Gordon Ramsay

What Schools Can Learn From Gordon Ramsay

Jose 5 Comments

Gordon Ramsay

I have to admit that my experiments in cooking have been anywhere from spectacularly surprising to absolutely vacuous. I’m great with a pair of eggs and a bowl of cereal, and have made a mean salad once. Otherwise, my rice could have stuck to the ceiling (because it didn’t stick to our stomachs) and anything else I’ve made was a goulash of leftovers and microwavable parts. It’s not that I can’t cook; it’s that I haven’t done much of it.

Far be it from me to be a fan of any cooking show, much less Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay. I’d always see the garrulous, cantankerous hash slinger in promos for Hell’s Kitchen and laugh my butt off, thinking “There’s just no way I could work for him as a teacher.” Then, I gave it some thought and said, “Well, he might not be a great principal to work for, but as a ‘quality reviewer,’ he’d be perfect.” Suddenly, it occurred to me that Bloomberg and Klein tried to implement such a process a couple of years ago, where they imported a few Englishmen to come in, sound magnificent, and drill entire schools about their processes of learning. About 90% of us didn’t understand what they said, but we knew the profound (and arguably negative) effects they had on schools here, but I have a feeling Gordon would be different.

For one, I can’t see Gordon not making a name for himself with just about every one of the staff members. His voice alone would shake the bells off the hallways. I also can’t imagine him staying in a school for just 2 days and assume what’s going on with the school, which too many of the quality reviewers seemed to do, according to some. Furthermore, Gordon’s resumé speaks for itself, and he’d already “turned around” a few dozen restaurants alone; principals wouldn’t be able to question that. Plus, his accountability tool stands right before him; the millions of people watching on camera tend to catch every moment, even the most unpleasant.

More importantly, there are three things Gordon does that would go unnoticed to the untrained eye:

  1. He’s unabashed with his assessments, never settling for the common soft mundane jargon of his profession.
  2. He looks at the surrounding neighborhood and dips himself into how the restaurant serves that neighborhood.
  3. He emphasizes the culture of the kitchen and management as much as the food.

He’s not looking for exquisite dining and beautiful people; he’s focused on customer experience and superior executives. He may not have a rubric and clipboard behind him, and FOX pays him … to be himself. He gives people a chance to redeem their fortunes even when there’s a threat of foreclosure. If we’re really looking at quality review, shouldn’t it matter more that the quality of the schools improve because of your presence and not simply stagnate? If Gordon went to 15 schools, shouldn’t 9 of those schools have gotten better?

Ramsay’s probably not interested in running around a school and doing that sort of thing, but maybe some of you are. If you’re still test-prepping your students to death, wonder what Gordon Ramsay would say about the dish you’re cookin’.

Jose, who really needs to work his way around a kitchen at some point …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 5

  1. Lucia

    You should watch the British version of Kitchen Nightmares – he’s still honest, but he’s also gentle and kind. In the American version, they love it when he confronts people – it’s our Jerry Springer society – but otherwise, he’s actually a really wise, down-to-earth kind of businessman that you speak of in your post.

  2. NYC Educator

    I love Kitchen Nightmares. Gordon consistently prescribes simplicity and local ingredients, both of which appeal to me. The British version is a little better in that it focuses less on pathos and that he revisits the places a few weeks later.

    He certainly plays a role of teacher. He’s got vast experience, he seems to know what quality is and relentlessly advocates it. That’s a sharp difference between Americans running school systems–they have no idea what works and couldn’t care less if their prescriptions have consistent failure records.

    However, by the time Ramsey gets involved these places are heavily in debt, on their last legs, and 2/3 of them end up closing. Sometimes they sue him. I’ve read that, as a result, he doesn’t want to bother with this project anymore.

    Seeing all the frozen crap these folks serve, it really gives you pause about setting foot in unknown places.

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    Author
    Jose

    Laura, WWGD bracelets would be gangsta. I’d swear that so fast, they’d have to keep supplying them to me every week or so since I’d run out of them from snapping them so hard on my wrists.

    Lucia, I’d love to watch the British version, but I don’t know much English.

    NYCEd, in the episodes I watched, he did go back to see how they were doing, and they were all successful. However, as you mention, it looks like he wasn’t always Midas with the restaurant biz. And you’re right: he does go when it’s on its last leg, which makes me wonder why anyone who’s on their leg would have a leg to stand on when they’re suing Ramsay.

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