Welcome, welcome one and all, from the gourmands of the group to those among us who like orange juice in their Rice Krispies (me!) Are you ready for another season of watching FOX portray Gordon Ramsey (and indeed, influencing him to portray himself) as a man with a barely restrained case of pathological anger issues? Because here in the USA we like our steaks stuffed with pork chops, our desserts stuffed with fudge and sometimes pork chops, and our chefs REALLY SUPER PISSED OFF.
To begin our journey, 15 aspiring chefs descend upon LAX. One notable standout has already chosen to be that guy - the one who walks through the airport wearing a chef's hat so tall that unless he's smuggling a toddler under there, he's already painting himself with the "Oh, honey" brush. Though if he were in fact smuggling a toddler under his hat, we'd have a whole different set of issues with which to deal. As the fifteen hopefuls board the Hell's Kitchen bus, we're treated to one of the fundamental truths of reality show dogma: reality producers love latex. Sometimes they love it in a Paradise Hotel "Let's keep this confined to Patient Zero" sort of way, but more often on these shows, if you can throw a fat suit or a fake nose on your star, well that's just reality gold, baby! Being sneaky, if not original, Gordon gets a fake nose, a bad wig and a pair of gas station sunglasses so he can join the real hopefuls on the bus; observing them in their natural habitat if you will. I expect it to be a spectacular failure, going down in flames once Gordon realizes he hasn't shouted "F**K!" in six or seven minutes, a condition he must remedy immediately. Perhaps they injected a powerful sedative directly into his vocal cords, because he makes it the entire bus ride without shouting, or, really, doing much of anything. He actually didn't say a word, which you'd think would be enough to tip off just about anyone save for the baby under little man's (I guess his name is Craig) hat. If anyone was suspicious they edited it out so that we at home would believe that their HILARIOUS AND CUNNING trick was a remarkable success.
Hey, let's talk about Craig some more. We may as well, since none of the other contestants have spoken yet. Craig's philosophy is, I believe, a spinoff of the Humanism school of philosophical thought and was broadly encapsulated by Craig as "F**k you, f**k you, f**k you, f**k you, f**k you, and f**k you." Well said, Craig! And may I say, nice hat.
But lest I lead you to believe that Craig is the only, um, strong personality on the cast this year, let me introduce you to Bobby. Bobby thinks he is the "black Gordon Ramsey". Bobby is also more than a little obsessed with the idea of being a four star general. Not literally, but in the sense that if Gordon is the president, Bobby is the four star general. Bobby is a little bit lacking in political chain of command knowledge, but at least he's affable. He hasn't said "F**k you!" to anyone yet, which is refreshing. His posturing and preening take us through the rest of the bus ride.
As the hopefuls walk into the Hell's Kitchen restaurant, they offer up the requisite "HELL yeah, bay-bee!"s and the "Oh my God!"s that the editors ask for. They're greeted by everyone's favorite maître d', Jean-Phillipe. Since Gordon is still in his ASTONISHINGLY SLY costume, they need to come up with a way to really blow the minds of the contestants (and us at home!) by showing them that the creepy mute guy from the bus who is obviously wearing a wig and a fake nose? THAT IS GORDON RAMSEY, SUCKERS! Minds! Blown! All over the kitchen! Or not, whatever. So Jean-Phillipe awkwardly attempts the first step in this uncomfortable sequence of events by purporting that he does a wicked Gordon Ramsey impression. He doesn't. He then calls upon random unsuspecting contestants to do their best Gordon. None of them do well until Jean-Phillipe calls upon the disguised Gordon himself. He nails it, as you'd expect, and then rips off his latex trappings and cheap wig, prompting a round of screams, claps and, oddly, one contestant running up and hugging Gordon around the waist like he was Bob Barker and she was just informed that YES! She will be playing Plinko! With pieces of his face still hanging off, Gordon directs the chefs to get into that kitchen and cook him their signature dish. As the theme music swells, I'm overwhelmed by the fact that - seriously? We're only to the opening credits? Damn it.
With just 45 minutes to knock Gordon's socks off, the kitchens are a whirlwind of activity. People succumb to the pressure left and right, from poorly seared meat to overcooked...man, what is that, some sort of cat food? After Gordon yells "STOP", the chefs assemble to have their signature dishes critiqued. Gordon explains that a chef's signature dish explains exactly who they are. I kind of wonder what it says about me that my signature dish is store brand macaroni and cheese with mushroom soup and tuna fish mixed into it. With Ritz crackers, if I'm feeling fancy. Gordon tells them that he's excited to see what it is that he has to work with. I'm just excited that his face appears to be all in one piece again.
First up is our old friend and sous chef Craig, and the first thing Gordon hones in on is his hat. In a confessional, Craig says that he's 5'5", and he wears that hat to make him feel big in the kitchen. It would have a lot more panache if he were to achieve this goal with goldfish platform shoes, but I guess not everyone is the style maven that I am. Gordon makes some sort of joke that intimates that Craig has a small penis. To Craig's credit, he refrains from whipping it out and dropping it on the plate, asking Gordon if he'd like a little mustard or relish with it. His dish is a jerk-seared Chilean sea bass over rum raisin risotto. Gordon doesn't like it, and - in a bit of a linguistic stretch - says that while the fish may be doused in jerk seasoning, Gordon himself is not a jerk. Awkward phrasing on the ol' insult there, Gordo. Proclaiming Craig's dish a pile of [redacted], Gordon tells him to take off his hat and never wear it in his kitchen again.
Second is Jen, a 24 year old line cook. Jen claims that nobody else is as passionate about cooking as she is. Nobody else is as shiny, either. Huge gold necklace, large gold hoop earrings, shiny gold shirt, glossy lipstick. I believe she was hoping that the glare off of her ensemble would mask the fact that the ends of her hair are begging for a trim, but to no avail. Jen's graphic says she's a line cook, but she says that she's (some word I don't know, but which means fruit carver.) She can carve Gordon's face into a watermelon! Gordon stupidly doesn't take her up on this. Jen's dish is a Dungeness crab and corn risotto with a lobster tail. Gordon takes a small bite and immediately spits it out, calling the rice raw. In her cutaway interview, Jen, full of unearned bravado, claims that Gordon should read a few books, because "he has no idea what he's talking about or who he's talking to." Unless those books are Jen's old high school yearbooks, I fail to see the point.
Next on the carpet we have Corey, a private chef. Though we're never made privy to what her dish actually is - lettuce leaves over boiled chicken, maybe? - Gordon dismisses her by saying "This tells me a lot about you - simple, bland, blonde, boring." For what it's worth, I doubt the blonde is real.
The next several contestant's dishes are all given the same quickly-edited dismissal, never having the meals described, only showing Gordon's pithy insults. "Please God!" Gordon begs, "Let there be something on the next plate!" I hate to nitpick people's prayers, but the odds of someone offering up an empty plate seem fairly low.
Be that as it may, Gordon's prayers are, in fact, answered by Matt, a 35 year old sous chef. Matt describes himself as a true culinarian, which I was surprised to learn is not only NOT a fake word, but something in which you can actually become certified. Matt claims that he knows what Gordon is looking for, and, to that end, has created an "exotic tartare", made up of venison, diver scallops, caviar and white chocolate.
Quick aside: once, when I was a teenager (and possibly drunk), I was sitting on a friend's front stoop a week or so after Easter. A kid went by on a skateboard, and, thinking I was funny, I said "Hey little boy, do you want some candy?" I know how creepy that comes off in text, and you'll just have to take my word that it really wasn't. Or if it was, I didn't mean for it to be. Also - drunk! Anyway, the kid looked at me and just about screamed "NO!", just like I'm sure his mom taught him. He got about ten feet down the sidewalk, stopped, turned back to me and said "Well, what kind of candy?" Taken aback, I realized that the only candy left in my friend's little brother's Easter basket was the white chocolate bunny. I said "Uh, there's some white chocolate here..." Unhappy with the selection, the kid once again screamed "NO!" and skated away. True story.
Anyway, yeah, the tartare. Listen, all you need to know is that it made Gordon throw up. Literally. He puked right there. It was pretty horrible to watch, and it would have been nice if he'd tried to leave the room first, but life isn't always nice.
Dominic, our next contestant, is a stay at home dad. He's also...I don't know. Dominic is a little off. He's like the beta version of some kind of humanoid robot with hipster glasses and possibly a toupee. Also? Not a chef. Why is he on this show? Dominic made a chicken cacciatore and roasted orzo dish. Gordon was disappointed, because for 45 minutes of prep time, he expected something more exciting. Really? In 45 minutes I think I could just about make chicken noodle soup from a can, though in my defense I do like to take my time with cracker placement and crumbling in the bowl. Sometimes you just have to give in to indulgences, you know? Dominic is just pleased that Gordon didn't vomit.
Rosann is next, and...huh. Rosann is a receptionist at a law firm. It's a free for all this year! Everyone should apply! You say you're only 8? Who cares! You have no hands? Big deal! You're a dog? We love dogs! Everyone's a winner! Rosann makes a spicy mussel soup, which Gordon quite likes.
With one tepid chalkmark in the win column, the narrator dramatically speculates that things are looking up - OR ARE THEY? Well, no, they are not. The next dish comes courtesy of Petrozza, a catering director. Petrozza boasts that he has no specialty, because he can cook anything. He proves this by presenting Gordon with a small bird shoved inside of a pumpkin, set off by grease-sodden potatoes. After whacking the pumpkin, the greasy greasy pumpkin open, he plops out the hen with a wet, sucking sound. It was like watching some crazy vegetable/animal hybrid give birth to a poorly-seasoned demon. Horrifying. The inspired name for this inspired dish? "Hen in a pumpkin". Tremendous!
Overly made-up room service chef Sharon, electrician (see? It's Thunderdome up in here!) Ben, culinary student Christina, and hotel cook Louross are all dismissed in short order. (Ha! My sad little puns are more chef-like than the contestants.)
Line cook Vanessa gets the first whole-heartedly positive review. We're not told what exactly it was that she cooked, only that it was pan-seared and the best thing Gordon had all night.
Last up is Bobby the Four! Star! General!, who made a Hawaiian butterfish dish. Gordon didn't like the fact that it was deep-fried, calling it lazy. Bobby the Four! Star! General! blows off this criticism, noting that he is, indeed, STILL the Four! Star! General!, both on the streets and in the kitchen. Bobby may have some sort of personality disorder, I can't be certain.
After having tasted all the signature dishes, Gordon warns the contestants that this year the pressure will be immense (as opposed to previous years, where it was a giant lovefest?) The winner of this season will become the executive chef for Gordon's new Los Angeles restaurant, London LA. He introduces Scott (who will be running the men's team), and Gloria (who will be running the "girl's" team - hey, isn't casual sexism fun?) The gender-divided teams are to head back to their living quarters where each team is to pick a captain for the next night's dinner service.
Though both Gordon and Mr. Narrator try to make this sound like a hugely drama-filled task, Vanessa and Bobby (the Four! ... oh forget it) are chosen quickly enough. The women spend the remainder of their evening working to memorize the 15 new recipes they'll be expected to make for dinner service, and the boys (oh, I went there) decide to go to bed.
As the next morning dawns, the teams head back into Hell to do their daily prep. Things start smoothly for the men, with Bobby doing a nice job motivating the guys and keeping up the team spirit. Jason, the bald and paunchy sous chef, is feeling frisky, claiming that "[he's] not going to lose to a team of girls. The only thing [he] would lose to a woman is, like, an ironing contest." Another thing he won't lose to a woman? His virginity.
Things are going more slowly in the other kitchen, with the women slow to find their stride. Gloria isn't happy with their pace, and Vanessa isn't exhibiting many leadership qualities.
With just a few hours until dinner service begins, Gordon assembles the cheflets and quizzes them on what that evening's entrees will be. One guy after another hems and haws with mouths hanging open, while the women - who you may recall spent the previous evening studying - have their arms straight up in the air, wriggling with anticipation and hoping to be called on, like the most obnoxious kid in your second grade class. Still, I can't imagine how you even prep food for a full day without knowing what you're cooking that night. I've never worked in a kitchen (see: mac & cheese signature dish) and maybe this is standard, but I have a hard time imagining how. Though I'm sure someone will happily bitch me out in the comments if this is an obnoxious assumption on my part. And then I'll ban them. HA! Kidding, mostly.
hired extras family and friendshungry customers swarm into Hell's Kitchen, the chefs on both sides of the gender divide begin to break down. While the men are trying to get their appetizers ready to be served, Jason - he of the bald head and presumptive perpetual virginity - is outside smoking and charmingly picking at his toes. The people for whom Jason will be preparing food tonight are going to get a little something extra, poor things. Also? That's the first time that Jason and "get a little something" have ever been in the same sentence.
As for the women, Sharon (whom Jen calls Barbie "because she has blonde hair and big knockers") isn't really getting much done at the appetizer station, though it can't help that Jen is basically jumping on her back and watching her every move. Ever try to read a book with someone reading over your shoulder? It's like that, but more annoying because the person is calling you Barbie and talking about your "knockers" on national television.
Back to the guys! Jason - this is going to shock and sadden you - is failing! Not just at life, but at cooking too. His scallops are proclaimed terrible and need to be redone. For his part, captain Bobby (that's a demotion of, what, like a million military ranks?) is all "Look, I COULD have done the apps, the meats, the salads, and also perhaps built a small orphanage for Guatemalan youths, but that's not how I roll. I didn't want to make the guys look bad. So instead I just didn't do anything." It's almost like he's a REAL four star General!
Women: Sharon, still failing. Can't make a risotto to save her life. Gordon tells her to get off the station and go put on some more makeup. I get mildly offended until I realize, well, yeah, she does really wear a lot of makeup. Plus her cutaway interview is her talking about how there's nothing wrong with wanting to look pretty all the time, and damn it, woman, what does this have to do with cooking? Also, Christ, your eyeshadow is all sorts of the wrong colors for you. You look for all the world like you went ten rounds with Lennox Lewis.
After 45 minutes, no food has left either dining room. The
hired extras family and friendsangry customers say mean things about the service.
Men: Jason's second attempt at scallops is much like his first. Full of fail.
Women: Jen has taken over as the acting Captain, since Vanessa is nowhere to be seen. She's doing her best to get things together, but a basic lack of technique amongst the contestants is hindering her. Hey, wait a minute. Lightbulb moment! Maybe this is why most cooking shows actually feature chefs! I know, I know, that's kind of crazy, but I think I may be on to something. Strangely, despite the fact that Jen has been doing the most in the way of leadership, Gordon strips Vanessa of her captain's badge and gives it to Rosann, the receptionist. Rosann's first offering as captain: "Where's the chicken? The chicken? The chick chick chick chick chick?" Uh...huh.
Men: Dominic can't make scallops either. They're alternately "rubber" and "like a golf ball", according to Gordon. I can't figure out what the problem is with these people, since even I can make scallops. And make no mistake, I can't cook. I come by it honestly, though, since nobody in my family can cook worth a damn. A big night in my house growing up was when my dad would make Rice-A-Roni with Spam. He'd slice Spam and cook it on top of the Rice-A-Roni. I was probably 20 before I knew that they weren't even marketed together. This is true story #2 of the recap.
Gordon gives Bobby a hard time for not leading his team. Even when the guys ask for some guidance, Bobby assures them that they don't need him.
Women: Jen makes a good risotto! Someone did something right! Holy crap! The red diners are getting some food!
Men: Crickets. Hungry, angry blue diners. Their food tastes awful. Louross, who it wasn't until they were choosing team captains that I realized that he was a guy, and he's really a very pretty man, steps up to act as the leader that Captain! Bobby! couldn't be. Bobby is stripped of his stripes, Louross is the new captain. Bobby takes this in stride, claiming that he's still a general and Louross is still a private. There must be a name for the willful disregard of reality, but I'm not qualified to know what it is. I am, however, qualified to say that he is annoying the everloving crap out of me.
Women: starting their first entrees. Corey made some terrible rubbery chicken. It ended its journey on the floor.
It doesn't matter, though, because like a scene from some creepy Stephen King mind control book, all of the customers (who I'm sure weren't prompted by the editors even a little) remarkably all choose the exact same time to leave. They've waited long enough for their free dinner! They're taking their forty dollars and GOING HOME! Gordon shuts down the kitchens with all of the shouting and swearing you'd expect.
Though he's eminently disappointed in both teams, Gordon thinks that the men performed even more poorly than did the women, and Louross, as the best of the worst, must nominate two of his teammates to go home.
Back in their quarters, much is made of the fact that Jason performed so abysmally, as well as how weakly Bobby led them. Jason takes Louross aside and piles on Bobby a little bit, mentions how he'd like to stay, but tells Louross that he has to do what he has to do.
Louross takes this to heart, and ultimately nominates Bobby and stay at home dad Dominic. And though my best guess is that Dominic was meant to be a pawn, the show takes the direction that all reality shows in the history of the world have ever taken and - gasp! - the pawn gets screwed. Dominic is asked to take off his jacket and leave Hell's Kitchen. This may have been a tearful and emotionally wrenching ending, but I can't be sure as my DVR cut it off about a minute early. Thanks for going long, American Idol!
Next week: I assume some stuff happens, and Waywyrd will be here to tell you all about it!