What is it about “Hell’s Kitchen” that I enjoy so much? I think Gordon Ramsay takes a lot of pride in his take-no-prisoners perfectionism (known to the rest of us as behaving like a jerk, complete with a never-evolving repertoire of “gay sissy” insults). But his enthusiasm and encouragement are as violent as his anger, and if nothing else, Gordon makes reality TV seem paradoxically unedited. There’s something refreshing about someone who says the things we’d all like to say to our incompetent coworkers…and then some things we’d never say because come on, they’re just so mean.
Ramsay has been involved in about a billion television efforts for the BBC, thoughtfully broadcasted here by BBC America. From these programs, a basic set of rules is obvious, and it is delightful to watch the “Hell’s Kitchen” contestants mess them up one by one.
1. If Gordon tells you something, for God’s sake acknowledge it audibly.
2. If you’re told something in a kitchen, make damn sure everyone knows you understand it.
3. If you are standing still in the kitchen, there is something wrong with you (or you are being yelled at by Gordon—you should look him in the eye and try not to cry).
4. If you know something important in the kitchen and you keep it to yourself, your name is mud.
5. If you tell Gordon you’re an awesome chef and you don’t have more Michelin stars than he does, you’d better back it up. (But you can’t.)
6. There are thousands of ways you can make the diners sick or endanger their safety. Don’t do it. If you do, leave town and don’t come back.
7. If the secret to your “cuisine” is anything other than fresh ingredients prepared to the highest standards in a kitchen that is prepared for a public health inspection at any second, you’ll be dismissed as a pretentious idiot.
8. Everything you do in a kitchen costs money. I love this one. It reminds me of the episode of “Chef!” where Gareth Blackstock finds out how much his pate really costs.
9. Gordon has a soft spot for talented women chefs. Makeup, couture, giggling, and flirting are all going to earn you scorn. Having a brain, being quietly more competent than the person next to you and working your little heart out are all good plans. So far, all the other women in the kitchen may as well go home now, because if Heather keeps it up, she will wipe the floor with every one of them.
10. If you try hard enough and want to be a chef bad enough, he might forgive you for not knowing how to cook when you meet him. (Witness the “Faking It” chef with previous experience as a hot dog vendor, or the Lanterna chef from last week’s episode of “Kitchen Nightmares” who thought pot noodles were pretty fab.)
My personal highlights from the series premiere:
The number one highlight was Sara’s cheer when her team got a starter past Gordon. Of course what I really loved was Heather’s reaction--an expression that said, “Dear God, woman, have you no shame!”
I love watching Virginia, who is apparently under the impression that there will be a multimillion dollar award for “best makeup.” I relish the smug satisfaction of knowing that reality TV video editors clap with barely-restrained glee when they see a woman like this, and that we’ll see every moment of her stupidity for as long as she lasts. Seriously—the woman is reality TV gold.
Hats off to Giacomo (for real?) for telling Gordon that he should bring it, because after all those years of looking for his retainer in the garbage behind the school cafeteria, dumpster trolling holds no fear. I was touched. And afraid for him. Really, truly scared.