Gordon Ramsay is a man constructed entirely for television. His schtick—the screaming, the insults, the risotto shaming—it’s all designed for the cameras. How do we know this? Because he can tame his temper for the kids on MasterChef Junior, and because in the past interactions The Takeout writers have had with him, he’s cool and cordial. Even you, our readers, have defended him. But act or not, the restaurant world has collectively decided it’s fed up with Mr. Ramsay’s ’tude.
A recent supercut of Ramsay’s biggest flip-outs tweeted by a British TV station was the last straw, drawing condemnation from Jay Rayner, a U.K. food critic, who tweeted in part: “What a sad, inadequate man. This is everything that has been wrong about restaurant kitchen culture.” London restaurateur Stevie Parle echoed that sentiment: “Glamourising this kind of bullshit really sets us back. No wonder we can’t find any chefs.”
Vice’s Munchies followed up with Rayner, who describes Ramsay’s angry-chef character as “out of date” in an era when the industry is trying to confront its reputation for bullying, hostile work conditions, and harassment. American cookbook author and friend of The Takeout J. Kenji Lopez-Alt decried Ramsay’s behavior as well, saying it makes no difference whether or not they’re an act: “‘I’m not an asshole, but I play one on reality TV.’ This makes you an asshole” he tweeted. Lopez-Alt points to moments in the video where Ramsay physically grabs another chef, calling it assault and describing Ramsay as “a menace.”
So why do viewers eat up Ramsay’s antics? Because it’s the easiest form of entertainment possible. We could probably watch the show on mute and still know which person we’re supposed to root for. (I’ve seen half-minute commercials create characters with more depth than this show.) Every MasterChef contestant, and Ramsay himself, has a role to play that can be summarized in one word: There’s a leader, a loser, an idiot, a hero. People don’t watch it for nuance or to glimpse world-class cooking technique; they want to watch Ramsay yell at dumb people making dumb mistakes. Like Guy Fieri, Ramsay is a cardboard cutout of himself, but in this case, he’s playing the cartoon role of Angry Chef to Fieri’s bro-ified, folksy populism. Ramsay’s behavior is demeaning, but until we change the channel, don’t expect it to stop.