I don't know, maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I'm not who I used to be. Maybe I'm just getting a little too soft for my own good.
I was watching Kitchen Nightmares last night and the owner of the restaurant in question, Billy, was clearly way out of his depth running the place. I'm pretty sure he didn't have any experience as a restaurateur (he used to work construction) and he was running the place into the ground. Well, he says it was better when Gordon Ramsay showed up than it had been before he took it over, but who knows if that's the case. Whatever the case, the place was a disaster and Billy wouldn't take any responsibility for the issues. Much to my surprise – and dismay – I felt bad for the man. I did. I felt bad that he was so clearly in over his head, there may even have been a part of me that felt bad that he could lose everything including his house. That's not a reaction I would normally have watching such a program.
Normally I would think to myself "well, you made your bed, now you have to lie in it" or "what kind of fool were you for buying a restaurant when you didn't know the first thing about running one?" I may even, at one time, have though "you moron, you deserve to lose everything. I don't think you're smart enough to learn from this mistake even if you do, but you still deserve to walk away from the place with nothing".
What's wrong with me? Why the change of heart? Was it a tinge of homesickness for the NY tri-state area? I tend to think not because the show took place on Long Island and I've never been a fan. Was it Billy's mustache? He did have a pretty rockin' one and I am envious of people who can grow mustaches, but I don't imagine that was the case either. Was it Dee Snider's appearance at the restaurant? Nope, never been a Twisted Sister fan. Was it that I thought Gordon was too hard on Billy? No, that can't be it, Gordon was actually too easy on him. Maybe that's what did it. Maybe I felt bad for him because Gordon went easy on him.
That actually makes some sense. Gordon is usually incredibly hard on incompetent owners, always urging them to do better, to be better. There was some of that last night, but certainly less than there used to be. I'm now wondering if maybe Gordon went easy on Billy because he knew that no matter how much yelling he did, Gordon would never make Billy into a true restaurateur. Gordon spotted that the battle had been lost before it had even begun and so he wasn't going to drive himself, and everyone else, crazy trying to accomplish the impossible. Gordon didn't even work with Billy on his management skills, and as we saw throughout the episode, Billy didn't have management skills to begin with, which further helps my supposition.
I think that Billy may be able to keep the restaurant running now that Gordon has left. We saw that his waitresses were willing to go all out and perform duties outside their normal purview in order to keep it going, which will help him be successful. His chef finally likes cooking and his wife (who also has a full-time job) helps run the place as well. Billy has tons of support which may make him successful even if he doesn't have the inherent skills one would normally associate with his position as owner/manager of a restaurant.
Still though, I feel bad for him. I don't think he realizes, even now, how much trouble he was in before Gordon came, and that makes me a little sad.