I wasn’t expecting to get a summer serving of Hell’s Kitchen, but Fox put it on the buffet of warm weather TV. We almost missed the season premier episode. We aren’t watching a lot of other Fox shows, and DVR the ones we do. I just happened to catch a commercial during a fast forward.
Without a doubt, Season 5 had spoiled us. Up to that point there was a mix of skill levels, abilities, and personalities. With Season 5, however, Hell’s Kitchen seemed to be an actual cooking show competition with mostly competent contestants. The chefs of HK5 showed us what the series would look like if they were all capable of running a restaurant. The drama was in the competition, and not a battle of who has the worst cooking skills. For the most part, the dinner services ran way smoother than most of the previous seasons. The bigger drama seemed to be in how some of the contestants left the show. Ji twisted her ankle and volunteered to be eliminated (She was my pick to win after the first episode). Robert had chest pain during a trip to Atlantic City and decided to step down to get healthy. Overall, the competitors showed a great deal of passion for both the competition and food.
Which brings us to the premier episode of Season 6. Any series that starts a season with a bang is going to get attention. And I have to say Hell’s Kitchen now has my attention. Season 6 started with two of the most explosive episodes that I can remember.
Instead of picking contestants based on their skills, the producers have seemed to pick folks based on their volatility. The criteria for being selected to compete this seasons seems to be:
1. Have you ever picked up a frying pan?
2. Do you have anger and authority issues?
Great examples of number one were seen in the signature dish challenge. Normally, the chefs present a dish that is typically one of the highlights of the restaurant they work at. This season, however, Chef Ramsay was presented with French Toast with a side shot of tequila and biscuits and gravy.
Now, I don’t have anything against either of these dishes. But, if you are competing for a world class restaurant job you need to bring an “A+” dish that is something memorable, gourmet and well put together. How do I know this? I’ve watched the previous 5 seasons. I can’t see how the diner chef that brought biscuits and gravy as his A game could have really have watched the show before.
As for the second criteria, all of the chefs show a bit of disrespect or contempt towards Ramsay. Yeah, he’s a pain in the ass. But, who’s boss isn’t? The people in this season are talking back to him, Jean-Phillipe and each other. Apparently, pots aren’t the only things boiling over in the red and blue kitchens.
As a bit of a spoiler, one of the chefs gets in Ramsay’s face at the end of the second episode and wants to go to the parking lot to settle their differences. I know I’d never think of doing that at a job interview. The episode is ended on that note, forcing us tune in next week to see what Ramsay decides to do. Ironically, the chef that calls him out was probably safe until he started something.
All of this brings me to the highlight of these two episodes, and a big spoiler. I’m sorry if you didn’t know this, but Robert from last season is invited to dine on opening night. During the service a chef is ejected from the blue kitchen and Ramsay soon after bellows, “Switch it off!” to both kitchens. At that point Robert is introduced as a new team member going to the women’s side.
I’m grateful for Robert. He’s got a big ego. But an even bigger heart. He’s truly passionate for this opportunity. He postponed his wedding to compete in season 5. As the seasoned vet, I’m sure he’ll give the red team an edge. That is if their skills and communication issues don’t get in the way.
Another point in Robert’s favor is the way he handles issues with Chef Ramsay. During season 5, Gordon was calling him Bobby. Due to some personal issues, Robert has strong negative feelings about being called Bobby. But instead of calling Ramsay out in front of everyone, he met with him privately in his office and explained his issue. Well done, sir.
One almost has to wonder if the deck is stacked a bit in Robert’s favor. I haven’t seen much from the other chef’s to make me think they can match him.
Time in the fires of Hell’s Kitchen will sort out the winners of this crop of contestants. I’ll be watching this season for the drama instead of the food. It’s even money to see if somebody gets goes to hospital for a knife cut or fighting.
Also, as somebody with a few extra pounds, I’ll be rooting for Robert. Go get ’em, big boy.
Engineernerd Rating: Setup the series recording on the DVR, there’s going to be some can’t miss moments this season.