While American Idol will call it a day after its 15th season, Gordon Ramsay’s hellish amateur hour Hell’s Kitchen doesn’t even think about slowing down. Season 15 promises to be the most exciting to date. This can only mean one thing: they’ve cast more weirdos than ever before. Can we spot the contestants who were picked only to make things a little more interesting?
18 wannabe chefs walk into Hell’s Kitchen. It’s almost the start of a joke. They’re greeted by Marino, Ramsay’s ‘maître d’hôtel’, and a slot machine. The reels start to turn and instead of fruit, words appear. Meet. Me. In. Las Vegas. The contestants go crazy, because, you know, ‘the food, the booze and girls everywhere. That’s all you need’, according to Chad. He means, of course: food he’ll have to be prepare himself, booze can be gotten anywhere else as well, and girls in Las Vegas dress up in 1930s night club peacock costumes (and you won’t be allowed to touch them anyway). But hey, they’re all very excited, it’s like they’re ‘celebrities already’, and that’s what counts. They get a speech from the mayor, and there are a lot of paid extras to cheer their names and hold up signs, like ‘GIVE ‘EM HELL GORDON’. The producers even put a sign into a girl’s hands that just says ‘SEXY’.
And there he is. Chef of the hour, Mr. Ramsay. First, he reveals the prize of this year’s Hell’s Kitchen. The winner will become chef in… a steak restaurant. So if you love cooking and you happen to be a vegetarian, this really would be a dream come true. Then, it’s time to go to work. The 9 boys and 9 girls will each get 45 minutes to prepare a dish. A perfect way to see what they’re capable of, and also to quickly introduce them all, because the leader isn’t that informative. That leader, by the way, isn’t one of the show’s worst. It’s still very computer game, but with a slightly more believable landscape than last year’s ‘jungle’. The contestants are placed on a snow covered mountain, the Himalayas probably, since there’s an ugly Yeti-type character knocking about.
To Sh*t Or To F*ck
First duo to present their dishes: small town girl Sherkenna Buggs (30), who’s made something tasty but dreadful looking, and gun boy (and single man, ladies) Eddie Jaskowiak (27). His dish is ‘cooked beautifully’, but I guess having no girlfriend only gets you 3 out of 5 points. Marine Frank Cala (25) has made something ‘okay, but not special’. Ashley Nickell (27), however, has got a big advantage. Her family owns a few restaurants in Orlando. She should’ve paid more attention to the seasoning, though. Her dish is ‘on the verge of being bland’. Amateur boxer Dannie Harrison (30) has made ‘a knockout’, something Mark Paras (27) can only dream about; he’s cooked everything ‘to shit’ (or ‘to f*ck’, of course, since our minds are deemed too frail to be allowed to hear the actual word).
The Worst Dish Of The Night
Big bald guy who likes to raise his chin a lot Joe Ricci (31), gets a ‘solid 3’, but Ramsay’s not happy about ‘the mess’ of Meese Davis (25). She gets 1 point, which is actually too much credit. Vanessa Soltero (33) cooks for first class passengers in an airport and completely confirms all of our prejudices about airplane food. Not good. Former locksmith and professional poker player Jared Bobkin (28) puts the blue team (men) way ahead of the red team (women), with his halibut. It’s up to Jersey girl Jackie Fuchs (32), who – in her own words – is ‘tough, beautiful and sexy’, to close the gap – and she does. Also because Kevin Ridlon (29) made the absolute worst dish of the night, by basically picking every pre-made ingredient he could find. Ramsay asks him if he wants to go home; it’s disgraceful. He’ll do better, he says.
Alan Parker (42) put maple syrup on his risotto; 1 point. Kristin Barone (27), who’d been on probation for ‘numerous things’ and discovered her passion for cooking via her probation officer, made a dish that looks like a mess but ‘tastes good’. The teams are even again, 16 – 16. White shirt Chad Gelso (25) gets 4, Ariel Malone (26) 3 points. Manda Palomino (30), who’s ‘little but with big flavor’, also gets 3 points, which means Hassan Musselmani (24) needs at least 2 points to tie. He tries to impress with scallops, and does: 4 points. That means the girls are put to work, peeling shrimp and potatoes, while the boys are watching the Las Vegas skyline with a cold buffet and champagne.
Vanessa, Mark and Kevin
In the evening, Hell’s Kitchen opens its doors and that’s the most stressful part of the competition. The teams have to cook for real people. On the red team, it’s clear who the weakest link is: Vanessa. Overcome by nerves, she screws up everything she touches and gets all confused. She burns the pizza, then cuts it before throwing it away. She really needs to work on keeping it together in nerve wrecking situations such as this, and will get the chance to do so, because the blue team can’t seem to do anything right. People walk out of the restaurant, tired of waiting, and Ramsay sends the boys out of the kitchen. They have to nominate two of their own for elimination. Mark and Kevin, both equally terrible, stand before Ramsay. Whoever gets sent home, the other one will follow soon. This week it’s Mark whose picture on the wall gets burnt. Kevin lives to screw up another day.
It’s hard to tell who’ll be the ones left standing at the end of this season, because time is – as usual – spent on the ones who don’t know their elbows from their whisks. It’s not all about the cooking; the winner needs skills to lead people, too. I’d put my money on Jared (although he could be a little too cocky) and Hassan (a little too subdued, maybe) from the blue team, and Sherkenna and Ariel from the red team. I can see Ariel and Hassan in the final, and I guess it depends on who likes steak the most, but there’s still a long way to go.