I like Gordon Ramsay. Despite looking like a bust of his own face that’s been left on a fiercely stormy island for several thousand years, he’s more direct and less precious about what he does than most of his contemporaries. However, his latest foray into weeknight cookery programming – Gordon Behind Bars – in which he attempts to get prison inmates cooking, is a step too far. We’re used to this sort of grandstanding from the likes of Jamie Oliver, crusading to change school dinners or Hugh Fearnly Wankingstall questioning the ethics of battery farming, but this is a new realm of novelty programming.
It’s hard to understand the thinking here. If this were just an experiment to see if a professional chef could teach prisoners to cook well that would be one thing, but what’s the grander scheme here? Are prisons all over Britain going to be full of crack teams of pastry chef’s and saucier’s? It’s a satirical concept, a tv format which was actually pitched by Alan Partridge and Gordon channels him when he awkwardly responds to a question from an office worker, asking if the ‘Bad Boys Bakery’ sandwiches were made by paedophiles.
“They’re not paedophiles I can assure you that. Burglars, armed robbers…”
Nice one Gordon, no paedophiles just uh, petty criminals. You know: drug dealers, arsonists, a spot of violent assault here, some larceny there, no big deal. It’s a shame really, I’d have much rather seen Gordon barking about the peas being over seasoned in the midst of serial rapists and Glaswegian stab artists. Would have given things a touch more flavour.
One of the talking head’s Gordon encounters succinctly conveys my personal issue with eating convict crafted cooking –
” I think if you told me a rapist had just made my sandwich, I don’t think I’d eat it”
Crass sure, but as is the rest of the show. We don’t get a lot of insight into the dehumanisation of the prison system, of it being a recurring cycle or of how learning skills and working hard can uplift inmates out of the hold of criminality. What we do get is at least two prison rape jokes, the trademark profanity and Ramsay comparing measuring oneself during the first instance of post incarceration coitus (“pace yourself big boy”) to a three course meal.
Right now The Day Today is seeming less like hilarious satire and more like a grimly apt warning. Broadcasters will commission anything no matter how ludicrous as long as it features a bellend behind a stove at some point, and we are watching it. Come to think of it, Gordon Behind Bars is a good start. Now we just need to get Jamie, Hugh, Gino, James and every other fuckwit chef behind bars as well and not let them out until they promise to stick to the cooking. And watch out for the hairy bikers in the shower room.