The Latest British Invasion: We Yanks Can Learn Something From These Foul Mouthed Perfectionists

The first British invasion brought UK troops to our shores in a misguided effort to win back what the English considered to be errant British Colonies. It failed. The second so-called British Invasion took place in the 1960s when rock and pop bands, not military troops, arrived here from England and other UK Countries and took the USA music charts and American pop culture by storm. Now, they're back!

The latest British invasion also involves entertainment, but is more about cooking and curling than it is about music or pop culture. It began several years ago and since then has brought a new and seemingly nasty crop of sometimes foul-mouthed UK perfectionists to our shores. I want to say bad things about them, but the truth is that we Yanks may actually be able to learn something from these know-it-alls from across the pond while they are trying to entertain us.

Gordon Ramsay: Restauranteur, Dietetic Dictator, Restaurant Rescuer and Workplace Wizard

He's a kind of Culinary Sheriff and with thirteen Michelin Stars as part of his restaurant resume as of this writing, it's hard to argue with him. Chef Ramsay was born in Scotland in 1966 and was raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. His first love was English Football, but a knee injury during the 1980s ended his chances to pursue that dream. Instead, he went back to college to study hotel management. This eventually lead to catering school and a position at the Wickham Arms hotel where he ran the restaurant in the late 1980s.

Chef Ramsay moved to London where he worked at several restaurants before deciding to place himself under the cruel tutorage of Marco Pierre White, a famous and extremely temperamental Chef at Harveys. He later moved on to other fine dining restaurants in the UK and France where he continued to hone his skills. Ramsay opened Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea in 1998. That restaurant received its third Michelin Star in 2001. Since that time Gordon Ramsay has opened other successful restaurants worldwide, written books and hosted several UK and USA television shows centered around cooking and restaurants.

USA television viewers know him best from his reality television shows on the Fox TV Network which include Hell's Kitchen, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and the USA version of MasterChef. Fox Viewers cannot seem to get enough of Ramsay's foul mouth, perfectionism and notoriously short temper. They first experienced these delights with the premiere of Hell's Kitchen in 2006. Since then the show has been a yearly staple on Fox as chefs or chef wannabees compete for a job as the head Chef of some fabulous restaurant with an equally fabulous salary.

Hell's Kitchen is always entertaining and manages to stay fresh with various tweaks, changes and unexpected surprises, but the real draw to the show is Chef Ramsay and his contestants. You never know what any one of them will do or say next. People scream, yell, threaten, walk off the set, become ill and even faint. It's the unexpected that keeps us coming back, but it's not all about entertainment.

There are plenty of good, solid cooking lessons to be learned from watching Hell's Kitchen and the first one is to be careful! People have been accidently burned, cut and injured because they got caught up in one thing or another and forgot where they were. Kitchens are dangerous places with sharp knives, hot stoves and slippery floors. Dining rooms are fast-paced environments with servers coming and going quickly, so going through the right door at the right time and looking to see where you are going are essentials to be learned and correctly practiced on a daily basis.

Watching how contestants give in to the strain of a busy kitchen and not unreasonable deadlines is a lesson to anyone who wants to be a chef. Those are the realities of life in the kitchen of any popular, fine-dining restaurant. If you are going to fall apart physically and emotionally from those kinds of pressures, stay away. Watching those who can cope with the pressure on Hell's Kitchen and how they do it provides an excellent tutorial for anyone wanting to aspire to those kind of lofty cooking goals.

Apart from all the theatrics and reality TV drama circulating around Ramsay and his shows, there is much that anyone can learn from watching the charismatic Chef do his thing. Along with some of the best free cooking lessons in the world, his viewers gain the advantage of sound business advice from a man who has not been afraid to own up to his own commercial mistakes and learn from them. Enter Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, the show that offers a Ramsay rescue for distressed restaurants.

The Ramsay formula for Kitchen Nightmares is simple: Examine the situation, find the problems and fix them as quickly and efficiently as possible. It's a formula that works and keeps Fox viewers glued to their TV screens season after season. Why? Because the sometimes mothering and other times malevolent way in which Chef Ramsay deals with the errant owners, chefs and staff members of these little shops of culinary horror is endlessly entertaining.

Hell's Kitchen and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares are just the kind of UK broadcasting imports that tough-love starved and often spoiled American chefs and business people need to help them to clean up their acts. Too many Americans have been willing to settle for mediocrity instead of striving for perfection. Others want to open a business based on a dream or personal desire instead of facing the cold, hard market facts about their potential project. This is probably why so many USA Small Businesses fail each year.

I have known more than my share of people that suddenly decided to become entrepreneurs and failed miserably. Victims of fast-talking commercial real estate salespeople and rental agents, they get the GO sign from everyone including their credit card companies which gladly allow them to max out their cards in order to follow their dream. Family and friends are afraid to tell them that opening something like a designer cat food store in an economically challenged area might not be the best new business decision.

Kitchen Nightmares not only offers sound business advice and reiterates the common sense need for regular kitchen and dining room cleaning and maintenance to those who may have forgotten about these staples of cleanliness and restaurant etiquette, but if you watch carefully you'll pick up some excellent cooking tips and recipes. I am not a chef or professional cook, but I have tried a few of Ramsay's recipes in my own kitchen with great success and appreciation from my family.

With the success of his previous shows on Fox in tow, Gordon Ramsay is embarking on a search for a whole new set of nightmares outside the kitchen. 'Hotel Hell' has him on a road trip of sorts in search of the best of the worst of hotel and motel experiences. Anyone who has ever had to travel extensively for business (myself included) will certainly appreciate this series even more than the casual viewer might.

Ramsay will call upon his education and training in hotel management, as well as a small and carefully chosen flock of hospitality experts, to find and fix all the 'bugs' he finds in the various lodges he visits. This is a natural expansion of his Kitchen Nightmares format and a series that I cannot wait to watch. When added to his other Fox programs, this will make number four for Chef Ramsay giving him more shows airing simultaneously on broadcast television than any other reality television personality.

Tabatha Coffey: Salon Saver and Business Mentor Extraordinaire

She's tough, she's talented and she's taking over hair salons and small businesses throughout the USA for Tabatha's Salon Takeover and Tabatha Takes Over, her Bravo reality television shows. Tabatha Coffey is an Australian hairstylist, salon owner and reality television personality who was born in Queensland, Australia, in 1969. Tabatha began to work in the hairstyling profession at the age of fourteen when she became an assistant in a salon in her hometown of Surfers Paradise.

After working in a four year apprenticeship program, Tabatha moved to London and continued training for another three years. She eventually migrated to the USA and opened her own salon, Industrie Hair Gurus in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Over the years she has become famous in the hairstyling industry by creating carefully-sculptured individual hair creations for her clients. This lead to her being hired as a platform artist for Joico International, a hair care products company.

Apart from her own accomplishments, she has excelled at teaching others how to perfect their hairstyling skills. This has helped to make her reality television shows the successes they have become .Tabatha's 'take no prisoners' attitude has made her popular with USA audiences and caused Tabatha's Salon Takeover to be one of the Bravo cable network's most popular shows. That program premiered in 2008 and offered a format similar to Kitchen Nightmares, but with some unique differences.

Tabatha arrives at a troubled, debt-ridden salon and actually takes it over. She begins by showing the owner or owners footage from cameras placed in the salon which highlight employee and management misbehavior or business issues that require immediate attention. She then confiscates the owner's keys and after canceling all the stylist's appointments for the week, the high priestess of hair care proceeds to take the salon owners and their employees on a tough love journey that begins with her inspection of the premises.

Most salons are found lacking when it comes to cleanliness and that is usually just the tip of the iceberg. After bringing in models to find out how skilled or unskilled the salon stylists are, Tabatha critiques the owner(s) by examining their business and management skills and techniques. This is followed by meetings with the employees, management and owner(s) during which Tabatha unabashedly explains what is wrong and needs to be made right.

Then comes the salon make-over. Tabatha's crew comes in and completely remodels the troubled business. Armed with a clean, freshly decorated salon, the owner(s) and stylists are challenged to display their best skills for actual clients. Tabatha watches everyone like a hawk to be sure that all of her suggestions have been followed and has one last meeting with the owner(s) to offer her final recommendations.

As with Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, not all the businesses that Tabatha tries to save benefit from her help. Some are just too far gone or have owners that refuse to face the reality of their situations. However, it appears that the vast majority of salons that Tabatha visits do continue on to stay in business, reduce their debt and actually make a profit. Tabatha has recently extended her salon rescue efforts to other types of businesses with the premiere of Tabatha Takes Over, an equally entertaining and informative reality TV show.

Robert Irvine: Well-known Chef and Multi-Talented Business Multi-Tasker

If case you have watched Ramsay's and Tabatha's reality shows without getting the full benefit of the free and highly informative instruction on business operation and administration that these programs offer, you may also want to tune into Restaurant Impossible on the Food Network. It is hosted by Chef Robert Irvine, the chef who is ready to get distressed Restaurants in as good shape financially and gastronomically as he is physically.

Restaurant Impossible offers a format similar to Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Tabatha Takes Over. However, Chef Irvine's Food Network reality TV show distinguishes itself from those series by offering a unique twist that challenges him as much as it does the restaurant's owner(s) and employees and pushes everyone to the breaking point.

Chef Irvine was born in Wiltshire, England, in 1965. After enlisting in the Royal Navy at fifteen years of age, his cooking skills were noticed by the powers that be and he was given duty aboard aboard Her Majesty's Royal Yacht Britannia as a cook. After his service was completed, Irvine went on to distinguish himself in the world of top flight chefs by helping to create the wedding cake for Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding, cooking for the White House in the USA and even working as an executive chef at two of Donald Trump's Casino restaurants.

Unlike Kitchen Nightmares which appears to give Chef Ramsay a big budget and close to a week to turn around a troubled eatery, Restaurant Impossible allows Chef Irvine just two days and a remodeling budget of only $10,000 to rescue a restaurant on the verge of closing. This makes for some fascinating and often 'seat of your pants' viewing. Like Ramsay, Irvine makes a quick assessment of the restaurant by sampling the food, touring the premises and scrutinizing the quality of the food and service that is offered during an actual sitting.

It's no surprise that the Chef regularly finds restaurant menus, kitchens, facilities and staff members in disarray. The thing that sets Irvine's reality show apart from those of Ramsay and Tabatha is that he is under immense pressure to fix all the problems he finds and remodel the restaurant in just two days. To accomplish this, he makes a list of what needs to be done and makes sure that everyone is as busy working on the problems to be solved as he is.

What really surprises me is how many times Ramsay and Irvine find kitchens that are in a deplorable state of complete filth. I have to wonder how in the world these establishments pass inspection or if they have ever been inspected at all. These shows should be real eye openers to lazy chefs, kitchen staffs or restaurant owners who don't like looking under the hoods of their establishments. It's bad enough when Tabatha finds a dirty salon, but at least they are not serving food.

Another highlight of the Restaurant Impossible series is watching how Chef Irvine's design team manages to redecorate an eatery on a shoestring budget. Using everything from photocopied maps for wallpaper to homemade lamp shades, they have even managed to enlist local auto body shops to paint and quickly dry dining room chairs in need of a new color and updated look. It's designing genius at work that everyone in these cash-strapped times can learn a lesson from.

While it's certain that just having a UK accent, a quick temper and a potty mouth does not make you an expert on anything, it's equally certain that Gordon Ramsay, Tabatha Coffey and Robert Irvine have proven that they know their respective businesses. Not only have they helped a number of people to achieve their culinary goals or save their restaurants, but these three representatives of the latest British invasion have brought some terrific entertainment to our shores and are more than welcome here as far as I am concerned.

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