fact, his overly complex creations result in Ramsay losing a majority of the challenges. Also, it's fun to see celebrities trash talk Ramsay and put him on his heels, since he can't talk to them as he would his staff.
The video is adequate. The colorful dishes prepared by Ramsay and others shine. The audio is equally presentable. Every Ramsay growl and sizzling pan is heard clearly. There are no extras.
The F Word: Series One is uneven, but fun and relatively light on Ramsay's rageaholism. He presents a host of easy to prepare starters and mains and, despite my criticism of Ramsay's behavior towards his staff, it cannot be denied that Ramsay is passionate about cooking and delivering high quality dishes to patrons of his restaurants. He just needs to learn a better way of communicating this desire to his employees.
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