In Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back (Channel 4), the chef returned to the United States to try to reverse the fortunes of Bella Gianna’s, an Italian restaurant that’s “literally 60 miles outside New York”. I’m not sure why this was worth mentioning, other than to try to ramp up the jeopardy that oozed suspiciously from every nook of Bella Gianna’s contaminated kitchen.
Its owner Vinny, was a loud-mouthed, volatile man-child straight out of The Sopranos, ready to scream at his wife one minute and collapse sobbing into a foetal ball the next. “Maybe I’m disgusted inside,” he said with a certain stentorian thespiness as he considered the collapsing family empire. “But I’m doing my best.”
Of course, this family psychodrama was TV gold but I couldn’t help thinking that Vinny’s terrible unravelling should have been kept behind closed doors. I bet the programme makers could hardly believe their luck.
I don’t know this for certain, but I sensed rather too much manipulation. The idea of not only turning around a restaurant but also expecting a broken owner and a passionless chef to undergo Damascene conversions seemed a stretch too far in the space of 24 hours.
I’m pretty good with a roller, but I doubt I could change my attitude in the time it took me to stencil a feature wall. I also thought the diners gasped too prettily in unison when shown the mouldy contents of a Tupperware box.
The series has been a hit in the US and I can see why. Americans have long subscribed to the notion that TV can change lives and they must see the aggressive blonde shouty man as some sort of Messiah. I wonder if they know about his restaurant group’s reported £3.8m loss.
Still, here Ramsay achieved redemption for Vinny and his long-suffering family. It’s amazing what a piquant vinaigrette dressing can do – or indeed skilful editing.