Tag Archives: cooking

432. British TV: Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (Part 1) [Video]

Talking about restaurant culture in the UK, an introduction to one of the UK’s most famous chefs and a chance to learn some authentic English from a popular British TV show featuring Gordon Ramsay. Video available. Includes swearing.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello, and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English. Here is a new episode for you to listen to and indeed watch, because I’m videoing this one. You’ll be able to find the video on the page for this episode on my website, or by visiting the YouTube channel for Luke’s English Podcast.

A lot of what I am saying here – particularly in this introduction is written on the page for this episode. So you can read it with me, or check it for certain words you hear me using. The best way to get access to these pages is to subscribe to the mailing list.

In the last episode of this podcast you heard me talking to Amber about restaurants and hotels and some crazy TripAdvisor reviews.

At one point in the episode we talked briefly about Gordon Ramsay – one of the UK’s most famous chefs, and his TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” which was a really popular show in the UK a few years ago, and I thought it could be interesting to do a whole episode about that.

So in this one I’m going to talk a little bit about Gordon Ramsay and then we’re going to listen to some YouTube clips from one of his TV shows and I will help you understand all the language that you’ll hear. No doubt there will be some new vocabulary in the process – probably on the subject of food, cooking, restaurants and kitchens but lots of other natural language that just comes up, including plenty of swearing, because Gordon Ramsay is known for his frequent use of swear words.

Yes, there will be quite a lot of swearing in this episode, and you know my position on this. I’m choosing to show you the language as it is really used and that includes the rude words, but don’t be tempted to start throwing swear words into your everyday English. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that swear words are a short cut to sounding exactly like a native speaker. Often it just gives people a bad impression of you. We’ll go into it more later, because there are quite a lot of unwritten social rules around swearing that you need to be aware of – the main one being, that with swearing it is much much easier to sound rude and inappropriate than it is to sound cool. Think of swearing as a motorbike – you might think it’s cool but unless you really know what you’re doing you’re likely to seriously injure yourself. Similarly, swearing can be cool when it’s done in movies or even by someone like Gordon Ramsay, but if you try and do it in your normal life there’s a good chance you’ll just offend people.

So anyway, we’ll listen to some of the English in these YouTube clips and analyse the things they’re saying so that in the end you can understand it all just like I do, which should help you learn some real English in the process. You’ll also learn a thing or two about restaurant culture in the UK and about Gordon Ramsay who is one of the most well-known people in Britain.

Who is Gordon Ramsay and what’s the TV show?

Gordon James Ramsay, is a British celebrity chef, restaurateur, and television personality.

*Difference between a chef and a cook? Basically, a chef is someone who’s had professional training – at least a culinary degree, but a cook is just someone who cooks food. Both might work in a kitchen, but mainly being a chef is about having the status of culinary qualifications and experience.

Ramsay is one of the most famous chefs in the UK and probably in the world too. He has a reputation for being an excellent restaurateur and chef, and also for his extremely strict and direct style. He’s often very rude, saying exactly what he thinks about the people he’s working with in the strongest most colourful language. Imagine an army captain shouting at a platoon of soldiers during military training, but with really good food.

Ramsay was born in Scotland, but he grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon, which is in fact not far from where I grew up in England). So, he is Scottish but doesn’t speak with a Scottish accent.
Ramsay now has restaurants all over the place – in London, in Paris and in New York. During his career he has trained at the highest level with French chefs in the UK and in Paris. He specialises in Italian, French and British recipes, and his cooking is known for being simple, unpretentious, high quality and delicious.

His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars in total. The term “Michelin Star” is a hallmark of fine dining quality. Michelin stars are very difficult to win and restaurants around the world proudly promote their Michelin Star status if they have one. His signature restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, London, has held 3 Michelin stars since 2001, which is a mark of extremely high quality in restaurant dining.

As well as being a top chef, Ramsay is also a TV presenter. He first appeared on TV in the UK in the late 1990s, and by 2004 Ramsay had become one of the best known celebrity chefs in British popular culture, and, along with other chefs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Delia Smith, he has influenced viewers to become more culinarily adventurous.

As a reality TV personality, Ramsay is known for his fiery temper, strict demeanour, and use of expletives. He often makes blunt and controversial comments, including insults and wisecracks about contestants and their cooking abilities.

Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on British TV a few years ago – probably around 10-15 years ago now. These days you can find most of the episodes on YouTube.

Local restaurants vs manufacturing companies and processed food

Ramsay is actually very passionate about local restaurants in the UK.

In the UK our eating out culture is vibrant and successful but it is being undermined by a number of factors. One is the industrialisation of food culture. THis means that big businesses are involved in preparing food at an industrial level and then selling it to restaurants as part of a large corporate chain.

These chains might be restaurants which are all owned by one company, or food manufacturers who dominate the wholesale market, driving down their prices and pushing out competition such as local producers who sell fresh products.

In these industrial food manufacturing companies, the food is prepared in high quantities and then sold off to other companies and restaurants as part of a corporate supply chain for food.

There’s a big infrastructure for food purchasing in the UK which is dominated by these big food manufacturers. As a result, many smaller restaurants are forced to buy industrialised and mass-produced food because it is cheaper and more convenient than fresh food which you can buy direct from farms or markets.

If you were a struggling restaurant owner in a town in the UK, what would you do? Buy your food fresh from a local producer and then make sure you sell it in a short-term period, or buy similar products from a mass producer but at a lower price, and it’s food which you can store for longer because it has been processed to stay fresh.

In the end, people choose to eat at home, especially during an economic crisis.

So, economic factors are having a negative effect on the restaurant culture in the UK to an extent. Family owned restaurants should be where you get proper traditional and delicious local food, but these restaurants are being squeezed economically and forced to go along with the industrialised food manufacturing process.

Also, there are many chain restaurants which you find on high streets in the UK. These are not locally run, but are owned by big companies who have a single business model which they apply to all their restaurants. The fact that these places are part of a big corporate chain means that they can drive down their prices, making it very hard for local restaurants to be competitive. As a result, these smaller places suffer, struggle and often close down.

Gordon Ramsay believes that these local restaurants are the backbone of our restaurant culture in the UK, and he strongly believes that they need to be supported so they can compete with the corporate chains, and given training so they can serve the best food possible. Essentially that’s the concept behind Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, but also it’s just entertaining watching him shouting at incompetent chefs. You sort of let him get away with the way he bullies people because you believe that really he’s just trying to help them to learn the discipline you need to run a really good restaurant.

But he does seem really passionate about proper restaurant culture in the UK and I like that about him. Even though he’s making this reality show and he’s making money from doing it, I think he really does care about improving restaurant culture in the UK.

On the other hand, he is very good at TV. He knows how to make entertaining TV, and he’s got a good formula for it. Basically, this means that he takes the harsh discipline and the no-nonsense brutally honest approach that he applies to his kitchen management, and uses it when giving feedback to the restaurants which he visits.

Let’s listen to a few scenes and I’m going to make sure you understand everything that’s going on and everything that’s being said.

Let’s learn English with Gordon Ramsay

The TV Show

Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares used to be on UK TV about 10-15 years ago.
The format is this – Gordon Ramsay visits a failing restaurant somewhere in the UK. So, restaurants that are failing – e.g. losing money, getting terrible reviews etc. He goes into the restaurant and spends a week there, observing the way the owners run the kitchen, how the business works and what’s going on at all levels. Usually he starts by sitting down to eat the chef’s speciality dish, and it’s nearly always disgusting, and Ramsay comments on how it tastes, how it looks, and also the decor of the restaurant and the service from the staff.

Then Ramsay gives his feedback to the owner and the chef, and it’s always a massive reality check, and it usually involves very strong words and lots of swearing. This is what happens when a top-level chef enters the world of a crappy low-level restaurant.

Then over the course of the week, Gordon helps the managers turn the restaurant around. It’s almost always a huge challenge and often the most difficult part is dealing with the psychological aspects – the stubborn chefs, the relationship issues in the kitchen, the fact that these people have personal issues which are causing the business to go horribly wrong.

It is car-crash TV. We see arguments, meltdowns, unhappy customers and so on.
In almost every episode Gordon seems to go hopping mad as he can’t believe the incompetence or shockingly low standards of service shown by the people in the restaurant. He then tries to help them change everything and turn the business around. It all makes really great telly.

And by the end of the episode, with Gordon’s help they have usually turned the restaurant into a successful business again.

There’s a UK version and a US version.

If you search for Kitchen Nightmares on YouTube you will probably find the US version first, but I think the UK version is better!

But really, it is better because the US version is horrible. It’s full of really fast editing and there’s loads of music which is added in order to tell you how you should be feeling about what’s happening. It’s distracting and patronising.

Example of the US version (just listen to all the distracting sound effects and music)

The UK version just has some rock music in the background at the start, but then during the show it’s more simple and you can just focus on what’s happening without constant sweeping sounds and tense music.

Let’s listen to some scenes from one of the episodes.

These scenes actually come from an episode called “Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Nightmares” which was shown on TV between series 5 and 6 of Kitchen Nightmares. It’s basically the same as any other episode of the series.

Gordon Ramsay’s Great British Nightmare – Dovecote Bistro

Summary
Gordon goes to visit a restaurant in Devon called Dovecote Bistro, which is run by a guy called Mick.
Mick is a former truck driver and burger van operator who has opened this bistro with his wife and adopted daughter, Michelle. Ramsay is firstly appalled by the psychedelic wallpaper decorating the restaurant, and then his attention turns to the food and the way it is cooked. While Ramsay is impressed with the simple menu, he is furious to find that Mick has very little cooking ability, using orange squash to make a sauce and using vacuum-sealed pre-cooked lamb shanks in a microwave bag. Not only does he show little responsibility in the kitchen, he is also secretive with his spending and is hugely in debt. Mick is adamant that the problems in the kitchen are not his fault, and his stubbornness causes a rift with his wife and daughter. Ramsay solves the crisis by taking the business matters out of Mick’s hands and kicks him out of the kitchen. His daughter, Michelle, is placed in charge of the kitchen despite having no cooking experience. She rises to the challenge, and while Mick is not convinced over replacing his microwave food, the reopening is a success.
Months later, Ramsay returns to find that the restaurant is making profit. He sent Michelle for further culinary training, and she impresses Ramsay with freshly cooked food.
The restaurant was renamed Martins’ Bistro during production.

Video 1 – Flourescent duck cooked in orange squash

Vocabulary

Let’s see what this ex-trucker can do
Lamb shanks
Fuck me! (surprise / shock)
Your blouse matches the wallpaper
I feel like I’m tripping out!
I’ve never touched the stuff but I feel like I just swallowed an E.
The hideous wallpaper
On paper it looks delicious
Orange squash
A spoonful of gravy
Fuck me do I need sunglasses!
That’s worse than fucking Benylin
They’re actually vacuum packed
They can last for about a year
They’re bought in, they’re vacuum packed
They’ve got a shelf life of about a year
Well, fuck me!
That might be the worst food I’ve ever come across
He might be beyond my help
It doesn’t need refrigerating
How in the fuck could you charge 11 pounds for that?
E numbers, like Tartrazine
Do you feel like having a shit?
Thank fuck I didn’t eat it.
I’m surprised you haven’t killed off half the population of Okehampton

End of part 1 – part 2 available very soon!

413. With The Family (Part 1) Mum’s Cooking + Vocabulary (with Uncle Nic)

Happy New Year! I hope you’re well! Here’s the first episode of LEP in 2017 featuring a conversation with my family and then some vocabulary explanations.

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Introduction

I had a lovely Christmas and New Year. We played games, ate loads of food, went to the pub, took walks and generally had a good time with each other, as planned.

My uncle Nic (my mum’s younger brother) and my auntie Rose (Nic’s wife) were with us too, which was really nice because it’s always great to spend time with them, and I’m glad to say that I managed to get Nic on the podcast, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages because he’s great and he has some good stories to tell, as you will hear.

I didn’t get a chance to do a lot of recording with my family because it was the holiday period and I didn’t want to stick microphones in people’s faces too much.

But on Boxing Day I managed to do some recordings with my uncle, my mum, my brother and my dad.

I’m going to play those recordings to you over the course of the next two episodes.

In this episode you’ll hear these things:

  • My mum and my uncle talking about specific methods of cooking a really good Christmas dinner
  • Some vocabulary explanations – because there are loads of good words and phrases relating to cooking and food preparation, and also some other general bits of vocab that crop up in the conversation that are worth learning.
  • A bit of rambling at the end of the episode about the holiday period, including a quick report about the Christmas Olympic games that my Dad organised for us and some other bits and pieces

Part 1 (overview)

We start with James and Uncle Nic talking about how early in the morning it is, because we recorded this before breakfast on Boxing Day. This is probably the first pre-breakfast podcast I’ve ever done.
My wife accidentally spills some coffee down the back of one of the armchairs in the living room and you’ll hear that there’s a bit of commotion and disturbance in the background as people run around and she desperately tries to clean it up.
My uncle and I ask my mum about the secret to cooking a succulent, moist turkey, which apparently is done using a process called basting.
My uncle expresses some concern about the cleanliness of the microphone covers I’m using, asking if they have been sterilized, and that leads to a slight tangent about Health & Safety in the workplace.
We then get back to talking about my mum’s turkey technique with some explanations of exactly how to make sure the meat stays moist all the way through the cooking process. Moist is the key word here obviously, as the word is repeated a few times until my brother interrupts by shouting “stop saying moist!”
We then turn to the vegetables and go on a bit about how my Mum prepared the sprouts, carrots, potatoes and parsnips. There are a couple of other interruptions from James, including a joke about the secret of comedy and then an explosive sneeze. Throughout all of this my wife is still rushing around in the background and searching the internet for “how to get coffee stains out of an armchair”.
We talk briefly about the complications of preparing Christmas lunch with a vegetarian at the table, as my auntie Rose is a veggie.
Talk then turns naturally to sweet food and my uncle Nic expresses some disappointment about the lack of a traditional Christmas pudding at the table the evening before.
Finally, my Auntie Rose arrives in the room and sits in the chair that my wife spilled coffee onto, but thankfully my wife has already managed to clean it all up, without my help, there’s no evidence of a spillage, so it looks like my wife got away with it.

So, now you can actually listen to that conversation as it happened and when it’s over I’ll go through some of the vocabulary in more detail so you can not only understand everything my family say but also so you can actually learn loads of vocabulary properly and add it to your active English.

Conversation extract starts
Conversation extract ends

That was quite a short bit of conversation, wasn’t it! By the usual standards of LEP, it was quite short. But there’s more coming in the next episode.

Vocabulary

I said before that I would go through some of the words and phrases in that conversation in order to help to boost your learning process.

A lot of phrases related to specific ways of cooking and preparing food were in there. There were also lots of other nice bits of vocab too.

So, this is the language section of the podcast. As I am explaining the vocabulary, you can think about these things:

  • Did you notice these words and phrases while you listened?
  • Did you already know them or are they new to you?
  • Did you misunderstand or mishear any of them?
  • What other words go with these words? Try to notice words in groups, chunks or phrases.
  • How exactly are these words and phrases pronounced? How is the pronunciation different from the spelling. Remember to check the page for the episode to see the words written down in order to check their spelling.
  • After my help, would you be able to use these words in your own conversations?
  • And will you use these expressions? That’s a question, but also a request! I wonder if you will use them, and I suggest that you use them too because that’s how you will make them a part of your active vocabulary.

As I’m going through this list you can test your knowledge – see if you really know these words and phrases properly.
You could repeat some of this language after me as well. Do some shadowing.
And I suggest that after listening to me explain all this vocab that you go back and listen to that conversation extract again, try to notice the vocabulary when you hear it and see how much more you understand.

Vocabulary List

You can tell what time it is based on the rapidity of his response. (rapid – adj / rapidly – adv / rapidity – noun)
My wife’s just spilled/spilt tea all over the armchair.
To spill / spilt / spilt (UK spelling)
To spill / spilled / spilled (US spelling)
A spillage (noun)
The secret to a succulent, moist turkey is basting.
Succulent (adj) = tender, juicy and tasty (for meat)
Moist (adj) = slightly wet (can be used to describe food, e.g. moist turkey or moist cake, but it also can describe anything else which is slightly wet and for that reason the word is a bit suggestive and rude-sounding)
Moist / moisture / moisturise
Paul Foot – Moist Cake bit. Essentially he’s making the observation that when someone serves you some home-made cake you have to compliment the person by saying how moist it is! Even if it’s not that moist. “Oh, this cake is so moist! How did you get it so moist!” There’s social etiquette which dictates that you have to compliment the person on how moist their cake is, and you have to do it quite quickly. “Mmm, it’s lovely this cake – so moist! How did you get it so lovely and moist! Whenever I make cake it’s so dry! I’m an awful cook, but your cake is so moist!” – it’s polite to compliment the person who made the cake.

A ladle (noun) / to ladle (verb)
They make a heck of a din. (the bells)
A hell of a …
A heck of a …
A din = a loud and unpleasant noise
“You’ll be the judge of that” – a way to emphasise that someone has to make their own judgement about something.
Also: “I’ll be the judge of that” – used to express some anger while saying “I will make that judgement – not you!” e.g. “I make the best tea in London”, “We’ll I’ll be the judge of that!”
Have these microphone covers been sterilised?
To sterilise something (verb)
Health & Safety legislation
Fire extinguishers are in good order.
To trip over the carpet.
To sue you for a lot of money. To sue the shop.
Line the dish with lots of foil and then put some turkey stock in the base of the dish.
Giblets
Sprouts
She sliced the sprouts.
I saw it in a recipe book.
It cuts the cooking time down.
Stove / oven / cooker / cook
Oven = a large metal device with a door in which you cook food at high temperature.
Stove = an oven, with gas or electric hobs on the top where you can cook things over heat
It’s also something which heats your room. You burn wood and coal in it. E.g. a wood-buring stove in the living room.
Cooker = a device which cooks things – it can be an oven, a stove, or just an electric pot, slow cooker etc.
“What’s the secret of comedy?” …Timing.
Parsnips (root vegetable)
“Tatties and neeps” (Scotland) = potatoes and parsnips
You have to parboil them, drain the water off, roast them in hot oil in the oven (just a little bit).
You mean like, deep-fry them?
No, just roast them.
In the last minute rush and fluster I forgot about the potatoes.
Gill took it upon herself to do poached pears and caramelised oranges.
She’s sitting in the chair that Luke’s wife spilt coffee on so it might be a wee bit damp.
wee = little (typical word in Scotland)

In forthcoming episodes…

More conversations with my family, including some anecdotes about meeting famous people – with stories about meeting members of the royal family, some legends of TV comedy and perhaps the biggest rock and roll star on the planet right now. Who do you think that is? Well, my uncle met him once. You can hear that story and others in an upcoming episode.

Also on the podcast soon I’m hoping to record a ramble about some general stuff that happened over the Christmas period, including some words about a few books I received as presents, some comments about the well-loved celebrities that we lost in 2016 including, notably Carrie Fisher and George Michael during the Christmas holiday. We lost some great people at regular intervals during the year. Let’s hope 2017 doesn’t continue that trend.
Also, I’ve seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and I will be doing a full episode about that too.

So, brace yourselves, more podcasts are coming!

But for now – GOODBYE!

Background music – JukeDeck – make your own tunes at www.jukedeck.com

328. Cooking with Luke – Verbs and Expressions in the Kitchen

I’ve been quite busy marking exams recently and haven’t had a chance to upload any episodes for a few weeks, but today I managed to record this episode while preparing dinner. So in this one you’ll hear me in the kitchen, multitasking – cooking a chicken dinner (recipe below) while describing everything that I’m doing. In this episode you can learn some verbs for preparing food, words for different kitchen utensils and other language related to food and eating. Also, I ramble on about a few other things, as usual! Expect more podcasts to arrive in the near-ish future when I have a bit more time. Thanks for listening!

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Vocabulary

Here are some verb phrases you will hear me use in this episode.

to clean up the kitchen
to squeeze as much stuff into the dishwasher (as you can)
to do something by hand
to give something (a bit of a) wash
to turn on the tap
to batter fish (noun = batter)
to deep-fry something
to fry something
to chop some potatoes
to chop up some potatoes
to peel some garlic / peel some potatoes
to drizzle olive oil on something
to slosh some white wine over everything
to season food (with salt and pepper)
to do the washing up / to do the dishes
to fill the dishwasher / to empty the dishwasher
to tidy up
to rinse the vegetables under the tap
to pre-heat the oven
to slide the dish into the oven
to brown the chicken in oven
to set the timer

The Recipe

If you’d like to try cooking the dish yourself, here’s my Mum’s simple and easy-to-follow recipe. Enjoy!
Chicken with lemon and garlic

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