How Not To Be A “Kitchen Nightmare”

I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about an angry Scotsman yelling at incompetent restaurateurs that just seems a bit right.  After watching every episode of Kitchen Nightmares, Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (Chef is way more chilled out in his home country), and even Hotel Hell, I can pretty confidently say that I think I’ve got the formula down.  In story terms, the episodes are largely the same format: “We don’t know what the problem is!” “You’re the problem!” “Wow, such renovations!” “Hopefully it works out!” [Jump to credits/one potato two potato advert].  But there’s also themes in where the businesses on the show go wrong, and it mirrors issues that are common to writers.

  1. If you’re not sure why it’s not working, then whatever you’re up to now is in fact the problem.  The customers or audience or whatever you think of them as aren’t coming in because you drove them away.
  2. Clean up your act.  It doesn’t matter how clean you imagine you are or how clean you think you work, the answer is no.  Arguing against it doesn’t prove that you aren’t, your ability to go through and clean up your work or work space without finding anything along the way is proof unto itself.
  3. Worrying about driving away the people who still hang around isn’t going to help you grow if you are already failing to succeed.  If you have an audience base which is active, supporting you in what you do, and provides you the opportunity to grow as an artist, then that’s fantastic, and more than most will ever have.  If instead you’ve got a skeleton crew that maybe keep the lights at a little bit above totally dimmed, it’s okay to let them go if it means you can pack the house again.
  4. Be honest about the people working with/for you.  It’s scary to move on from a chef or employee or contractor, but if they’re sinking the ship, make them walk the plank.  If you’re on the hook for the restaurant, actual or proverbial, you’re the one who’ll be stuck with the losses, not them.
  5. Do literally anything Gordon Ramsay says.  Don’t know how it relates to writing, but the quality of your homemade nibbles will improve!

In sum, Kitchen Nightmares is for me something of an exercise in understanding why people can’t or won’t stand back and look at their work honestly.  It’s not fun to have to fess up to not having been doing the best work, or the correct work, but it’s necessary in order to grow.  Also, season everything, microwaves are bad, freeze nothing but ice cream, and when in doubt, scream stress out into the void!

Special thank you goes to ArieS over at, who’s much better at making the Kitchen Nightmares logo than I am.  Pay them a visit!

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