For reasons not yet clear, National Geographic decided that what the world really needs is (what else?) a travel show starring Gordon Ramsay. Though Grub can only speculate how exactly this show came about, the premise of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted seems to be “what if we made Parts Unknown … but worse?” It’s, well, an approach.
In a trailer for Uncharted released today, Ramsay is dropped off by a helicopter on a beach and given a machete; it then shows him chiding a mule for being stubborn (he’s even bullying the animals!), kayaking and doing Outdoors Man Things, and even climbing a tree. The show will take him to six different places around the world including Laos, Morocco, and Peru, where he’ll learn about how the locals cook, and then, for some reason, engage in a cooking competition. Okay, so maybe Uncharted is Parts Unknown meets Beat Bobby Flay?
When the show was first announced last summer, it was immediately met with criticism from people who pointed out “hey, maybe you didn’t find the right person for the job,” and for calling itself a show about “discovering the undiscovered.” The news was announced a few months after England’s Channel 4 released a compilation of Ramsay freak outs, which itself prompted negative responses from the likes of Jay Rayner, who said “all he’s doing is glamourising bullying,” and Kenji López-Alt, who argued it doesn’t matter if the “abusive behavior is an act.” In January, Ramsay announced he was opening a restaurant called Lucky Cat, described as an “Asian eating house,” which was itself criticized for cultural appropriation. That restaurant opens today.
Ramsay’s shtick is televised bullying; he’s made a career out of yelling at people on shows like Kitchen Nightmares. He’s taken the shout-y chef stereotype and pumped it up with more steroids than an entire Olympics team from Russia. Which is all to point out that the English chef is not exactly known for what you’d call “nuance” or “understanding” or “empathy” on his shows. Those are all qualities you might want in your host for a show centered around interacting with people, places, and cultures around the world. The celebrity chef, though, seems allergic to the idea of sensitivity. Even if he does act like a normal person on Uncharted, it doesn’t change how he’s made his bones and otherwise behaves on television. Or that there are many others out there who could host interesting, insightful travel shows.