Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hell's Kitchen Nightmares

We are addicted to cooking shows. Before there was the Food Network, our Saturday default was the PBS cooking line-up. Now we've got all food, pretty much all the time.

It took me a while to start watching Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen show. Len had watched it for a while, but I don't think I watched the show until last season's finale. Between then and now, I got hooked on Kitchen Nightmares (both the BBC America version and the FOX Americanized version) and The F-Word (thanks to my friend Gillian.)

Gordon Ramsay is probably an acquired taste. While the "F" in the television show stands for "food," the "F" coming out of his mouth in his various shows is bleeped and blurred. I've always found that Brits have a lot less trouble with that word than we do here, but I guess you don't say "bloody" in polite company over there. Ramsay is a perfectionist and quite brutal to those working around him. It doesn't surprise me at all that there are often tears on his shows.

Kitchen Nightmares is a show which can really put you off from eating out. Some of the kitchens Ramsay's visited are nothing short of disgusting. One wonder where the food inspectors are. Here in L.A. we can decide if we want to go into a "C" or "B" rated restaurant, but that doesn't seem to be the case in New York or Great Britain. Ugh. Many of the restaurants in the American version of Kitchen Nightmares were shot in the greater Los Angeles area: one was in Moorpark, one in Burbank, and one in Pomona. The one I was most interested in visiting, because it is in an area where we used to visit a row of antique shops, closed before the show aired. It had lost too much money to survive the nice makeover. The pizza place in Burbank had an owner whose attitude just put me off. We did wonder we should find the place and see if the changes had been kept. The place in Moorpark is out of the way of our usual travels, so I haven't suggested we try it.

So this season, I was ready and waiting for season four of Hell's Kitchen to start. I am totally invested and I am dying to try Gordon Ramsay's new L.A. restaurant, London. (But not before I get to Mozza.)

Last night was the penultimate episode in the series. It's down to a 47-year old man and a 25 year old culinary school graduate who's won 9 of the competitions, either alone or with her team. That's a record for the show. She's smart and hard working. Last week, when the remaining three chefs were surprised by a visit from family and a meal prepared by Ramsay, she was the only one who realized there was something afoot and she and her mother both worked on figuring out what ingredients were in the dish. The other two contestants were oblivious. She did win, and I'm rooting for her to win the whole thing. She may be young, but she's got what it takes to survive in a business that's got something like a 98% failure rate in the first two years.

I found that most of the men in the competition were obnoxious, sexist pigs. You'd think we'd be past that, but no. The word "bitch" was used a lot. Of the women, there was one who was so obnoxious that we rooted for her to lose despite some of her obvious competencies. I was extremely disappointed that all of the chefs seem to smoke. Much as I can't understand why Liza Minnelli would risk ruining her voice by chain smoking, I can't understand why a chef would destroy his or her palate by smoking. I also fear finding cigarette debris in my food.

The show ended last night with the choice of the final cooking team members up in the air--the six most recently eliminated chefs were brought back to help in the kitchen. The 47-year-old Petrozza had first pick and they are now down to the guy who had something of a nervous breakdown and the woman I'm afraid will try to sabotage Christina.

So, if you need to speak to me next Tuesday, don't call while the show is on. It's almost as exciting as the last episode of The Amazing Race.

Despite my reservations about what the Brits know about food (except for high tea), I'm intrigued by Gordon Ramsay's insistence that the chefs he helps look for local, fresh ingredients. So, for Len's birthday, I bought him a copy of Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food. I haven't had a chance to actually go through it myself, but I'm looking forward to a few minutes alone with it this weekend while Len's out of town.

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