Gordon Ramsay’s jumpsuit looks snug as he tells 12 people to jump off a cliff

Twelve food entrepreneurs stand on a Cornwall beach waiting for Gordo(n Ramsay). “Maybe he’ll come out of the sea,” one of them, maybe Estragon, says, and everyone laughs, imagining Gordon Ramsay emerging from the depths, riding a huge seahorse-pulled clam shell, with barnacles in his banana, brandishing a trident.

In fact, Ramsay does better. He arrives perched on the edge of a helicopter from which he jumps his feet into the sea and swims to the shore.

Let’s be frank, this is a very unusual introduction to a cooking show (Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars, Thursday, BBC1) and it completely recalibrates my standards for a “good entry” on television. Unless Ryan Tubridy smashes through a window firing machine gun bullets and Tommy Tiernan walks through his fire screaming his interview questions, they’re dead to me.

It is also a troubling harbinger of hope. This suggests that in this age of energy crises and climate collapse, anything is still possible. And what will Ramsay demand from the twelve on the beach? A second louder helicopter? A whimsical gasoline battle? A five for tipping the pilot?

It’s well known that you can tell someone they’re a food entrepreneur based on whether they float or sink when dropped in water (wait…I’m thinking maybe witches )

Now he stands before them, his face as steep as the Cornish cliffs, his hair unnaturally styled, unaffected by salt water or the weather, his body comfortably wrapped in a wetsuit that seems to say, “Hey, my banana is here, Mr. TV columnist.”

Ramsay explains the premise of the show, starting with the words “I invited you all here today” and for a glorious moment, I hope he will frame one of them for murder like Hercule Poirot . But no, Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars is basically “the apprentice but food” just like Ramsey is basically “Alan Sugar but falling from a helicopter into the sea and, also, food”.

Ramsay’s plan is to select the best food entrepreneur to invest £150,000 of his own money in their business. It emits a familiar stream of inaccurate, star-reaching chatter that includes the words, “I’ve designed an amazing set of challenges for you all so I can uncover your true DNA.”

Gordon Ramsay is apparently unaware of the existence of DNA testing companies. But it’s good; £150,000 is a small mortgage these days and participants here seem unaware of the existence of banks. Instead, they chose to dance to the whims of an eccentric television millionaire. What could go wrong?

Ramsay tells them to jump off a cliff into the sea to prove their loyalty. It is now legal in Britain. So they do it, locked in suits, helmets and life jackets, because if you want to jump people off a cliff into the sea, you better do it safely.

It’s well known that you can tell someone they’re a food entrepreneur based on whether they float or sink when dropped in water (wait…I’m thinking maybe witches ) and Ramsay watches intently. Most float. Ramsay beams with joy. And why not? Twelve people just jumped off a cliff into the sea because he asked them to. Her jumpsuit looks even more fitted.

I start to wonder if there will be food on this cooking show when Ramsay announces the big test of the week: “Tomorrow you’ll be selling street food from your own shack on the beach.”

It’s amazing that the words “beach shack” now mean handcrafted hipster offerings. It used to be considered unwise to ingest anything offered to you in a shack on the beach. From now on, cabin gastronomy is all the rage.

The food entrepreneurs are divided into three teams of four and soon they are bickering over what food to serve. In the past, art was good at big questions: war, peace, love, death. But never in human history has the human art of bickering been so well documented as the last decades of reality TV. We can’t get enough. It’s like sugar to us.

The personalities aren’t too differentiated yet, but the bottom line is that in a team, a vegan wants her craving for expensive fancy mushrooms sated. In another, a seasoned chef balks at creating simple grilled sandwiches for beach folks, whom he considers to be as discerning as Europe’s wealthiest kings. And in the third, they’re all freaking out, not cooking the monkfish enough, and spilling food all over the place.

Meanwhile, Ramsay struts about who is going to help him judge the competition. “I arranged to meet some young lads who cooked up a storm in the Cornwall street scene,” he says, as if it were just a normal phrase.

Waiting customers look unhappy. Taco boys snack disapprovingly. Ramsey observes everything with his inscrutable button eyes

The youngsters are part of a group called the Taco Boys who cook Mexican food with “a twist”. The twist is, I think, they’re not Mexican and they’re not boys. They are adult adults. One of them is called Blaise and he has blue hair coming out of a woolen cap. “Quick question, does that hair come with the hat?” Ramsey says to Blaise, and he and his fellow Taco Boy laugh like their lives depend on it. And they probably do.

Ramsay returns to torment the contestants even further. He finds fault. He spits out a piece of over-seasoned chicken. He is inspiring. “Shine as individuals, stand out as a team,” he says, quoting Karl Marx.

The next day, the competition begins and the contestants are agitated. Waiting customers look unhappy. Taco boys snack disapprovingly. Ramsey observes everything with his inscrutable button eyes.

In the end, everyone is taken to London for their trial. Ramsey stands before them in front of a huge image of a fork inserted into a star (his flag) and next to a large shiny statue of a gorilla (his real self). He’s an older man and he’s wearing his office attire: a white t-shirt with a suit jacket. His banana is impeccable.

There’s lots of slow, upbeat music and long pauses as he tells the assembled contestants the winners and losers of his task. Then he turns to the losing members of the team and says, “I want to grill you.”

Yes, finally it came to this: celebrities cook and eat normally on terrestrial television. But then he finishes the sentence. “I want to grill you one-on-one on your performance.”

Ah! Ramsay says more to people individually. They make cases for themselves. A man said, “The leader in me didn’t shine. The person you saw for the past few days was a scared boy. The person you see sitting on this table now is a man, starving.

I said those exact words during my recent performance review at The Irish Times. They were very impressed and let me edit the paper for a week. Unfortunately, Ramsay takes this person at face value and views his grotesque transformation from child to man as an affront to culinary consistency and child labor laws (the Taco Boys are an exception). The man is eliminated from the competition. There are hugs and tears and a preview of what to expect next week. This includes footage of Gordon Ramsay sharpening knives while wearing a big blindfold. They just let him do what he wants, don’t they? Fair enough. Fire ahead, Gordon, big shiny gorilla.

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