Last night on the season premier of “Hell’s Kitchen” on Fox, the narrator promised that this season will push the envelope like no other–claiming that “this is the season you’ve been waiting for,” he mentioned that it will be more intense and have more sexual prowess and fighting than ever before. Of course, we know better. Shows like this always hype things way more than the actual plot delivers. Still, a program like this has to shake things up to stay fresh.
And right off the bat, Gordon Ramsay messed with the 16 contestants, and with me. He asked them all to make their signature dishes, as he does to start every season, and they would face off, blue team (men) vs. red team (women) for the initial challenge. But first, he singled out one of them, a “woman in glasses” as he called her. Her dish was veal scallopini and since she had claimed to be a mom and cookbook author, Ramsay was already skeptical. He tasted it and pretended to almost spit it out, then said it was delicious. He then gave the woman a hug…..and then started making out with her! Meanwhile, I had been looking at my press release that listed the contestants and was trying desperately to figure out who this was. But once the kissing commenced, I knew it was his wife. Heck, the British accent should have given it away!
Anyway, this season’s winner will be the head chef at Ramsay’s restaurant in the Savoy Hotel in London. And to kick things off, Ramsay also guaranteed that the first night’s dinner service would be completed, something that has never happened in Hell’s Kitchen.
So they began the signature dish competition with kitchen supervisor Maria facing off against pizzeria chef Salvatore, who had an Italian accent even though he’s 35 and has lived in the states for 21 years. Ha! Anyway, Sal’s pasta, which was not homemade, disappointed Ramsay and Maria won. Culinary instructor Benjamin went up against banquet chef Holli, and Holli was already talking smack, claiming that she would use her own good looks to her advantage. Well, she ain’t ugly, but that stuff always comes back to bite contestants in the ass. Ben won, tying the score. Executive chef went against sous chef Jamie and neither of them earned a point.
Pub executive chef Siobhan went up against line cook Mikey, and both of them received a point, keeping the score tied. Mikey showed off his Hell’s Kitchen tattoo as well, looking for brownie points, and Ramsay also poked fun at his waxed hair. Then private chef Stacey went up against executive chef Jay and Jay won. Catering chef Fran, the oldest contestant at 44, faced off with personal chef Jason and Jason won. High school cooking teacher Ed lost to personal chef Autumn, bringing the red team to within one. Finally, line cook Nilka went against farmer Andrew. Neither of them earned a point, so the guys won, 4-3.
They all went back to their dorm, but were summoned downstairs about ten times, each time with Ramsay showing them a video lesson in making recipes for the following night’s dinner service. Of course, that meant they kept being woken up and were all really tired the next morning. And at that point, the women were told they had to make the guys breakfast in bed for losing the challenge.
At the dinner service, Nilka and Jay were assigned to make table side Caesar salads, and things were going wrong in the kitchen consistently. Sal burned his scallop dish twice, and when Maria messed up, she started laughing, prompting rage from Ramsay. Meanwhile, Maria was screwing up too, but then Ramsay went crazy as Fran put crab instead of lobster in the lobster risotto. He singled out Maria, Fran and Jamie and sent them back to the dorm. I’m not sure what Jamie did wrong, but there you have it. Then Mikey kept under-cooking his halibut, and he was sent upstairs along with Benjamin, Salvatore and Stacey. Stacey’s mistake was not knowing how long to cook salmon for. Seriously? So with 7 of the 16 being sent home for the evening, Ramsay told the other nine contestants to join as one team so that the dinner service could still be completed.
They ultimately did finish, but Ramsay still felt he had to declare a losing team, which was the red team. He then told the ladies to go upstairs, and to nominate a consensus two for elimination. They went with Fran and Stacey, but naturally both of them were ready to fight, and Fran even said Autumn should be up for elimination since she was not a team player and didn’t pull her weight in the kitchen. But the consensus won out.
So Ramsay asked Stacey and Fran to step forward and asked for them to state their cases as to why they should stay. Ultimately, he felt that not knowing how long to cook fish was more of a mistake than confusing lobster with crab, so he sent Stacey packing.
We’re now down to fifteen contestants, and with some real characters, this season is sure to be interesting. I kind of felt like Mikey, the dude with the HK tattoo, was my early pick to win it all…skinny guys with punk rock hair or stoner tendencies always seem to rise to the top, and Ramsay loved his signature dish. But after Mikey showed that he couldn’t properly cook halibut, I’m not so sure. As for the others, Holli’s ego will get in her way, Autumn’s bossy ways will earn her some enemies, and Salvatore and Fran are an odd and untalented duo that the producers will likely keep around for ratings.
That’s it for this week….let me know what you all think of the first episode and this season, and we’ll be back next week with another recap!