Everybody Has an Excuse

kitchennightmaresLately it seems that every spare moment has been accounted for by streaming episodes of either Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant Impossible. I don’t know, maybe after all these years waiting tables I have become a glutton for punishment in a way.

And as long as I’m confessing to you, dear anonymous reader, I may as well tell you that it feels good to see one chef after another get a healthy dose of swear words dropped on his head. I think the word I’m looking for is cathartic. After seven years of waiting tables, having worked with eight head chefs (We’re not counting sous-chefs who have taken temporary control) at three restaurants, I’ve had my fair share of curses dropped on my own head, I can assure you.

But enough of my desire for revenge and back to the topic at hand: a bunch of experts getting exposed as frauds. It never gets old.

If you have heretofore been spared Chef Gordon Ramsay’s checkered and bleeped out rants, I’ll catch you up to speed. Each episode (Of either show) begins with a restaurant that is losing somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 a month–which, coincidentally temporarily abates my fear of student debt undoing my financial future–but somehow the owner is always in denial. When asked to rate the food on a scale of one to ten, the answer is invariably a “ten.” It’s hilarious.

Next, the world-renowned chef orders the house specialties and proceeds to rip them to shreds in front of the wait staff. You can see the relief on the face of the server who finally gets to tell the kitchen, with impunity, that their food sucks.

Again, say it with me, catharsis.

Outside of my apparent bloodthirstiness though, there is something that captivates me about these shows. Now that I’ve given this a bit of thought and cleared my conscience of my dirty secrets, I can see that bloodthirstiness cannot be all that draws me to these shows. If that were the case, I would be a connoisseur of reality TV, which seems predicated on the fact that the average viewer longs to see others fail.

excuses.jpgThe word I have landed upon to describe the true draw of these shows is perhaps simpler, if not more innocent, than catharsis. The word is excuses.

The excuses, to me, are the most fascinating part of each episode. They usually read something like this:

Chef: “Why are you reheating frozen food and calling that a meal?”

Owner: “That’s the way we’ve always done it!/I didn’t know we were doing that/the head chef I hired is lazy/our support staff show up late every day/The recipes we use are too big to make every day, so we make ‘em, then freeze ‘em!”

Some of the excuses are even better than that. Some of the owners even take to arguing with one of the most famous chefs in the entire world, telling him that he doesn’t know the first thing about Southern/Cajun/Northwest/Heartland foods.

This would usually be the part of my blog post that I connect these excuses back to a story, like the king in the story Jesus told, who hosted a banquet that nobody could attend. Everybody marshaled their full artillery of excuses and missed out on his generosity. It’s quite a story.

But I won’t do that today. Today I just wanted to confess that I am hooked on those cooking shows.

…now that I’ve got that off my chest, I wonder if there’s an episode I’ve missed somehow…I’ll just have to blow off a couple meetings today but I think I can come up with a good enough excuse reason…

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