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Friday, January 04, 2013

Nightmares, Rescues, and Takeovers, Oh My!

Well, yesterday's blog entry was a little bit personal. It was something that I have always wanted to get off of my chest for quite some time, but wasn't exactly sure how I would do it, or how it would come across. But, once I got into the frame of mind similar to “like a Band-Aid, you have to peel it off quickly so it doesn't sting as much”, it became a lot easier to speak my mind. I ended up getting a lot off of my chest, and I feel a little bit better for it.

And, I think that I plan on making every Thursday like that, if you guys don't mind. After all, I suppose that my ramblings and addiction to pop culture would make a lot more sense if you find out who I am behind the Sunday Jukeboxes and Saturday Morning Cartoons, right?

I guess if you want to look at it a different way, my upbringing and childhood hasn't exactly been a bed of roses. But, that's the thing...hardly anybody has that upbringing...well, unless you happen to be a member of the Brady Bunch! So, I think that by sharing the good and the bad, the bond between blogger and reader can (hopefully) strengthen, and maybe people will read the blog and identify and relate to what I went through.

Or, you may just think that I'm bat guano crazy. Either way, I'll take it with a grain of salt!

Anyway, we're going to move away from the serious and get right back into the fun. And, on that note, I have a question for all of you.

How fun is your job?

Okay, so I see some of you maybe half-heartedly raising your hands, and some of you giving me a death stare. It's true that for a lot of us, a job is just that. A job. Now, as far as doing this blog goes, I don't consider this to be work. I take pride and joy in being able to express my thoughts and feelings every day for almost two years. And, though I've been doing this for well over 500 days now, I still manage to find the time to do it because I love it.

If only I could actually use my writing skills to land a similar job, that would be a life's dream come true. Ah long as I'm still breathing in the oxygen and expelling the carbon dioxide, I still have time to make that a reality.

(SIDE NOTE: I'm listening to my iPod as I type this and the Beatles “Paperback Writer” just appeared on the Playlist. That's freaky.)

As far as the job that I have that actually does pay the bills go...well, I have admittedly a love/hate relationship with it. There are some days in which I am motivated and energized to do the job at hand, and then there are others in which I wish I had stayed in bed.

Again, this seems to be true with a lot of people.

But I also have the strong belief that people who are passionate about their jobs are also people who seemingly have the most happiness in their positions. And, I also believe that passion comes from a sense of caring about not only doing a job, but doing a job right.

I'll be the first to admit that as someone who wants to make a career out of writing one day, I cringe whenever I see any sort of spelling or grammatical error within any sort of publication (be it a major newspaper, or a local newsletter). And, I will also be the first to admit that the label of “Grammar Nazi” gets slapped square on my forehead at least once a day. But here's the thing. I wear it like a badge of honour. Why? Because I am absolutely passionate about writing, and I love the English language, and I hate seeing it get butchered.

(Well, okay, if English isn't your mother tongue, you get a pass. I'm not that strict.)

Luckily for me, I am not the only one who is passionate about their job (albeit in my case it's more my non-paying job than my paying job, although the paying job has its perks as well). It seems that the world of reality television is filled with dozens of reality shows that feature people who are incredibly passionate about their career choices. So passionate that they have decided to travel to other places and businesses in order to help other people reignite their spark for their career choices.

In a lot of cases, the people who learn from the experts end up getting a second wind and they find the joy that they thought was gone forever. And, in some other cases, the people ignore everything that the experts say, they give up on their business, and the whole thing folds within a matter of months.

This is the story of three of these shows, and the experts who host them.

In two of the three cases, I am a regular viewer. The third one, I spent hours watching a marathon of shows during Christmas break to prepare for this blog entry. In all three, you'll meet people who are passionate about their industry, and aren't afraid to show it...even if the audience does get a little bit frightened of them.

Why don't we start with Gordon Ramsay, shall we?

I already did a blog entry on Chef Ramsay almost two years ago, but in that entry, I only scratched the surface of what seemingly sounds like eight hundred million television programs that he has his name linked to. “Hell's Kitchen”, “MasterChef”, “The F Word”. Believe me, there's a lot.

Perhaps the one that I enjoy watching the most is the show entitled “Kitchen Nightmares”. The show originally began airing in the United Kingdom in 2004 as “Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares”, but began airing the American version known as “Kitchen Nightmares” in 2007 on FOX. The whole premise of the show is simple. Gordon travels all across the country to struggling restaurants in desperate need of help, and it is his job to find out why the restaurant is failing. After all, with over thirty restaurants to his name, and several honours to his credit (which include twelve Michelin stars), he's one person who you really want to have in your corner.

Unfortunately, he also has a really short fuse...especially when he notices the state of disarray and the chaos that he witnesses within each restaurant he tries to fix. But then again, if you saw cockroaches crawling around the kitchen and serving area, staff members throwing each other under the bus, and customers walking out of the restaurant in a huff because they haven't been served in two hours, well...I can't say I blame him for going off.

Some may choose to call it Ramsay being a complete jerk. I see it as tough love. And, sometimes, some of the owners really need a kick in the pants to see that the way that they were running their business was not the right way to go.

I'll admit that I do like the UK version slightly better than the USA version, only because the UK version seems more realistic, and doesn't focus on the drama so much. But in both versions, you see Ramsay's passion for cooking rise up to the top. Sure, he yells and he screams and he gives the censors a headache trying to bleep out every foul word he utters on any given episode...but answer me this question. Do you think he would do this if he weren't passionate about his job? I don't think he would.

EPISODES WHERE RAMSAY'S ADVICE FAILED (Sebastian's, Black Pearl, Burger Kitchen)

Coincidentally, Ramsay debuted a kind of spin-off show entitled “Hotel Hell” which debuted in the summer of 2012.

A similar themed show to “Kitchen Nightmares” debuted on Spike-TV in July 2011, “Bar Rescue”. The host of the program is a man by the name of Jon Taffer, a restauranteur with over three decades of experience (specifically with pubs and nightclubs). Just like Gordon Ramsay's show, Taffer goes into bars that are failing and does his best to try and find out what the problems are.

In many cases, the problems are very similar to what is found in “Kitchen Nightmares”. Cleanliness is an issue. Bartenders stealing from the owners when they give customers free drinks is an issue. Sometimes, even the name of the tavern is the issue (would you want to go to a bar named “The Chicken Bone” or “Swanky Bubbles”)?

And, don't ever...ever...let Jon Taffer see you cross-contaminate raw food with cooked food...or else this will happen.

You see, unlike “Kitchen Nightmares”, where Ramsay actually witnesses what happens in real time, Taffer often has decoys go inside with hidden cameras to test the customer service (or lack thereof) to determine the problems beforehand so that he can work out a plan to fix it.

And, yes, some may accuse Taffer of being a loudmouth, being an angry bastard, or being a scary man who yells a lot. But I've watched several episodes of “Bar Rescue”, and a lot of what he says makes a lot of sense. In fact, if I were to open up my own bar (which isn't very likely), I would be taking notes from him and the various experts that he has with him on every show to help out with the renovations and redesign of the various bars he visits. Because Taffer is very passionate about his line of work and knows it inside out.

EPISODES WHERE TAFFER'S ADVICE DIDN'T WORK: Swanky Bubbles, Kilkenny's Irish Pub, Piratz Tavern

The final spotlight I want to focus on is the show that I watched several episodes of during Christmas break. And, like “Bar Rescue”, a lot of the information gathered before the show took place through the use of hidden cameras, and the person showing the owners of the establishment everything that went on while the cameras were rolling.

Have any of you heard of famous hairstylist Tabatha Coffey? Me either until recently. Apparently she was discovered on the reality series “Shear Genius” which aired on the Bravo network (one reason why I have never heard of her is because I NEVER watch Bravo), and her personality really stood out. It stood out so much that Bravo offered her a chance to have a show where she visited struggling hair salons and took them over for a whole week. According to the opening credits, she's tough, she's talented, and she's taking over.

The show was originally called “Tabatha's Salon Takeover” when it debuted in August 2008, and by 2012 the show was renamed “Tabatha Takes Over” when she started to add frozen yogurt establishments, beauty schools, and bars into the mix.

Either way, after watching the secret footage, Tabatha meets the owners, tells them her findings, and from there, the owners hand over their keys to their business to Tabatha so she can take over. She then conducts the inspection of the salon, which basically is an excuse to show the viewer everything that is wrong with the place. This could include a staff that doesn't know what they are doing, a salon that is filled with filth and grime, and bosses who would rather let the salon run itself rather than take the responsibility for it.

And, I should also state that much like Gordon and Jon, Tabatha doesn't mince words. Take a look.

But Tabatha's also been in the hairstyling industry for a quarter of a century. If anyone knows about hair, it's her. And, while I know nothing about hairstyling, she did help some of the stylists improve their mediocre skills (well, those who were willing to listen). She does offer up a personality that some have deemed as bitchy...but that's only because she cares about her industry and only wants to see the best. You can't really fault her for that. I know I don't.

And, here's the thing. She's had more success stories than failures on her series thus far. So she must have some idea of what she's doing.


(Most of the Kitchen Nightmares and Tabatha's Salon Takeover episodes can currently be found on YouTube as of January 4, 2013, by the way.)

As far as I'm concerned, I think that there's a big difference between being a know-it-all and being a skilled expert. An expert shares his/her secret to success and tries to help others succeed the best way they can, even if it means a dose of tough love. A know-it-all does the exact opposite.

To me, Ramsay, Taffer, and Coffey are all success stories, and I would gladly take advice from them in anything, even if it stings a bit.

Because they all have passion for what they do. And, in my book, passion is the glue that holds a career together.

Or, so I would like to think anyway.

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