Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kitchen Nightmares UK

I read an article a few months ago about how the over-saturation of Gordon Ramsey has led to his downfall as a television personality. With Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, Masterchef and Masterchef Junior, FOX's fall lineup featured more than its fair share of the foul-mouthed Scot. I personally enjoy Ramsey, and feel that chefs who serve raw chicken deserve the dressing down that only he can dish out. 

If, like me, you truly find Chef Ramsey entertaining, then the British version of Kitchen Nightmares is definitely worthwhile television viewing.  It used to be available on both American and Canadian Netflix, but now it can only be seen on American Netflix. Originally, I began watching the British version because I liked the American show and was simply curious.  Immediately I was blown away by the difference.  Firstly, the British show is narrated by Ramsey rather than the voiceover person who works on Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares US. I feel this adds more authenticity to Ramsey's observations, and his remarks to restaurant staff and owners are even more unfiltered than the US show. As a fan of British slang, I love listening to him admonish one young chef for "taking the piss" and another for having "lost the plot". After viewing the British version, one can see Ramsey self-editing for American audiences, and I prefer his more acerbic, rapid fire delivery.  Also, the focus of the show is more on the food rather than the emotional drama. Family-run restaurants are often the venues for extreme tension where there is financial hardship, but I think that it is handled more tastefully in Britain.  

Over the course of one weekend, we devoured all five seasons (British seasons are shorter thankfully). If you are thinking of trying Kitchen Nightmares UK on for size, then there are a few episodes which are not to be missed.  Firstly, Season 1 Episode 1 featuring Bonaparte's Restaurant is a great place to start.  With a clueless 21 year-old chef and a confusing theme, the restaurant is out of touch with what the community wants. Secondly, Season 2 Episode 7, Oscar's is a must-see, not because it is particularly entertaining, but it deals with alcoholism in the kitchen in a way that none of the US shows have in the past. Though it has been brought to the forefront by the writing of Anthony Bourdain, substance abuse in the kitchen has not been addressed in any other Ramsey show that I can recall. The third episode that I would recommend is Season 5 Episode 1 which features Sheffield restaurant The Runaway Girl. This episode is full of emotional turmoil with the palpable frustration of a chef handcuffed by an owner who doesn't know anything about the restaurant business. There are several riveting scenes, where the chef voices his concerns and releases the anger that has built up over the years.  

These three episodes are some of my personal favourites, but there are many more worthy of mention.  So if you like Gordon Ramsey, and are frustrated with the path that he has gone down with the canned reality show music and cheesy voiceovers, then consider Kitchen Nightmares UK.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Taking the Plunge

Over the years, I thought about purchasing an e-reader off and on, with my healthy skepticism of the new technology ultimately causing me to wait. With most gadgets, I like to sit back and allow the manufacturers to work out all the kinks before plunking down my hard earned money. I like the tactile aspect of reading, and I didn't want to invest in a device that I would only occasionally, or would put my technologically challenged self to the test.  

After doing my research, thinking about my reading habits and entering into the dreaded Kindle/Kobo debate, I bought a Kobo Glo in July.  Though I considered getting a model like the Kobo Arc and/or Kindle Fire which are a sort of tablet/e-reader hybrid, I ended up ruling them out.  For me personally,  I read at night before bed, or to cure my insomnia, so the Kobo Glo was the ideal choice for me; it is side-lit and allows me to read without disturbing my bedmate.  The Kindle equivalent is the Kindle Paperwhite and I opted not to purchase it, because of the fact that I could not access public library eBooks with it.  Aside from literary classics that are available for free, most of the eBooks on my Kobo were borrowed from the library.  The way that the public library accomplishes this is by allowing patrons to upload DRM, or temporary files to their devices and these files are inaccessible after their due dates.  This works well for me, as I am a bit of a fickle reader and the concept of a deadline motivates me to finish books.  

With about six months of use, I am now used to the features of the Kobo Glo and its convenience.  The custom fonts, lighting and reading stats are my particular favourites. Though I still read books from my own library, rather than fully converting to eBooks, the ability to travel with it easily and slip it in my purse is a huge plus.  Another thing to consider when buying an e-reader is the necessity of a case.  Luckily for me, Best Buy had a deal and my e-reader came with a complimentary case (a $39.99 value!) and I saw similar deals when I was shopping around.  When you think about the beating the screen would take loose in a purse or backpack, paying an extra twenty dollars for a cheap cover is a really good idea.  If you have to pay for it at all.  The other factor with regard to e-readers is that most libraries now have programs where patrons can check out e-readers in the same manner as borrowing books.  That way a reader can test drive a particular model (in Canada these would be Kobo e-readers) and get a flavour of whether this technology will work for them.  Though it certainly took a lot of time and convincing, my Kobo has been a pleasant surprise!