Hell’s Kitchen: Day Seven
May 13, 2008

FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Reality

Conceit: Like Top Chef, But Less About Food And More About Violent Yelling.

So, in case you didn’t know from last episode, Matt is mad and he wanted you to know about it.  Ominous way to start the episode, huh?  Every season, Chef Ramsey challenges the pallets of the potential chefs.  This time, he prefaced it by having both kitchens taste 3 meat dishes to see if they realize there was no actual meat in it.  Of course they didn’t.  The actual taste test was as amusing as ever.  Chef Ramsey adds a dramatic flair when Matt and Ben have to go head to head in the deciding round of the challenge.  Both men were sufficiently impressive, but the girls lead made Matt’s victory a foregone conclusion.  This also set up what was going to be a thoroughly important dinner service.  

In the Red kitchen, the pressure was on Rosann, who’s been hanging on by the skin of her teeth for the last couple of weeks.  She actually rose to the occasion and hit homeruns with the appetizers.  That was short lived as the meats became the bane of her existence.  Meanwhile, the teflon all-star, Jen, inexplicably imploded.  After getting yelled at by Chef Ramsey, Jen kept to herself and the unravelling began.  Then she started talking back to Ramsey.  And with Jen went the kitchen.  The entire Red kitchen became quiet and defeated.  The only one who really had it together was Christina.  And Matt.  Bizarre.  He did make a bit much of it, though.

Ben renewed his place as Chef Ramsey’s punching bag.  And he pokes the bear by telling Chef Ramsey he’s not used to working in a divided kitchen.  I’m not sure what he expected to be the result of this, but it went exactly the way everyone else expected.  The men’s kitchen seemed to take three steps back as they struggled to get entrees out.  Ben’s meat station was falling apart and he couldn’t find a drop of water in the ocean.  And when it rains, it pours.  Ramsey benched Ben.  

Once the men were chosen as the losing team, the end was inevitable.  My early pick to win it all, Ben, was out the door.  But not before he tried to weasel his way out.  Go out with dignity, man.

Final Grade: B

Hell’s Kitchen: Day Six
May 7, 2008

FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Reality

Conceit: LiKe Top Chef, But Less About Cooking And More About Violent Yelling.

This show is becoming more and more like Top Chef.  Well at least in terms of their challenges.  This week’s gimmick episode was more intrusive than last week’s.  Whereas pizza delivery didn’t end up taking as much camera time as we expected, this week Hell’s Kitchen hosted a Sweet 16 party.  The challenge was going to the market and finding ingredients for 3 dishes which would appeal to the crowd and then make said ingredients.  It was pretty hilarious to see how blatantly the guys have decided to ignore Matt, but in the choosing of dishes and preparing.  Melissa, the sweet sixteener, and her mom came to taste the food.  My first thought was, “Wow, she looks well adjusted for someone having their Sweet Sixteen on TV”, and my second that was, “Wow, Melissa’s mom looks exactly how I’d expect”.  The guys pulled out the win by the skin of their teeth.

At dinner, things started off well enough, with both teams getting appetizers out pretty quickly.  And then things slammed to a stop.  Melissa sent her steak back to the girls kitchen to get recooked.  This made Ramsey lose his mind.  Not wanting to fail the guest of honor, (in believable fashion) Chef Ramsey took over recooking the steak and sent it out.  Melissa’s overly botoxed mom sent back her halibut to the guy’s kitchen because it was too dry.  Matt tried to fix his mistake, but when it didn’t happen, Bobby took over and got the job done.  He really continues to astound me.  He may not be the Black Gordan Ramsey as he claims, but he is doing far better than he was at the beginning.  That didn’t stop Chef Ramsey from chastising him for completely taking over someone else’s station.  However, for the second week in a row, both kitchens finished the entire service.  In general, the losers of the service were Matt (again) and Shayna (who pretty much made it thus far without anyone realizing she was on the show).

As both kitchen performed very well, no one really won and so both had to send one.  Matt knew it was inevitable and started packing, obviously fed up with the guys in his kitchen.  After debating between Rosann and Shayna, the latter ended up before Chef Ramsey.  He was particularly annoyed that for the second night in a row, the girls failed to send the person who deserved to go.  So he also put Rosann, who’s undercooked steak he had to personally fix, into the mix.  And then Matt lost his mind.  He said that his team was awful and he couldn’t work with them and he preferred to work with the girls.  And it worked.  Matt was safe and Shayna went home.  And Matt went to the girl’s team.  This is a true disadvantage for the girls.  Sorry, ladies.

Final Grade: B+

Hell’s Kitchen: Day Five
April 29, 2008

FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Reality

Conceit: Like Top Chef, But Less About Food, And More About Violent Yelling.

Well, I guess tonight’s challenge was more like Top Chef than usual.  As opposed to the normal “hot to run a kitchen” tests that the chefs have, tonight they were asked to make gourmet pizzas individually and then pick one from each kitchen to represent the team.  Matt continued to just be a complaining disaster.  His pizza was so bad that Ben couldn’t even comment on it.  Bobby and Ben pretty arbitrarily decided that Ben’s pizza would represent the men’s kitchen against stand out Jen’s pizza.  In another photo finish, Jen managed to win it for the girls and get her pizza put on the menu as a special.  So far, she has yet to have a bad moment.  Chef Ramsey commented that Ben’s pizza was good, but his failure to properly wash the mushroom topping was his undoing.  And just like that, the guys kitchen started to really unravel.  All of a sudden, the chefs found themselves on each other’s last nerves.

Vanessa found herself at a disadvantage during dinner service.  The burnt hand she sustained last week was fully bandaged and getting in her way.  Chef Ramsey gave her a choice and Vanessa walked.  That was bizarre.  Again, I can’t imagine how hard it was for her to do the work bandaged, but she didn’t even try the dinner service.  She put the girls down one for no reason at all.  Her comment at the end made it seem like her departure was more about how hard the competition was, as opposed to the burn.

Because the guys lost the challenge, they found themselves forced to deliver Jen’s gourmet pizza door-to-door in a rictshaw looking thing.  The scene of Ben physically pushing the cart backwards because he couldn’t find the reverse was hilarious.  If that was their only problem, it would be fine.  Of course it wasn’t.  Bobby stepped into Matt’s station when he couldn’t fry a decent quail egg.  Louross wasn’t fairing much better.  He couldn’t get a steak ready for his life.  Then Petrozza cheaped his way out.  He sliced a tops of the steaks to make them appear medium when they weren’t in fact.  I couldn’t believe he got away with it.  This was the turning point, as the guys banged out the rest of the dinner service flawlessly.

While Jen was still hitting homeruns, the rest of the ladies were falling apart.  Rosann had a particularly bad night.  Her breakdown made Chef Ramsey break one of his cardinal rules and send out dishes incomplete.  Chef Ramsey asked Jen to step in and fix things up.  The problem with this was that Jen was pulled off of the desert station, which she was supposed to work with Christina.  When Chef Ramsey ordered Corey to help her, Corey did so reluctantly, rather wanting Christina kicked out.

And so both kitchens finally completed a dinner service on their own.  Looking at the parts, rather than the whole, Chef Ramsey declared it a tie, so that one from each team had to go.  The women correctly chose Rosann.  But then reality TV minds stepped in and decided it was Christina’s time to go.  And let the claims of “If I come back, I’m gonna get you” begin.  Louross stepped up and threw himself in, knowing that he had an awful night.  

The best thing about this show is the fact that Chef Ramsey knows stupid when he sees it.  He was well aware that Christina was not the worst chef in the women’s kitchen and called the women stupid for maneuvering her towards elimination.  Turns out he didn’t eliminate anyone tonight, claiming that Vanessa leaving grants them a reprieve.  My guess is that the shows run is based on an elimination per episode, and a double elimination would throw that off.  Either way, prepare for the girls team to implode.

Final Grade: B

Hell’s Kitchen: Day 4
April 23, 2008

FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Reality

Conceit: Like Top Chef, But Less About Food, And More About Violent Yelling.

I finally figured out how this show is completely different than Top Chef.  While Top Chef is about finding a culinary master, Hell’s Kitchen is about finding a general to run the back of the house of a restaurant.  Not interested in letting the chef’s get some sleep, Chef Ramsey had the crew clean up the kitchen from last night’s work.  And then the next morning, the chef’s faced a challenged of making fresh pasta.  Both of these tasks are following in line of the show’s aim of making chef’s who actually know how the kitchen works.

Chef Ramsey decided to switch it up a little bit, for service, by having the chefs work off a new, family style menu.  He also decided whoever finished a complete service tonight would automatically be the winning team.  One was conducive towards the other as even Chef Ramsey admitted the new menu, consisting of chowder, spaghetti, and burgers was by far the easiest the show had seen.

For some reason, I don’t want Jen to succeed.  Maybe it’s her cockiness.  But man, I can’t deny that the girl gets it done.  She had a flawless night of leading the girl’s kitchen and deserved to be declared the lead in the show, which she was.  Meanwhile, my early pick to win it all, Ben, continues to flounder.  And Chef Ramsey is making sure he knows it.

WIth the girls easily winning the night, Bobby was faced with putting two into the frying pan.  He chose Craig, who’s awful run last week carried over into this week, and Matt, who just had an awful night.  And then Chef Ramsey did what he does best: he was honest.  One of the best parts of this show is that, alliances be darned, Ramsey wants to make sure that the worst person on the show is gone at the end of the episode.  So he asked the person, whom he would not name, who knows they should be on the chopping block to step up.  Sure enough, Ben did.  And then Chef Ramsey made the right choice and sent Craig home.  He made sure, however, that Ben knew his days are numbered if he doesn’t step up.  Chef Ramsey’s honesty, though obviously enhanced for television, is the thing that makes this show work in the face of less than compelling contestants.

Final Grade: A

Hell’s Kitchen: Day 3
April 16, 2008

FOX, Tuesdays at 9:00PM

Genre: Reality

Conceit: Like Top Chef, But Less About Food And More About Violent Yelling

One step forward and two steps back.  That seems to be the trend with this season’s motley crew of chef wannabes.  In general, the group has done better than the kitchens in the past.  The fact that, by Day 2, they were already serving entrees puts the way past the original cast.  But that all would come to a grinding halt this week.

This week’s challenge involved cutting up a whole chicken.  I won’t lie: when Chef Ramsey first made the group catch the live chickens, and then he put a meat cleaver to the chicken’s head, I really cringed.  Though half of me knew he wouldn’t do it, the other half really believed he would.  Fortunately, the first half won out, and the kitchen found themselves tasked with cutting up a whole chicken.  I really am digging these challenges.  More than coming up with a good meal, it actually challenges the chefs to do something practical.  And the women did well.  The men, on the other hand, didn’t even get a chance to see how well they did.  After Craig worked until the buzzer to get his chicken cut up, he only had 2 out of a possible 8 pieces that were acceptable, and so the men mathematically couldn’t win.  And the men all began turning on Craig.

I’m not going to talk about the guys’ punishment, or the girls’ reward, as neither was really anything of note.  Not even with the “surprise” at the girls’ reward.

Dinner service was a mess.  It really was.  But before that happened, Chef Ramsey did what he’s done the last two times: he asked the guys what was on the menu; specifically he asked Jason.  This is what I don’t get.  He’s done this everytime.  How is it that the guys aren’t prepared for it?  Jason found himself running up to the room to memorize desserts.  

Craig’s woes from the challenge continued as he would not communicate with his kitchen and couldn’t get his food cooked in time.  Ben, who’s quietly been the golden boy of the blue team, faltered when he couldn’t cook any of the salmon up to task.  The only member of the guys’ team that had a good night was Bobby, the self-proclaimed Black Gordan Ramsey.  He would foul that up by celebrating his personal victory in he face of his team’s defeat.

On the girls’ side, Christina had a good moment with the appetizers, and that would be it for the girls.  Rosann couldn’t get things together in the kitchen this week anymore than she could as a hostess last week.  And Vanessa just couldn’t keep it together, having to step out to cry for a moment.

Eventually, Chef Ramsey called both sides failures and asked for a nominee from both.  Once we saw that it was Vanessa and Jason, there was no question who it was going to be.  Jason, who’s over-the-top ranting about how women should be cleaning and blah-dee-blah actually asked to leave in the middle of service because he couldn’t memorize the menu.  Chef Ramsey uncharacteristically encouraged him and he stayed, only to fail miserably at the dessert station.  And so Jason, a loud moth with little talent is gone.  And yet, at the end of Day 3, there really is no one to believe in.  As both sides have flirted with getting to serve desserts, only to take a huge step back, there is really no one in the group that seems to have any hopes at all.

But that won’t stop me from watching.  Oh no it won’t.

Final Grade: B+