The hit cooking competition show, Hell’s Kitchen, has returned for its ninth – yes, ninth season – and not much has changed; there’s plenty of drama, screaming, backstabbing, and frequent dropping of f-bombs. There is also a lot at stake; the eventual winner will earn the coveted spot of Head Chef at the BLT Steak restaurant in the heart of the culinary world, New York City.

First, competitors must endure abuse from Chef Gordon Ramsey, who still, after so many seasons, has the stamina to curse at the chefs for hours on end. The constant arguing and yelling that serves as the main course of the series is starting to get a little stale, and after so many seasons, we already know that Ramsey will spew demeaning insults at his competitors and that the competitors will stir up drama for the sake of drama. Unlike the excellent and compelling Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen is less about food and more about spectacle, and the gimmick is getting tired.

The season premiere begins with the contestants’ introduction to Ramsey, who belittles them right off the bat for expecting that being on the show will be a fun experience. He then commands the chefs on the two teams to cook “the best dishes of their lives,” and, of course, some impress Ramsey while others fail miserably, causing the grump to spit out the food.

Even when Ramsey is merely tasting food to determine a winner, the “shocking” drama takes center stage. The camera moves in on Ramsey as suspenseful music leads up to one of his many unnecessary outbursts. What’s more is that the losing team is punished by participating in some form of manual labor, such as cleaning the kitchen. How does scrubbing a counter top improve one’s cooking skills? Beats us.

Of course, the main event is the opening of the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, where the contestants must showcase their skills in running a kitchen and serving food to perfection under circumstances that can be referred to as a culinary boot camp. Again, the actual food takes a backseat to Ramsey’s verbal assault on the contestants, as well as the chefs picking fights with each other for no apparent reason. Watching the chefs run around with Ramsey screaming in their faces is exhausting, and we can only imagine how the restaurant’s diners feel.

The only shameless person in this situation is not any of the mediocre contestants, but is Ramsey himself. In what restaurant would you want to witness a swearing, abusive chef mortify his trainees at the top of his lungs? To that end, how does calling the chefs by various four-letter words allow them to hone their craft? In the end, Ramsey is mostly hurting himself. Moreover, the show primarily cares about the drama amongst the contestants.

Hell’s Kitchen is like the Survivor of cooking shows; the contestants strategize to throw each other under the bus at each opportunity in order to get on Ramsey’s good side and mostly to avoid humiliation. That is exactly what a cooking competition should not be. Hell’s Kitchen is no Top Chef. After eight seasons of the same old tricks, it seems that we can expect more of the same from season nine of the Fox hit. But if you’re looking for a cooking competition that doesn’t really have much cooking, this is the show for you.

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