Gordon Behind Bars Review: Cell-Plates

GORDON BEHIND BARS: Tuesday 26th June, Channel 4, 9pm

“I know the human cost of prison. But what frustrates me is that the taxpayer forks out 38 grand a year to keep each of Britain’s 88 thousand prisoners banged up.â€? So starts Gordon Behind Bars. The title is a bit misleading – the frowny chef isn’t actually incarcerated, nor is he pulling pints, but he is in prison, this time, to get prisoners working in the kitchen.

Gordon Behind Bars is the latest in an ongoing and long running obsession with celebrity chefs with social obligations. We’re familiar with Jamie and his school dinners, Heston Blumenthal did hospital food, and it’s only a matter of time before Michel Roux Jr solves the third world’s lack of drinking water by serving it over ice with a sprig of lemongrass.

Unlike Jamie et al, Ramsay has taken a different approach. Whilst his contemporaries preach the virtues of cooking and healthy eating as a means to solve (admittedly food related) issues, such as obesity, Ramsay seemingly isn’t motivated by any of this. He’s about the money. Your money.

Whilst it’s alluded that some of the prisoners who volunteered for the task of working under the esteemed chef in the kitchen did so to try and better themselves, seemingly, he is not. His main priority is getting the kitchen to turn a profit so that money can be put into the prison (and presumably save some taxpayers money), whilst getting the inmates to work.

However it appears, that our favourite peddler of the profane isn’t concerned with trying to change their ways and give them a better chance on the outside, but rather, to make them do some hard graft whilst they’re locked up. He sees prison as too cosy, and gets pissed off when a prison warden tells him that his “new brigadeâ€? will have to prepare five meals, instead of his expected one. In Ramsay’s words…“We’ve got to offer five choices. He says customers, I say prisoners. He says choices, I say fuck off.â€? He even describes prison as being like a “hotelâ€?, a bizarre attitude to take, given how earlier in the episode he tells us of a recent shanking.

Regardless of this somewhat peculiar conviction, Gordon Behind Bars is a fairly entertaining watch. The inmates are colourful, to say the least, and it does kick off quite a lot, and it’s a refreshing change to see people that are more aggressive then the chef – not surprisingly, he tends to keep his cool. Love him or fucking loathe him, Ramsay is an engaging presenter, and hemaintains interest throughout the programme. For fans of cookery programmes, there isn’t really a lot of cooking here – the emphasis is placed squarely on his cat herding efforts. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing however, it’s got ample drama, without the saccharine emotional toying of a Jamie Oliver equivalent.