Sunday, July 06, 2008


AHG 21

You'd think that in the summer Al and I would be out engaging in all the X-TREME outdoor activities you naturally associate with us. You know, like gin smackdowns, opossum-raccoon matches, outdoor movie marathons and crokinole tournaments. But, as you may have noticed, there's been remarkably little summer this far. What there has been of it has been rainy. Or maybe it just feels that way to me since I spent
the first part of it in Pittsburgh.

Anyhow, 'cause of the weather and/or Pittsburgh, we're pretty much in the process of calling off all summer activities and retreating into what can only be described as our more typical winter activities – reality TV, movie rentals and sparkling wine. I hear good things about Cordoniu Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose that the LCBO is kind enough to let us have – I’m dying to try it.

That said, other than Living Lohan, there's a real dearth of good reality TV out there this year. Some of you may already be crying
oxymoron with the notion of “good reality TV” but I'm willing to bet a good percentage of you folks out there have, like us and “Chris,” spent a fair share of time watching Gordon Ramsay screaming at underpaid line cooks, incompetent owners and wannabe chefs. Yes?

And so “Chris” suggested I write up a Ramsay vs. Ramsay Smackdown. He
said this:

"I love RKN. I hate H'sK. I think it's because the first one has the whiff or reality to it, along with the garlic and scallions and real-gravy campaigning. The latter is reality-TV rubbish. But I would love to hear what Mantequilla and the rest of the AHG crew say."

Now about two months ago, I would have agreed with Chris on this. But, truth is, Al and I kind of overdosed on RKN. And, I'm hoping I'm not getting too pedantic here but I wonder if we shouldn’t also draw a distinction between Brit RKN and Fox RKN. As my friend "Rod" pointed out, the American version is a caricature of its former self.
Sensationalized? Well, yes. Producers playing up a winning formula of Ramsay abusing folks? In spades. But in the early episodes of the British version, chefs seemed to get genuine help from Ramsay. Now they pretty well only get fodder for a lawsuit.

Say, speaking of lawsuits, the new season of Restaurant Makeover has been running and, boy, is it ever toned down. The chefs almost never abuse the menu and the producers have refrained from running shots of filth and everyone talking about what a disgusting mess the restaurant is. It's way kinder to the owners and chefs. Unfortunately, it’s also almost unwatchable, seeing as there's practically no conflict or humiliation.

No danger of that with Ramsay – ever. And what kept me watching it was the way he would utterly humiliate the owners and/or chefs – but never the front of house staff. It's cathartic therapy of a sort – all bartenders and wait staff living vicariously through Ramsay who tells every idiot owner from our collective traumatic past exactly the same things we wanted to scream at them but couldn't 'cause of the way they
held that $125 weekly pay over our heads.

Like the time Ramsay said to the big Italian lug:

"I have never, ever, ever met someone I have less confidence in."

Sweet.

Then the tide sorta started turning for me. "Emma" pointed out that Ramsay isn't nearly as tall as he thinks he is, Al started noticing that he takes his shirt off at least once per episode and I started to grow tired of the term "rustic."

I think it comes from watching too many in a row. So we turned to Hell's Kitchen which, in a weird way, is kinda interesting to me because of the hopeless hopefuls. I mean, sure, “Chris” is right. It is certainly reality-TV rubbish. And he's also correct to point out that there's no learning about food in HK or even any food porn. But I really like shows where you start to root for the bitchy girl to get
her come-uppance – Ramsay style. (Jen, I'm looking at you.)

I do admit it’s going to run pretty thin pretty soon and then we’ll be
out of food reality-TV shows. Gasp. Fortunately, while we were in the States, we were introduced to a new show: Top Chef. They were running a marathon and it was great – more like the top designer shows, wherein genuinely talented people compete with each other. I'm happy to say Chicago Top Chef has begun airing in Canada – thus solving our what-to-watch-this-rainy-summer dilemma.

Anyhow, that's it for that. I'm going to try and keep AHG short this month. But before I let you go, I need to direct you to this month's gem: Kenny.

"Emma" recommended it, mentioning that she saw it on a plane and actually had folks asking her to keep it down. It was really funny – I can totally see getting into trouble on a plane with a few cocktails and Kenny. You may not want to watch it with polite company, either. It's about a port-o-potty operations manager. The first bit is replete with plenty of bathroom humour. It was, in retrospect, a mistake to
watch it while eating dinner. I'm not even a fan of bathroom humour, generally, but this is really quite a fine film.

Special thanks to “Ron” who managed to find it for me. It's not at the local video store – it's an Australian film and doesn't seem to have had a North American release yet. So use whatever means necessary to track down Emma's pick and watch – after dinner.

Al's Corner

Oh, yeah, “Kenny.” Definitely worth looking for – no shit. Of course, took me some doing to pick up on the accents. Aussies, eh? Once I got that down – ditto for my lunch – I remember Kenny consoling a buddy who was starting to fret about his upcoming wedding. Our hero advised that you could always cut out the middle-man, namely marriage, itself. Simply: “find someone you hate and buy them a house.”
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As for Mr. Ramsay’s fabulous entertainment packages, I mostly tend to enjoy the smokes practically every “chef” must have after a rough night at the office. Much like how I enjoy my own after taking a shower.