Chef Ramsay may be a foul-mouthed egomaniac with a forehead like a freshly ploughed field, but he certainly doesn’t deserve Great British Bake Off judge Mary Berry’s hatred.
In a recent interview with the Radio Times; the 78 year-old presenter seemingly described all programmes that aren’t Great British Bake Off as ‘violent, cruel and noisy’. Harsh terms indeed, particularly given the fact that the broad boundaries of her disapproval could theoretically include things like Sean the Sheep, Blue Peter and Scooby Doo.
However, it’s more likely that those three words were aimed at Gordon Ramsay, as Mary then went on to say that she ‘hated’ his programmes, implying that she dislikes his use of - ahem - ‘colourful’ language. It’s a very weak and archaic reason to write someone off, though to be fair the whole interview reads like it’s been broadcast from another century.
While it’s fair to say that Gordon is a bit of a jerk, at least he goes out into the real world and helps people through his programmes. He isn’t peddling sugary televisual methadone designed to make viewers believe that they’re living in a twee, post-war fantasy land.
Outside the grounds of the stately homes where the GBBO producers plonk their cake tent, things have never been worse. As of May 2013, youth unemployment stands at 21.4 per cent; small businesses are closing their doors at an unprecedented rate and cuts to rehabilitation services mean that securing a post-prison job may soon be an impossible dream for many ex-offenders.
Gordon’s shows, while obviously offering him a vehicle for self-promotion and associated profit, at least attempt to tackle some of these issues instead of perpetuating the myth that everything is jolly lovely and that a freshly baked scone can solve any problem imaginable. Particularly if it’s displayed on a vintage cake stand covered in doilies.
As well as attempting to turn around failing businesses in Kitchen Nightmares and giving aspiring chefs a leg up in Hell’s Kitchen, last year Gordon set up a bakery in the basement of London’s Brixton Prison to highlight the untapped potential that many offenders could access if they were given the opportunity.
Gordon Behind Bars was a huge success, so much so that participant Anthony Kelly recently praised Ramsay, saying that he owes Gordon a lot. Thanks to the show and additional support from rehabilitation charity Anchor House, Anthony was able to secure work on his release and has even tried his hand at acting: not bad for a man who has been in and out of prison since he was 15.
The bakery Gordon founded is still going strong; in fact it’s been taken over by an organisation called Working Links and provides dozens of men from difficult backgrounds with vital training. However, Mary Berry probably doesn’t seem to realise that. She probably didn’t watch Gordon Behind Bars as, in her interview, she writes off all reality television programming as ‘ghastly’.
Maybe if she poked her head above the parapet of her spun-sugar castle for five minutes she’d see that far from being cruel, programmes like Gordon Behind Bars have a genuine, positive effect on the lives of people who aren’t receiving support anywhere else.