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WAITER! THERE’S A FLY IN MY SOUP: After an uncharacteristic silence, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay finally gave his side of the story of the New York restaurant manager that accused him of staging incidents and planting food when he did an intervention on the eatery for his new Fox show, Kitchen Nightmares.
In his US$1 million lawsuit, restaurant manager Martin Hyde said that Ramsay and his crew had planted spoiled meat, fixing a chair to collapse under Ramsay’s weight, and hired actors to pose as diners at the conclusion of the successful makeover. Ramsay has had to deal with these accusations before in the original UK version of Kitchen Nightmares, after an episode aired that showed a restaurant with rotten meat in its kitchen. The restaurant later closed and a newspaper accused Ramsay of staging the show; Ramsay sued the newspaper and won.
Ramsay told TV Week magazine this week that “I would never-ever-ever dream of setting anything up. I want to sleep at night. We were issued a writ because, God bless America, if the toilet paper is not thick enough and you come out with a rash on your ass [you’ll get sued].”
Hyde’s lawyer, Carl Person, admitted that the restaurant did have some sanitation issues, which saw it closed a week after the shoot for the show wrapped. “Every restaurant has mouse droppings,” he said, which is something to chew on (heh heh) the next time you wonder why there are currants in your risotto.
“Trying to say I set up a wobbly chair,” Mr. Ramsay told TV Week, his voice apparently “full of disgust”. “This is supposed to be the most powerful nation in the world, not the most pathetic.”
THE CHILDREN’S HOUR: Ramsay’s show will debut on September 19th, the same night as another controversial show – CBS’ Kid Nation, which has been hit with allegations of unsafe working conditions for its cast of minors. The network has taken a lot of heat after stories surfaced involving children suffering grease burns and accidentally drinking bleach from unmarked soda pop bottles, and L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke is keeping up the heat with columns like the one on Monday, where she urged CBS president Les Moonves to cancel the show and explain himself to the CBS board.
Finke also urged CBS to drop the threat of $5 million penalty for children or parents who defy the gag order preventing them from talking to the press without permission. “I say, if CBS has nothing to hide concerning allegations of child abuse and violation of child safety and labor laws in the filming of the reality show, then let everyone involved talk freely to the media,” wrote Finke. The Screen Actors Guild, rather predictably, has joined in the chorus of outrage, and a spokesman for the union told the Hollywood Reporter that, “(h)ad the children been engaged under SAG contracts, they would have had protections including maximum daily work hours based on their age.” If nothing else, Kid Nation will be a test of the old publicists’ adage that it doesn’t matter what people say about you, as long as they’re saying something. The ratings for the night of the 19th will be the ultimate test of that trope.