Tuesday, April 12, 2016

COOKERY AND DEMOCRACY

Gordon Ramsay, relatively at rest. 

I confess to liking Gordon Ramsay's cooking programs. Ramsay is in some ways the Donald Trump of kitchens, I know. He is foul-mouthed and brash. His behavior rustles the shades of my proletarian childhood in a rough small city. He is familiar. He barks and bites in even measure for his ideals.

I worked in restaurant kitchens when I was in college. I was a dishwasher, bus boy and also the sous chef to a top-shelf New York chef. The job of line cooking is grueling. I have felt the heat, the burns from spatter, the knife cuts and the pressure of coordinated timing. It can be psychologically brutal as well as physically demanding. 

This is not why I watch Gordon Ramsay. I am watching his Hell's Kitchen series through the lens of my past work in group therapy and in-patient nursing. I am also watching it through the lens of a follower of politics and political history. From these perspectives, the shows are simply riveting. 

Line cooking during a dinner rush resembles the current geopolitical environment caused by colonial politics, overpopulation and climate change. Two essential factors prevail: The domination of the chef with the central vision and the communicative team work of the food workers. The balance between these factors seems to have determined Gordon Ramsay's success as a world-famous restaurateur. However, if his methodology is transposed on world politics, Vladimir Putin's Russia resembles a Ramsay kitchen more than Obama's U.S..

The fact is that governments in Singapore and China are also more like a Ramsay kitchen than the U.S. government. I am not saying that these governments are qualitatively better. I am saying they are more effective at producing concrete results. In the case of China, its rapid modernization with its obvious overpopulation and climate degradation displays the effectiveness of authoritarian leadership within a society conditioned to communist-socialist ideals, which are the embodiment of team in social practice.

Despite my conditioning to worship democratic ideals, I cringe when Ramsay delegates selection of losers to the competing cooking teams. I am thrown into mental conflict by this. Don't coworkers have the knowledge of each other and their work which should produce the correct decision in this? I often scream "No!". Then I think of why. It's simple. I am watching all the action through cameras above the fray. I am not stressed. I am sitting in my room. My view is actually above Ramsay's view as he reacts and rants to get the dinner service done to his standard of perfection. 

Political observers in this time if information technology are like viewers of Hell's Kitchen in this regard. Unlike Obama or Putin, we have the luxury of watching the sausage-making of government from a comfortable distance. We are not immediately effected by the stray knife or grease splatter. But we do individually dine at the table of our political leaders' decisions. As a senior on American Social Security, I am acutely aware of this. I understand why seniors vote. We are the gourmands at that table of government's recipes for a good American life. 

So, whose table would I rather sample: Ramsay table or Rachel Ray table? Do I believe Donald Trump's kitchen would produce a gourmet menu for me as a low-income citizen? Or would Bernie Sanders produce a nutritious but egalitarian meal for more Americans? Who could possibly organize Congress into a line which could cook anything edible for the average American? On the other hand, does Putin's Russia get any Michelin stars for human rights or egalitarian well being? Hard to say. But I think those who govern could learn a great deal about how people work or do not work together by watching Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen.

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