Long before anyone who doesn’t regularly indulge in two-hundred-dollars-a-head fine dining had tasted his food or knew his name, world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsey shot to fame in his native UK on the back of a documentary series called “Boiling Point,” which caused him to be dubbed by the media as “Britain’s Nightmare Boss.” The eight-part expose shadowed Ramsey both in an out of the kitchen, ranting, raving, kicking, screaming – and above all – swearing as he attempted to become the youngest chef in history to earn a coveted third Michelin star, the restaurant industry’s highest honor.

While he in fact failed (he achieved it the following year), he was forever seared into the mindset of the public as someone who would accept nothing less than unparalleled excellence from those around him, and a man for whom profanity was almost a form of poetry. Now entering its fifth season Hell’s Kitchen takes a ragtag group of wannabe starlets and relentlessly puts them through their paces in a packed out Los Angeles restaurant at the hands of drill sergeant Ramsey. The prize this season is a Head Chef position at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Whereas initially the contestant pool was composed of talented amateurs, it has slowly been diluted with industry professionals, some genuine and some so-called. But despite Ramsey’s undisputed ability to both cook and teach the culinary arts like no one else in the world, this show isn’t about food at all. Like so much of Fox’s reality line-up, this show is about judging people and rooting for those to whom you take a dislike to fall flat on their arrogant, ill-prepared faces. So let’s get to that, shall we?

Following the departure of Will in last week’s opener, we’re down to eight girls on the red team and seven guys on the blue team. Lacey looks to be this season’s drama queen, bawling after a poor performance in the challenge and opting to cry in bed for three hours while the rest of the team did the punishment. The blue team has its token fat guy from New York, Robert, so Ramsey can once again poke him in the chest, call him “Big Boy,” and tell him he moves around the kitchen with all the grace of an elephant in a tutu. Fat people remain one of the few groups in this country (along with gays and atheists) that you can just mock with impunity and the show wastes no time at all. Having won this week’s challenge the blue team was rewarded with a day trip to Catalina Island. After being told he was basically too fat for the helicopter, Robbie was instructed to take the ferry, which arrived just in time for him to be told to turn around and get right back on it.


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It’s early doors of course, but so far Seth seems to be the preferred whipping boy. Having been outed by the team that he knows a thing or two about Ramsey’s background – where he grew up and what cars he drives – the team decided that him doing a bit of research means he is obviously a bit creepy (my wife has read precisely one of Ramsey’s twenty books and she knew those things). But it’s hard to feel sorry for these people, who simply do themselves no favors. After watching four seasons of contestants serving appetizers of lobster spaghetti and risotto, hearing Charlie make the excuse to Ramsey, “I have never cooked risotto before” leads you to wonder just what planet they find these people on?

It’s impossible to predict a winner this early because those who go on to win this show get no screen time in the opening weeks because they’re actually quite good at cooking and so don’t incur the wrath. But as we’ve said already, this show isn’t about food. It’s about Ramsey melting the bleep machine, tearing people down with a few home truths, cruel barbs, and pointed insults specifically designed to make insecure folk cry on television. Long may it continue!

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