Hell’s Kitchen

Last night I watched the season finale of the Fox kitchen reality show “Hell’s Kitchen,” the show that features a fiery nasty explosive Gordon Ramsay. Gordon was on good behavior last night which made the show much more watchable: I could barely sit through some of the other episodes I’d seen (he throws dishes at people and screams in their faces if he’s not pleased.) The final episode culminated in the two finalist chefs standing at doors on a landing, only the winner’s door would open. The build-up was excruciating. “When I count to three open your doors,” said Chef Ramsay. The music builds. Cut to commercial. Then he says it again: “When I count to three, open your doors.” Music builds louder and close-ups on their faces and…oh…my..God…just do it already. When he did finally get to three, the quieter chef (and seemingly more talented) Michael’s door opened and the other chef’s didn’t. On the other side was a roomful of people cheering for Michael and the poor other guy had to stand up there like a big loser with Gordon’s arm around him. The winner wins their own restaurant so Michael had a lot to be happy about. Plus, Chef Ramsay–semingly on a whim–invited Michael to come work at his restaurant. It was a nice moment. What I found most interesting was the final challenge: both Michael and the other guy had to commandeer kitchens of their own individual mock-restaurants. Michael started out very sweet to his staff and it was completely ineffective. So he ultimately began barking at them much like Chef Ramsay does and things got swinging. There was a very funny moment that marked his transition. He was quietly saucing a plate and he suddenly turns to his staff without any prompt and says: “You people cook like old people fuck.” Even chef Ramsay was laughing. I found that insight–the gruffness required for kitchen work–to be a bit illuminating and I’m sure even the brightest Food Network stars (Mario Batali, for example) have to be assholes in their own kitchens. Actually, I know that for a fact because my friend C used to work at Lupa and he says Mario was a big jerk. But the food was awesome. Somewhat inspired by these revelations, I started reading Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” last night. I’ll be sure to write it up as soon as I finish.

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