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Hell's Kitchen - Very Disappointing

I am a huge fan of Top Chef, actually food shows in general, and had never seen Hell's Kitchen. I decided to give it a try last night and was so disappointed. This is not a show about food or cooking at all. This is no more than a soap opera. They did not even put any context around what was going on - e.g. lay out the challenge, the parameters, the goal, nothing. They did not even indicate what the menu they were serving at dinner was! It was just drama. The same clips over and over again of people crying, yelling, etc. I know that that is probably what keeps the average viewer watching but I was so disappointed!

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  1. Agreed. I've watched the previous two seasons of HK and TC, and TC is definitely much more about the food than the drama, although it has a healthy dose of that as well. The previous seasons of HK seemed to have a better quality of contestants - people with real cooking skill and talent. This crop seems like a hodgepodge of no talents and attitude.

    To its credit, the later season episodes of HK presented some interesting cooking challenges, but clearly this show is much more about the infighting and drama, with alittle bit about the stress of working a dinner service. I too was surprised that they didn't run down the menu at all, or at least seen what the food was supposed to look like when prepared properly.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Rocknrope

      "The previous seasons of HK seemed to have a better quality of contestants - people with real cooking skill and talent. This crop seems like a hodgepodge of no talents and attitude."
      Definitely agree on this one - Melissa (line cook who chose the 2 to put up in front of Ramsay) was the only one who seemed remotely competent, as least in this first hour. The bawling retirement home "chef" was just way too over the top - give me a break!

      1. re: LindaWhit

        Linda I agree with your assessment - not at the talent level of previous Hell's Kitchens and I think from show 1 Melissa is the front runner - she seemed the most competent - On men's side I think Rock takes the edge - he seemed the most proficient to me -

        1. re: weinstein5

          I picked the sam two. But it is early and there is the editing.

          1. re: weinstein5

            Rock - that's it! All I could think of was Josh, the "junior sous chef" as being relatively OK. Have to go back and read the overview on the HK website to get a better handle on the "characters" - which is definitely what they are. Melissa is this year's Heather.

            1. re: LindaWhit

              I also think what wingman says below - I think Julia might turn out like Mikey in Top CHef but will do a better job - I also want to add that I do enjoy the soap opera natue of Hell's Kitchen

      2. Just as Ramsay was starting to taste the signature dishes, our local station cut in with a news update about the rescue efforts following the plane crash yesterday afternoon in Lake Michigan, and did not return to the show until the restaurant was about to open.

        Were there any of the signature dishes that GR did not lambast? Or any that he may even have liked?

        It became quickly apparent that he decided to start again with men vs women. Did he give any reason for this?

        Was there anything else important missed during this 20 minute or so gap?

        2 Replies
        1. re: Fydeaux

          He actually liked Melissa's dish. Pepper crusted steak and roast asparagus with what appeared to be a mushroom sauce.

          1. re: Fydeaux

            Honestly, you didn't miss much. The two dishes he didn't skewer were Aaron's (Cowboy asian) plate, or at least half of it, and that winner girl's steak with asparagus.
            He also partially liked the short order cook's chicken dish.

            No explanation given for the men vs. women teams.

          2. I said this on another HK thread and I'll say it again - In what world is it OK to break down and cry at work? No kitchen is without stress, and even the waffle house chick should know how to deal with a crazy kitchen. What's with all the crying? It was disgusting, especially the retirement home guy.

            6 Replies
            1. re: mojoeater

              Hells Kitchen is about conflict and drama and not food. They manufacture tension to get ratings. Since HK is on Fox this isn't surprising. Unfortunately Top Chef has also begun doing this to some extent, particularly in the last season with the Marcel hair shaving incident.

              1. re: RBCal

                I don't think that incident was manufactured. It seemed to come naturally from real dislike and aggression on Cliff's behalf. Nobody liked Marcel and his persona might have been partially manufactured, but I think a lot of the feelings that came out were real.

                1. re: mojoeater

                  What was manufactured was the editing of the timing. The other chefs attacked Marcel first and then shaved their heads. Bravo edited it to look like the timing was the opposite. This completely altered the gravity of the incident and attempted to make it look like a light hearted drunken high school prank. It was dishonest of Bravo to lessen their odious behavior that verged on criminality (assault).

                  1. re: RBCal

                    Though if anyone on any reality TV show ever deserved to be assaulted, it would be that pompous idiot Marcel.

                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                      It's just really too bad that it happened. Cliff was so talented and really could have changed the outcome of the show.

                2. re: RBCal

                  "Hells Kitchen is about conflict and drama and not food" - i agree. but i like drama the way i like food - high quality. this was just pure junk. sloppily made, too. Ramsay seems bored, no explanation behind the teams or their goal for the night, nothing about the menu, etc. there seems to be little talent and putting that retirement home cook guy on was just mean, you could see he's gonna crack right away - not used to restaurnat kitchen pressure or abuse. they're cutting out any pretense of challenge or actual contest and going straight to the drama, abuse, etc. very disappointing.

              2. I actually thought the chefs that were strong on last nights episode are much stronger than the decent chefs from last season. I think Fox put together a cast that has about 5 people who can cook and 5 people who could be outcooked by a chimpanzee. Obviously the producers are trying to appease a different audience than Top Chef but I really feel 3 or 4 episodes into this season of HK the cooking will dramatically improve. On the women's side Melissa is clearly head & shoulders above the other women but I think Julia will exceed expectations (and be way better than Mikey on Top Chef); on the men's side Rock, Brad, Josh and to a lesser extent Eddie all seemed like they could cook. Yes they all had awful signature dishes but I also think that was more of a set-up than actual showcase.

                9 Replies
                1. re: wingman

                  I like the Waffle House chef. She was pretty much the only one on the Red team that could fry a quail egg.

                  1. re: bigmackdaddy

                    Agree with others, it seems the "casting" deliberately has some people with real experience, and then other people that may be marginal in terms of super star chef material, but good for dramatic elements. (This show is not about a real contest and not about culinary art, it is just entertainment for the masses, so we should not be suprised by anything that is bogus or over the top drama wise.)

                    It was kind of amusing that right after Gordon assigned the teams, the women went off and someone on that team said, in effect, let's not backstab each other, lets all work together to get rid of all of the men before the backstabbing begins. Then what do they do right out of the gate? Start backstabbing and everyone seems to decide that the Waffle House girl is beneath them and ignores her, sending a message to her that she is lower than shit to them. Then what happens, none of the "Alpha" women can fry a fricking egg decently, and in the end, the Waffle House girl, who is the only professional egg fryer in the house has to save their asses. Great drama, the girl who just wants to be a part of the team and learn from the experience vs the backstabbing bad girls.

                    I am chalking up this show to just some amusing entertainment, there might be a couple of cast members who might have some culinary talent, but that is not the reason they are there.

                    1. re: ChinoWayne

                      Her little bit of technique was interesting also: she broke each egg into a measuring cup and then poured gently into the pan, rather than trying to break directly into the pan. I am not enough of a short order cook to know why this would be a better method, but it certainly showed that she was putting some thought and care into frying those eggs....

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        Quail eggs have inordinately hard shells, and their small size makes timing even that much more important. As Julia would say, a good chef is a careful chef...

                        From a foodie perspective, this show is senseless.

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          Pouring an egg on to the cooking surface from saucer, or in the case a measuring cup, gives the cook more control. If cracked directly from the shell the egg tends to spread out unevenly. Plus there is a greater risk of the yoke breaking.

                          Having said that I am surprised a short order cook would bother with such a technique. As much as I enjoy The Waffle House from time to time it not a place where I am concerned about the shape of my egg. I wonder what other secrets she has?

                          1. re: Withnail42

                            I think she used it more for a timing thing, not that it mattered! Did you see all of those poor little eggs stuffed into one saute pan! We only used to crack them into cups for poached eggs.

                      2. re: bigmackdaddy

                        This was the most mind boggling bit of stupidity on the women's team. When you've gone through 2 or 3 dozen eggs and still can't get it right maybe those Waffle House mad griddle skills are just what you need. Being too big a b*tch to do what needed to be done to get the food out deserves to get your silly butt booted.

                        If I was watching them repeatedly screw up and being told to go away while the service went down the tubes I'd be in tears too.

                      3. re: wingman

                        I'm with you on this. It's got to be dramatic, but I think Melissa is going to give everyone a run for their money and she was "spot on" with her elimination picks. The Waffle House chef, while a little passive aggressive did kind of save the day by being able to fry the quail eggs. I think if you can't fry an egg you should volunteer to go home!!

                        1. re: Texchef

                          I don't think I'll be watching this in the future except for the occasional sideshow factor. The editing for drama is extremely obvious as is the "casting" aspect of the chefs. It looks like an episode of Real World at this point.

                          That said, I got a kick out of the two prima donnas who couldn't fry an egg making a case for getting rid of waffle house girl who could.

                      4. Is the general format starting to wear on anyone? I always liked HK, if not for the food, but to see the people grow and see how the react under stress--I guess more for the psychological point of view. Unfortunately, I'm starting to grow tired of some of the "meaness". Such as...how much do you want to bet that the signature dishes weren't that bad, but Ramsey went over the top on how bad they were to break the contestants down. Or how little instruction they received before the service...doesn't seem like he is exactly setting them up for success! I like how the episodes continue and you can see that Ramsey is human when his help is competent, but this first episode just made me sick and seemed fake!

                        Editied to add: Anyone else get annoyed by Ramsey's palate....especially when it comes to hot and spicy foods? He definitely has his preferences...and I'm not always sure his preferences and mine would line up and I don't think it is fair how he judges some based on his personal preference.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sunshinedrop

                          Having had a chance to work with Ramsay I think I'll just point in my 2 cents about his "overly fussy palate".

                          He's judging harshly on his palate because for the contest they will be preparing his food. His seasoning style is very classic and generally not much "heat". However I do think he can be fairly objective as when I've seen him tasting pre service it isn't about "I hate spicy so this is too much pepper" so much as- if pepper wipes out every other flavour it is excessive.

                          Also, keeping in mind that it is fine dining food they are supposed to be doing and for that seasoning must be balanced in such a way as to facilitate conventional wine pairing patterns.

                          That said, I think he is doing them a favour in the opening episode to judge their seasoning by his standards on their dishes.. because that is the standard their seasoning will be held to for the rest of the show.

                          1. re: sunshinedrop

                            I agree with a lot of the comments, this is just a show directed to the general audience and maybe some culinarians. A majority of people may think real kitchens are that way, with a screaming arrogant chef, yes there are some like that, but not as many like some eras ago, where pots flying, screaming left and right, we are trying to get rid off that image that people have about chefs, and then comes chef Ramsey with his HK. trying to make that image even worst. I have watched some TC episodes and they are ok, is more about cooking, I also watched the food network with the new food network star, is also more about cooking chalenges, objectibes and goals. Do not get me wrong I like Ramsey, having won prestigious awards for his restaurant,not a lot of chef can says that.

                          2. Don't forget, it's on Fox. The network that gave us who wants to marry a millionaire. This is exactly how you describe, a soap opera. Like most reality shows on cable, it's about the personalities and the conflicts. Fox's bread-and-butter audience is men 18-34. So lots of drama, action, some pretty girls, some cocky guys, lots of quick cuts. If you are into food shows, watch TC.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: sgwood415

                              I must have missed the pretty girls part..

                              Seriously none of the contestants on this show could have ever cooked at any of the restaurants/hotels I have cooked at. The crying guy who ran from the line would have been fired at the very least, that is if one of his fellow co-workers he abandoned didnt get to him first after the shift was over, and the bickering between the women was so unprofessional, they wouldnt have lasted a day.

                              As I stated on another thread, the title "chef" seems to mean less and less these days as the talent pool gets watered down, and the ways to get the title "chef" becomes easier, and easier to get.

                              The only Chefs I worked with back in the day that impressed me came from the CIA.

                              1. re: swsidejim

                                What I found very suspicious about the Food Network show on the Next FN Star was that virtually all the women were very attractive (and none of the men). The Next FN Star is going to turn out to be a popularity and attractiveness contest and not a food show and I bet that an attractive woman will win it.
                                HK will end up being a drama show and the person who PO's Ramsey the least and is the best politician among the contestants will win.

                            2. this is my third season watching HK, and I have to say the first 2-3 shows in each season have universally been awful. then again, you're taking a bunch of people who have never worked together for a minute -- with several who have never even worked on a line --and throwing them into a dinner service where they aren't interested in working in this restaurant but on winning a prize. Of course it's going to be awful.

                              Once things settle out a bit, then there's more of showing of the importance of the quality of the food being turned out. I have noticed that Ramsey really does praise on the spot any food that is done right. I am always amazed, however, that these contestants think that they can pass sub-standard dishes by him. He's got Michelin stars and they think a half-raw piece of chicken won't be noticed??

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: weezycom

                                I agree a show like this starts off at its worst.

                                One thing to remember about these people is that they applied to be on a REALTY TV show and, after two seasons, should know what they are getting themselves into. I doubt the average person who trained at the CIA would put themselves in this position.

                                Another thing to remember is that, being a realty tv show, ratings are important. The producers are going to put together a mix of people that comes as close as possibe to assurring good ratings. Even if they didn't know Aaron was going to cry, they are probably happy they picked him.

                                I always want the women to win (I'll accept a man of color if I can't have a woman) so I tend to give them a couple of breaks here and there when they do stupid things. But they really pissed me off! They did all that talking about working as a team and then gave Julia the cold shoulder. I KNEW she would turn out to be the only one that could cook the eggs (thats karma for ya!). They better get their act together or they will be gone quickly.

                                1. re: NewSushiFiend

                                  In a related story, the winner of HK3 has already been leaked. Don't click the link if you don't want to know. I agree with Ramsey that the women's teams nickname should be Hell's Bitches. Their backstabbing after they agreed they wouldn't has doomed them to failure


                                  1. re: RBCal

                                    Doesn't surprise me a bit. that's who I picked out of the lineup from the git to win the whole thing. He's got the experience and correct attitude. If his palate is worth half a damn, all he has to do is not get sucked under by some sabotage of the other contestants.

                                    1. re: weezycom

                                      to mojoeater...never never cry...EVER....not a man and definately not a woman (and yes its worse if a woman cries..kitchens can be sexist so suck it up)....go cry in the fridge...locker room or on the toilet...never never let them see you cry..hang on until later...sure we can say its stressful...but still..never!

                                      1. re: intheweedss

                                        hey folks, I hope as tv junkies we all know shows on regular broadcast like HK can only loosely be compared to those on cable/subscription type channels--with the latter, the target audience niche is much more focused, and one generally gets denser content as well. The regular broadcast Fox audience has to get its fodder.

                                        Even without making those allowances, I actually like HK better than TC in some ways. It conveys the chaos and stress of commercial kitchen work, and there's a single authority to answer to. Ramsay has a strength and vitality true to his origins; the panel of regular judges (I do like seeing and hearing many of the guests like Keller or Bourdain) on TC strike me as manipulative and pretentious to varying degrees. The best of HK is still to come with the challenges, rewards, and punishments. cheers

                                      2. re: weezycom

                                        I chose not to click on the link because I'd prefer not to know who won...but then you put spoilers right in your response.

                                2. HK is hilarious. Just don't try to make a drinking game out of the number of times GR calls someone a donkey. Although this season seems to have been relatively light on the donkeys.

                                  I don't watch HK or Top Chef for any cooking tips. Frankly, you'd get better info from Iron Chef than either of those two shows. As another poster pointed out, the show does improve once you get a few shows down the line.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: dalaimama

                                    I was SO disappointed we had to wait until almost the end of Episode 2 this week to hear GR tell the guys "Shut it down, you donkeys!" :-)