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Friday, April 6, 2018

Hell's Kitchen

    This is another one of those fake reality shows that features people who range from short order cooks, personal chefs and sous chefs who compete in hopes of landing a job paying $250,000 a year as executive chef of one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants. 
     An executive chef is in charge of everything that goes out of the kitchen and maintains full control of the kitchen staff at all times. Right off I am suspicious because according to a salary survey that I read, in New York City the average salary for an executive chef ranges from $55,000 to $93,000 per year. 
   Throw in Ramsey's profanity laced screaming at chefs who can't cook risotto or scallops properly and it only adds to the suspicion. Of all the restaurants I have been too I have never heard screaming, yelling and profanity coming out of the kitchen and it's been a very rare instance when I sent something back because it was raw. So, when kitchens at chains like Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday and Appleby's seem to run so smoothly, it makes me wonder about Hell's Kitchen. 
     There must be some measure of reality though because what you don't see is that Ramsay has bodyguards all over the place to prevent any physical altercations. Still, chefs are pushed to their limits physically. Sleepless nights, being constantly screamed at and having their every movement recorded by cameras and microphones has driven some contestants to cigarettes and alcohol. During Season 2 one producer noted that the competition began with only four smokers, but by the end of the season, that number had shot up to ten. Rumor has it that there is a lot of sex going on. Cameras show a lot of flirtation, but of course, no action. Former contestants report that they wear a microphone at all times, even to bed.
     Each year, the promised job title is "executive chef," but it's often something like "senior chef" or "head chef," not the coveted title of "executive chef." Season one winner was Michael Wray who worked with Ramsay in London but later declined to become head chef at the exclusive Standard hotel in Los Angeles. He subsequently moved to Arizona where he runs a knife company and teaches cooking.
     Christina Machamer won season four, but was downgraded from executive to senior chef. She has worked mostly in California. Likewise, season five winner, Danny Veltri was downgraded and he took up a position as a sous chef at the Fornelletto in the Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. After leaving there, he began his own ctering company and worked at a bar and grill in Florida.
     Holli Ugalde, the Season 7 winner, won an executive chef position at the Savoy Grill in London, but she didn't get the job because of work visa issues. She claimed that despite constant follow-ups she was given the runaround and ultimately got an undisclosed amount of cash. However, she did manage to use Hell's Kitchen to become a celebrity chef and has had television appearances and guest appearances. She now manages her own organic garden and has her own line of cookware and perfume. 
     Many of the contestants did end up working for Ramsey though even if they did not stay long and moved on to other positions.
    What one finds curious is that there are a few items that are on the menu every season: risotto, beef Wellington and scallops. Yet somehow these dishes are repeatedly undercooked or overcooked. The contestants frequently try to serve raw chicken, too. It makes you start to wonder. According to a former contestant the producers would often switch ingredients on the sly to create drama and give Ramsay something to swear up about.

     Who are the diners you see eating in the restaurant?  The diners are friends or family members of someone connected to Fox or they are minor celebrities. And, being as the “restaurant” is actually a studio with an open bar, it doesn't have one all-important feature legitimate restaurants have...bathrooms. If you have to pee, you leave and use one of the trailers outside the set.
     Sometimes things in the kitchen get so bad that Ramsey kicks the whole team out. When that happens there is a backup plan. They backup chefs ready to complete a service.
     Like all reality shows, most of it is fake, so why watch? As I said about American Pickers, murder mysteries are fake because people don't really get killed, but we watch them. Watching the credits of a movie recently where a dog was killed, I noticed a disclaimer that no animals were harmed. Even though the dog wasn't really killed, I still felt bad just like I sometimes feel bad for the chefs on Hells Kitchen.  It's entertainment.

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