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.

9 comments

  1. “Kitchen Confidential” is a good read but I feel as if AB tries a little too hard to shock the reader. Plus it is more about his journey then the inner workings of a restaurant.

    One time when I was at Mesa Grill the GM suggested “The Fourth Star” by Leslie Brenner. It’s a year in the kitchen at Daniel and it provides a much better examination of the “behind the scenes” as well as the relationships between the front and back of the house as well as with the celebrity chef and his underlings.

    I’m almost done reading it and have enjoyed it quite a bit. A much better book to understand the inner workings of a top-notch restaurant even though it is a bit repetitive.

  2. Have been following Hell’s Kitchen and watched the finale last night. Thought the winner deserved it and made a wise choice to go off and study with Gordan Ramsay before opening his own restarant. With more training, I think he’ll become more successful.

    First time I saw Ramsay, I didn’t like him at all. He has two other reality shows in England — One show followed him and you get to see him acting like a monster to his staff… Second show, he followed him going around to failing restaurants and tries to help the owners by giving them suggestions on how to turn their practices around. That’s a show I really enjoy. Haven’t seen it in a while, though. After watching the latter, I decided that I liked Ramsay. Turns out he has a much nicer personality. The ogre personality is more of an act… He claims he does that to get the best out of a person. Too bad one has to be that way to get things done…

    Anthony Bourdain has a new show on the Travel Channel. They’ve shown two episodes so far. His first show, he travelled to France and last night (Monday), he travelled to Iceland, where he ate whale(?) meat and absolutely hated it. So far, his show is different. As a host, he has an interesting demeanor about him — gruff, and interesting sense of humor. I think I’ll continue watching his travel show for a while.

    Paz

  3. I agree with Matt on KC. It was insightful, but I think I stopped reading somewhere around the time he mentioned his wife. In a narrative that devotes so much energy to making sure we know about the drug deals and the “pussy” he’s trying to score, nonchalantly mentioning the wife makes the selective editing process too obvious. Still, I learned a lot.

    I always thought Mario Batali came across as an asshole on his *show*. (Sorry!) So – yeah – no surprise if he’s that way in the kitchen. :)

  4. Here’s the thing… we don’t LIKE to think that the beautiful, gorgeous, sexy food coming out the kitchen is the direct result of one guy (gal?) being a total prick to his (her?) crew.

    But it is. And the crew loves it. They live for it–they can take the abuse because at the end of the day, they throw that shit right back at the chef.

    Being a chef is partly about the food, and partly about the counterculture. You’ve got to love the abuse, and the manic nature of a commercial kitchen. 90% of us couldn’t hack it.

    And the ones that can? They don’t want to be in Thomas Keller’s quiet, calm, classical-music kitchen. They thrive on the madness.

  5. bbc america has loads of ramsay-related shows. i can see the point of his bossiness, but it’s weird that people really want to see that on tv.

    are you going to watch that kitchen confidential sitcom in the fall? i’ve heard some good rumblings about it and the cast is interesting.

  6. I watched Bourdain’s new show, No Reservations, on Travel Channel the other night, and it was hilarious! This guy makes no bones about the fact that he can be a real a**hole, and just lets it all loose in whatever setting he’s in, including mocking some Icelandic muscle-heads to their faces. His sardonic wit really spikes the show… I liked it better on screen than in his books. I’d love to hear your take on the show, AG!

  7. I work in the bakery section of a restaurant/catering kitchen. I was all set to argue about not requiring a cattle prod to get me going… until I read what Fatemeh said, “You’ve got to love the abuse, and the manic nature of a commercial kitchen. ” That’s very true. I do enjoy the work more when there is some crisis and you’ve got 15 people yelling about the scones not baked yet and the delivery staff is WAITING! LOL

  8. I started reading “Kitchen Confidential” last night too! What a coincidence. We’re cosmic reading twins.

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