Quick Take: Hell's Kitchen, "Episode One"
Meet the victims -- I mean, contestants...
Review: Hell's Kitchen, "Episode One"
The seventh season of Hell's Kitchen (U.S.) has just begun on FOX and for the contestants it looks to be a long, hot summer in the kitchen with chef Gordon Ramsay once again. The prize this time out is the position of Executive Chef at the reopening of Ramsay's Savoy Grill in London, England.
What I find most interesting about Hell's Kitchesan is that the producers seem more interested in making a compelling television show with "characters" rather than looking for the most talented chefs, like Bravo's Top Chef. For example, the resumes of the contestants aren't impressive from a culinary standpoint. Andrew is a farmer from New York, and Ed teaches cooking at a New Jersey high school. Also, some seem more interested in being on TV. Holli, a cute young woman from California, shows up in high heels, and Mikey from Hawaii has gotten the series logo tattooed on his torso.
The episode begins with 17 contestants being introduced to the media. Then, as with every season, the chefs are divided into teams by their gender and sent into the kitchen to each make their signature dish. First up, a stay-at-home mother/cookbook author who never worked in a restaurant. Though he expected something terrible, Ramsay enjoys the dish. The woman is still uncomfortable, so he tries to put her at ease. All of a sudden, he starts hitting on her, which seems extremely odd with the recent accusations of adultery, so it's obviously a put-on. The other contestants are startled watching them kiss and Ramsay reveals it to be his wife Tana. This is a lesson about talent being more important than experience.
With the teams an even eight on each side, Ramsay has them compete against each other in pairs. There were a few unintended memorable dishes. Pizzeria chef Salvatore is an immigrant from Naples, Italy, who has been in the states for 21 years. He serves up undercooked spaghetti. Sous chef Jamie from Chicago serves up a dangerous plate with a toothpick in it. Line cook Nilka from New York made hot wings from half bottle of Tabasco, which was too much for Ramsay as it would be most people.
The men are deemed the winners, and both teams retire for the night to study the menu. As they relax, the reality television portion of the show kick into gear and an alarm goes off, summoning them to watch a video lesson of Ramsay preparing items on the restaurant's menu. This goes on about every twenty minutes until two a.m. when everyone finally gets to go to sleep. However, it's an early rise for the women at 6:17 who must serve the guys breakfast as a result of losing the competition.
Ramsay has been fixated throughout the episode about completing their first service and the real test begins when the restaurant opens. Stacey brags about her food and cooking for celebrities in interviews, but is the first to stumble trying to prepare the scallops appetizer, failing to season and cook them properly. Salvatore burns an appetizer twice. Fran, who reveals she's scared of Ramsay, is caught putting crab into the lobster risotto. While the diners are likely disappointed to not be getting food, they are likely glad they didn't get Benjamin's risotto as he tasted it and then stirred it with the same spoon.
With nothing going out, Ramsay grows very frustrated. When Jamie fails to get an order right, Maria laughs nervously at her misfortune. This enrages Ramsay, and he orders them both out of the kitchen along with Fran. The men suffer a similar fate. With Salvatore and Benjamin making no progress, they get kicked out. After giving different times, Stacey reveals she doesn't know the amount of time to cook an appetizer and is sent away, as is Mikey for twice sending raw halibut entrees to the pass. To be fair, the first one is sent because fellow contestant Scott tells him, and Mikey doesn’t stand his ground. The remaining chefs are brought together and complete the service.
Ramsay declares the women's team the loser and tells them to pick two nominees for expulsion. Stacey and Fran both deserved to be nominated since they got the boot upstairs for their food. Stacey accepts it, but Fran is upset and calls out teammate Autumn for doing nothing and not helping. She fails to recognize that Autumn was on the garnish station, so if no one gets her food, there is nothing for her to do. In front of their judge, Fran offers excuses and Stacey admits she failed. Both had terrible services, but possibly due to the producers sensing potential conflict in the future, Ramsay sends Stacey home.
One down, fifteen to go.