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TV Review: Hell’s Kitchen

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Reality shows are like pebbles in the shoes of scripted television. Reality television has killed more good shows than it’s produced, but I bow my head in shame for unabashedly loving Hell’s Kitchen. Most likely, it is because I once worked in the food industry for seven years and have even been accepted at the world renowned ITHQ, a culinary institute here in Montreal. My grandfather was a world class pastry chef who prepared his masterpieces for kings and queens. Although I never worked in a world class restaurant with chefs like Gordon Ramsay, the adventure was the same. Beating back customers, gashing up waiters' knuckles, whose grubby hands are trying to put their order ahead of others, with tongs, getting into screaming matches with the owner, whacking the donkey with salmonella infested aluminum plates he decided not to wash with soap, shoving the kitchen slaves around. Hell’s Kitchen, is every kitchen.

What is normally an aversion for me, the backstabbing, the confession cam, the whining, the crying, the screaming, the meanness, and the brutality, suddenly becomes entertainment for me as I relish in the nostalgic psychosis that is the existence of a restaurant.

Tonight, season two began on FOX TV, and it pulled no punches.  It went right back to hell with Gordon Ramsay as the tormentor. This year, the kitchen is divided by the sexes. It’s the women versus the men. They compete for the prize. The prize is a million dollar restaurant in a new billion dollar casino hotel in Sin City – Las Vegas. And boy do we have rag tag teams.

The women’s team is comprised of Rachel, Polly, Sara, Maribel, and Heather. 

Rachel is a loud and proud redneck.   

Polly is an unschooled caterer, who doesn’t know what a mirepoix is (which, in the subtitles, was incorrectly spelled with an accented e).  Mirepoix is the most basic, I mean really basic, of bases for just about anything. If you cater and you don’t know what a mirepoix is, don’t cater, make some Kraft Dinner instead.

Deli Manager Sara is out of her league here. Slinging burgers and smoked meat sandwiches isn’t the same as preparing a Canard a l’Orange.

Maribel promises to be worthy of the worst backstabbers found on The Apprentice.

Finally, my pick for the women’s team is Heather. The comely sous-chef comes out as the front runner and leader of the red team. She takes charge immediately and, in an instant, shows her skills and leadership and also that she has well gauged Ramsay. She’s overemotional but seems to be telling herself, “I’m not gonna crack, I’m not gonna crack,” while keeping silent.

The men’s team is kind of scary. The "boys will be boys" attitude just doesn’t cut it in the eyes of a serious restauranteur. A head chef will chop them up and serve them as an entrée if they keep this up.

Tom, the former stockbroker from New Jersey, sweats so much it’s amazing he can keep his weight up, although he can cut a mean piece of meat and outdo both teams.

Giacomo is one of those young guys who seem to think they can breeze through life.

Gabe, the Blackberry-hugging marketing exec, is completely out of his element and it’s even hard to believe he’s an exec, because he’s not bloodthirsty enough.

The diminutive Larry broke under the pressure, literally. He was hospitalized for cracking on the second episode and was taken out.

Southampton’s Keith has no endurance whatsoever and he’s gonna drag the team down.

My favorite for the men’s team is jailbird Garrett, a former prison cook. I gather if he can handle prison, Ramsay might be a cakewalk. And he also takes charge early on. He does get a little too cocky at the end, which means he’ll probably slip up at some point, but right from the beginning I chose him as the leader and potentially the winner.

In the first hour, the men won the first gauntlet leaving the best of the worst, Heather, to decide whose head winds up on the cutting block. Fortunately. Polly-what’s-a-mirepoix? got gutted and served up as the first cook to burn in Hell’s Kitchen. In the second hour, the women won the race. Garrett chose Giacomo and Tom as his two losers of the day. But Chef Ramsay decided to put Tom back in line after a heartfelt plea to stay on board. He wanted to make some Gabe Flambé and he did. Gabe got the meat hook.

Chef Ramsay makes Simon Cowell look like a bloody choir boy with his murderous threats and the foulest potty mouth to ever grease, yes, grease the small screen. Think Axel’s captain from Beverly Hills Cop, but white and very British. Despite all the bleeping, you quickly notice how he’s mastered the use of the F word and doesn’t shy from being a bastard to anyone. He’ll use whatever he can against his victims. He doesn’t like girly hair on men, sweaters, or whiny poor-mes. The insults keep coming, but the dishes do not. Why this guy hasn’t had a heart attack yet is beyond me.

So for a first night, we have one guy out and in an emergency room; a wounded player, Heather, who despite burning her hand badly, continued delegating before leaving for treatment. Two players are out and we got to see 10 players dumpster diving because they had much too much waste the night before. Waste can make or break a restaurant’s finances and two containers worth of wasted food is a disaster. But the catastrophe that followed could make a chef take the butcher knife to his team. During the second night, the restaurant’s patrons all leave before Chef Ramsay even had a chance to shut down the kitchen or berate more customers. Humiliation, anger, and despair – what a great start. See you next Monday, Chef.

4 soufflés outta 5.

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About David Desjardins

  • jack

    Don’t count out Sara. They may list her as
    deli manager, but she’s worked at some of the
    finest restaurants in Dallas. (including the five star
    Mansion on Turtle Creek)

  • Sweet Deal Joan, thanks.

  • Congrats! This article has been placed on Advance.net

  • duane

    Well, Dave, I’m betting that in 10 years, you will realize what a waste of time it was to have watched such dreck. No offense. I used to watch Eight is Enough when I was a teenager.

  • My very same bet.

  • I think it will come down to Heather and the prison chef, unless someone else really does some over-the-top work.