Okehampton and Gordon Ramsay

February 3, 2009

How does a restaurant survive the chef Gordon F-Word Ramsay? I was caught the other night, like a stag/rabbit/duck/swan (add any other meat you think Ramsay would F-Word put on his F-Word menu) in the headlights, just as I was about to give the TV a rest, by the word ‘Okehampton’ popping up in latest instalment of ‘Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares’ in which – according to Channel 4’s web-site, ‘Gordon Ramsay will be campaigning for viewers to start patronising local restaurants’. In the circumstances, patronising might accidentally be the right word. He described the owner, whom he turfed out of the ailing kitchen of Martin’s Bistro in Okehampton (just up the road), as the worst F-Word restaurateur he had ever come across, forced him to reveal on camera that he had run up debts which he hadn’t admitted to his wife, who then used the F-Word herself, and set about bringing the entire population of Okehampton (well…) into a public meeting to discuss its need to stick together at a time of recession.

When, like Mr. Martin, you are pilloried like this (and the cameras show you having an idle chat with a customer when relegated to front-of-house while your wife and daughter are cooking their socks off), and when you are exposed, on the return visit of Ramsay, as having ignored his advice and gone to a cash-and-carry rather than use the (cheaper) local butcher and vegetable merchant, how on earth do you face the locals, let alone your nearest and still-perhaps-dearest?

Mr. M had originally kitted out his restaurant in op-art wallpaper, which was probably not cheap, but which Ramsay quickly spotted was likely to give the diners a major migraine and forced Mr. M┬áto paint over. There is something endearingly driven about Ramsay, who piles into his presumably willing victims like an F-Word ten-ton truck, and whose vicious dedication to restaurant standards presumably also earns him an F-Word shed-load of income, which makes for compulsive television. It is hard to be sure, but this looked to me like the most extreme example I’ve ever seen of the adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity. It is a pity he isn’t F-Word Prime Minister. I can see him duelling with Paxman (“Is this what you call an F-Word interview?”) and with David Cameron (“What the F-Word do you expect me to do? It’s an F-Word global F-Word recession!”), or possibly appearing on a trivia quiz show (“I don’t care if it’s not the F-Word right F-Word answer, put me through to the next F-Word round.)”

One cheap trick in the programme was the shot of Ramsay apparently coming to Okehampton by train, since it showed him walking down from the station. It is true that Okehampton station has re-opened – but on summer Sundays only. Somehow I doubt that this was the journey he had taken, especially as the local news suggests that he made his journey there in December: here’s the article from the local paper.

Still: maybe it’s done the trick. After laughing at the hapless owner, I was tempted to go to see for myself (Okehampton is a nice place). And just to show I’m not rubbing F-Word salt into the F-Word wound, here’s the detail of the restaurant itself: Martin’s Bistro.

Here’s hoping.