Last night on FOX, Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” returned for Season 5. The winner of this season will earn $250K and the position of executive chef at Ramsay’s new restaurant at the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City. After 300 hopeful chefs were brought to the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant to find out who the 16 finalists would be, restaurant manager Jean Phillippe announced the names of those selected, and we were off to the races. And I have to say, it’s pretty clear that the criteria is not all based on cooking skills. Though they boasted that this was maybe the best class of talent the show has seen so far, you know that the producers and probably Ramsay himself prefer to have a few crazy contestants who wil boost ratings. After all, it’s a freaking reality show.

The first episode means one thing…the contestants each have to make their personal signature dish for Ramsay to taste. Carol went first, and made a roulade of veal that Ramsay said was “delicious.” This girl is already a contender. Wil, a 26 year old dude, was wearing a pride pin, something Ramsay asked about but I’m not sure quite understood. Anyway, Ramsay said Wil’s dish tasted better than it looked. Ji, a 33 year old who grew up in her dad’s restaurant, made a Miso Chilean sea bass, which Gordon loved. Robert, a 29 year old very large dude from New York City, also made Chilean sea bass, but wrapped it in some sort of potato thingy and a sauce that Ramsay said was gross. Lacey, who we will soon come to find out is a bit nuts, did not impress Gordon with her chicken and berry sauce. Danny, a skinny Florida kid, made some hideous banana dish, and when Ramsay asked where the idea came from, Danny replied, “Out of my ass,” to which Ramsay said to put it back there. Ha! They whipped through the rest of the dishes, but stopped at Coleen, a 41 year old cooking school instructor. Coleen made chicken enchiladas, which Ramsay hated….he then questioned the fact that she teaches people to cook, with NO formal training herself! Coleen mumbled something about also “teaching manners,” which instantly put her in Ramsay’s dog house. Seth, a 27 year old cocky moron, made lamb chops with what he called ratatouille, but it was more like a tomato sauce with honey. Finally, Ben, who was also cocky but able to back it up, made a Peking duck that Ramsay liked.

They opened the doors to Hell’s Kitchen that night and the guys were named the “Blues Brothers” and the ladies were “Saffron.” Whatever, they are red and blue to me, girl and boy. Carol and Giovanni were selected to be the wait staff for the night, though neither had experience in serving. Lacey was already causing trouble in the kitchen, and at one point said, “I quit!” and stormed out. She returned but then got into it with a few of her teammates. In particular, Coi threatened Lacey, and Ramsay told them both to “get a grip” before the doors were opened.

Coleen was screwing up the spaghetti, and you can bet Ramsay got in her face about the fact that she takes peoples’ money to show them how to cook. Meanwhile, Wil burned the gnocchi and Seth was plodding through the dinner service as well, prompting Ramsay to call him “Forrest,” for Forrest Gump. This made Seth laugh, but Ramsay was not laughing. Giovanni was struggling in the dining room, first not knowing what polenta was when a customer asked, and then not remembering who ordered what at his tables.

As they usually do at the start of a season, Ramsay shut down the kitchen when customers began leaving due to not having their food yet. He said both teams did a lousy job, but had to pick a winner and loser for the evening. Ramsay based it on customer service cards and what those cards said about Carol and Giovanni. 88% of Carol’s customers said she was above average, while Giovanni had 90% say he was below average. Yikes. So the red team won, and the blue team had to go to their dorm and choose two of their own for potential elimination.

Someone suggested Wil, and Wil agreed that he should be on the chopping block. Someone else suggested Seth, and then Seth singled out Giovanni. Giovanni defended himself, saying he should not be sent home based on something that had nothing to do with cooking. He had a point, yet a 90% below average score for customer service is a problem in any business. In the end, Ramsay sent Wil home, and it was mostly due to the fact that Wil nominated himself in the first place. That showed Ramsay a lack of confidence that he would not want in a prospective executive chef hire.

So we’re off to the races……I purposely didn’t go into too much detail about most of the contestants, because I am going to get to know them at the same pace you are. Once the personalities start to come through more, we’ll really have fun analyzing them, and watching them implode on camera. See you all next Friday….