[20 July 2009]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
HELL’S KITCHEN 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday Fox
The rants and raves of chef Gordon Ramsay return at 8 p.m. Tuesday night as a new season of “Hell’s Kitchen” launches on Fox. For the first time, the show feels more like a processed entertainment meal rather than a TV delicacy.
The format’s the same: Sixteen contestants will try to slice, dice and cook their way to the finals of this season’s competition. They just have to survive weekly challenges and verbal beratings by Ramsay.
Past seasons were fun because while the level of abilities of the contestants were different, all had some culinary knowledge. This new season comes across as being more scripted to get the most dramatic characters behind the stoves. Their cooking skills are secondary to the drama they can create.
Take the initial challenge. Ramsay always has contestants prepare their signature dish. The dishes have not always been good — Ramsay vomited after eating one — but they all showed some signs of culinary skills.
One contestant this year prepares biscuits and gravy while another cooks French toast. Those are the kind of dishes a person learns to make in the first day of home economics class. It would take a complete idiot to think Ramsay would accept these offerings as examples of serious cooking skills.
This season starts with a twist regarding the contestants. The surprise won’t be ruined, but the way the twist is pulled off looks pre-planned and contrived.
Ramsay’s verbal assaults are a trademark. This year the contestants look like they have been coached to launch their own verbal assaults. Big showdowns between maitre’d Jean-Philippe Susilovic and a contestant and Ramsay and a different contestant are so staged they are painful to watch.
They may have been real, but that they look so fake is makes this season appear less than promising.