Friday, February 27, 2009

Hell's NO

I watched Hell's Kitchen last night. I don't usually watch this show because honestly, I think it's ridiculous. How experienced chefs (and we're talking Executive Chefs & Sous Chefs in most cases!) screw up scallops and risotto as much as they do blows my mind. First of all, most of the contestants are restaurant chefs-this means that at some point, they've had to work on a line in order to get to where they are. How is it they don't know how to time their food? Why do they not know how to cook meat to temperature?

The other thing that drives me mad is the fact that over and over we've seen risotto and Wellington served in Hell's Kitchen. Ever. Single. Season.

Why would you NOT perfect those 2 things before auditioning?!?! Clearly, they are just plain stupid. It drives me MAD. It's a pretty big freaking contest with a very intimidating (and highly decorated) chef as the judge. Maybe it's just me, but I'm pretty sure I'd want to be prepared as much as I could be before going on national television. (I'd even use a micro sd to store photos of the food to use as a study aide.)

I know from experience that working in a kitchen is hard, stressful (and physical) work. But if you are going to be brave/stupid/arrogant/driven enough to audition for a cooking competition, please PLEASE at least be a little prepared. If I were to train for this show, these are the things I would start mastering:

1. How to cook an egg.
It is said by some people that the way a chef cooks eggs is a true test of the kind of chef they are. I'm not sure I believe this 100%, but it is true that cooking eggs to order is harder than you think-especially on a crowded day. Poached and sunny side up are the hardest. Ramsey almost always has eggs in at least one challenge if not on a regular basis.

Risotto. The method, then the dish.
Risotto is actually a method of cooking rice. Every trained chef should know this which is why it amazes me that everyone flubs this up on the show. Once you master it though, it's pretty darn simple. Ask my friend Daniel-it's the first thing I ever taught him how to make and now he's a pro. (Hi Danny!) In fact...I think he could kick some ass on this show with his mad risotto skillz.

Beef/Lamb/Meat of any kind Wellington.
Before anyone knew who Gordon Ramsey was I saw a show in which he visited a private home of an everyday woman who wanted to learn to cook Wellington. Not individual ones but a huge tenderloin wrapped in yummy golden pastry. I remember him telling her that Wellington is one of the hardest things for some people to master but when done right, it's heavenly. I disagree slightly that it's hard and agree 100% that it is heavenly. In any case, if you do not know what "black and blue" means in regard to making Wellington you have no business even thinking about auditioning.

How to cook scallops.
Really-this one amazes me because they are quite possibly the easiest things to cook. Not to use Daniel as an example for everything but I remember the look on his face when, after he cooked about 40 scallops for a group of our friend (to order), he exclaimed, "That's it?!" Yes. That's it.

How to shuck clams, oysters or any shellfish.
This one, I have to admit, is hard for me. I have the know how but I do not have the hand strength. I would easily get voted off the show with this one but would do my best before the show to strengthen the fleshy part of my thumb area (which is the part that always hurts me) before hand.

How to fabricate (break down, carve, etc) meat.
How many times have you heard Gordo yell, "Aw, c'mon! You wasted the best part!" Cutting meat off of the huge bones it comes on is an art.

here are just a few things I'd work on off the bat if I were thinking of (and rest assured, I am NOT) auditioning for Hell's Kitchen. These are things that anyone who has any experience in kitchens should already have a grip on, but mastering them would be key. I really don't know why some of the people on the show haven't done their homework. It sort of pisses me off.

Can you tell? :)


Lois Grebowski said...

ummm.. okay... what is "black and blue" regarding Beef Wellington? Just curious. I didn't go to culinary school.

Palm Springs Savant said...

I'm with you Mags. But the shos is like a train wreck- sometimes I can't help but watch. I must admit however I grow tired of it after a short while.

The biggest problemI have when I cook is I overcook pork and chicken because I am paranoid. Beef and eggs, no problem for me!

The Social Frog said...

I actually like watching Hell's Kitchen, it is a bit crazy but no worse than all the other crap that is on TV every night.

Rocketstar said...

I love Ramsey. His Kitchen Nightmares show is a great show.

Ivanhoe said...

Well, that made me hungry. It's almost lunch time :o)
I'm a firm believer that all the so called reality shows are prefabricated. They all know what to say and do beforehand...

FRIGGA said...

Wow, I'm a good cook when it comes to making stuff I like, but wow I sure know very very very little about the world of being a chef.

So, why don't you want to go on that show? ...just curious. :)

Mags said...

Lois: It's a method of searing beef on a wicked hot pan to form a quick crust so that the inside of the meet is basically raw. That's the key to flavorful beef in a wellie that still comes out rare/med rare when baked in a pastry shell.

Rick: You really don't have to worry much about pork these days. As long as you get it from a reputable place, it's usually ok. But I know lots of people who feel the way you do too.

Social Frog: I enjoy Top Chef because it's more creative than HK-it is entertaining I can see that-it just makes me angry that the people didn't "practice" before going on it.

Rocket: I don't mind him at all-he's actually a nice guy from what I gather (outside of the kitchen). But then...from what I gather most European chefs (who are older) are like him.

Ivana: I think you're probably right about that mostly.

Frigga: The first reason is that I don't want to be a restaurant chef and that's the major prize. The other reason is that it's just not my thing-going on TV to be humiliated. Of all the cooking reality shows though, I think this is the one I could win.

Kat said...

Gordon Ramsey is a bit like a train wreck... horrible but hard to look away.

It is beyond me how little some chefs seem to know about preparing food in general.

Thomas said...

You bring up great points, my dear. I watched pretty much every ep of the show's first four seasons and quite enjoyed them. Halfway through the 5th season premiere a few weeks ago, I started getting bored and headed for the computer. I haven't watched a complete ep yet this year. Go figure.

Jamie said...

So when are you auditioning for the American version to get your own restaurant? I have a selfish reason for asking. For one whole year, I had access to perfect Wellington. She sold the restaurant and I'm still in mourning.

Cute, funny article

Carole said...

That was very interesting to hear what someone who knows about cooking thinks about the show. I often think similar thoughts about Survivor - it's like, "you KNOW there's going to be a fire challenge - how did you not practice starting a fire at home before you left?!?" Anyway, very interesting post.

Travis said...

We've gotten a bit addicted to some of the cooking competition shows on Food Network. In particular, we enjoy the Food Network Challenges.

But one thing always gets me. The chefs say the practice putting together the CAKEs or whatever the challenge is. But then it all seems to go to hell during the show because of time management or construction issues.

If you practiced it that much, you should have the timing down and the construction issues fixed.

Mo said...

That's my least-favorite Gordon Ramsey show. I like the F Word on BBC America much better.
But you're right - don't the contestants of these shows ever watch previous seasons? Like = you KNOW monkfish is gonna show up on Top Chef, people! Study it!

By the way, people, if you ever have the opportunity to have Chef Mags prepare her famous individual Wellies for you, you will be in tastebud heaven!

Phillip Gerrish said...

I too watch Hells Kitchen and am amazed at the weakneses of the contestants. I believe they are chosen based on their entertainment potential and their smoking habits (for which I believe the tobacco companies are probably sponsors of the show).

Linda said...

Seems to me like you've more than got the basics down so I say go for it and audition! Then I would actually watch the show!

Marilyn said...

I had Beef Wellington once. Prepared by mo brother-in-law. It was indeed heavenly and I am sure I couldn't make it.

Bad Habit Productions said...

Yup. I have some MAD risotto-skills now! Can we learn how to make some Wellington next?

Polly said...

I like Top Chef much better.

I watched one season of Hell's Kitchen. I realize that these chefs really should practice up their skills, but the part I hate the most is how much he yells and swears at them. In my opinion, it just doesn't make him look good.

As a patron of the restaurant, I would never sit there for 2 hours waiting for food...I can make it better (and quicker) myself. I wouldn't sit at a table while the owner was yelling that much at his staff either.

I wouldn't mind Gordon Ramsey cooking for me sometime, but that show is too over the top.