Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode 7

Leftovers are food that has been cooked, not eaten, then put away for potential follow-up consumption.

Making an interesting meal with leftovers is what I might do with, say, leftover meatloaf, serving it in a different, embellished way.

Leftovers are not raw ingredients that just happen to be left over from a previous day. By that definition, when I cook only half a package of pasta, the other half of the package is “leftovers.” No. It’s unused pasta.

Now that we have that straight, let’s get on to this week’s challenge, which is preparing three items per team out of a rag tag fugitive fleet of leftover ingredients, not “leftovers.”

The way the girls worked on the “leftover” challenge, Melissa might as well have been back with them. It’s tough, but half or so of the half an hour just to pore over the ingredients and shoot down each other’s ideas for what to make?

The guys were awesome in their execution. I was half expecting the moral equivalent of the duck incident from the girls. Or the raw egg incident from Cooking Under Fire, which was so good I wish they’d do another season.

I was surprised the chef tied Bonnie’s soup with Brad’s sea bass, but they did both look good, and they were offset by the second pairing. Jen made steak and eggs. Josh made what looked like a nice stuffed chicken dish, but it tasted awful. Ramsay either poked fun at Julia, or fun at the other girls for denigrating her, by noting that steak and eggs was Julia food. It was Bonnie’s idea, but Jen went along with making it, and it’s not as if they left themselves time to be fancy.

Rock won it for the guys with an excellent sea bass and rib eye, versus a fancy variant of what amounts to fish & chips by Julia, tasty but not the kind of thing he had in mind. Again with having wasted time.

We were speculating whether the show producers sometimes have dual rewards. This is the second week that the reward has seemed geared to the winning team. In this case, Ramsay got to show off his mad paintball skills and beat the guys three to one, while the girls got to clean, unload trucks, and completely screw up checking stuff in accurately. They were so setup and completely fell for it.

I must be a softy, or team player or something, because I’d have had trouble walking on by them without helping to carry something in. And that sort of attitude would have kept me out of the trouble Rock and Brad got into later.

This was also the first episode this season where it was clear that the challenge was one day and service was on the next day.

Here’s the fun part; create your own menus. It’s not an easy thing, because you have to plan the dishes on paper, then create something that works in reality to match it. An hour is not much time for that, especially when you can’t agree. It’s a time to keep it simple, if not macaroni and cheese simple, fancy version or not. It’s no time to learn how to cook rabbit for the first time.

Ramsay continues to try to teach the other contestants a lesson with Julia, but it doesn’t seem to stick. Her idea for steak and shrimp was shunned, so no ideas of hers are on the menu. He pointedly asks and overrules them on that, so everyone can see later that Julia’s idea was the most popular entree of the night. She followed through by making them all perfectly.

Then guys had complicated menu items, which the narrator amusingly emphasized were all Brad’s ideas. When they started service, nobody even ordered from the blue menu at first, at the same time they went so heavily for the simple steak and shrimp on the red menu.

This was another episode in which things went well enough on the red team, if not as smoothly as last week, that the negatives had to be all but manufactured and overemphasized in the editing.

Josh did badly, unable to cook the lamb properly. Rock and Brad looked like asses for not helping him when Ramsay asked, and Josh managed to recover nicely. I’ve never liked Josh, but that was not right and he did a fine job coming back. I still thought he’d be leaving, though. Even if Bonnie was worst on her team, either Josh or Brad deserved to go ahead of her.

They managed to get through a whole service, amazingly.

Julia is declared best of the night and gets to nominate Bonnie from her team. All the guys were disappointing, so he makes them come up with a consensus nominee. Brad and Josh should have ganged up and nominated Rock, just as a matter of game play, even though Ramsay would then have switched to one of them. Not sure if they didn’t think of it, or considered it futile since Rock has been the obvious winner for almost the entire season.

Brad is their nominee, which made more sense to me in retrospect than it did initially, given my focus on getting rid of Josh. Brad took the leadership role. He controlled what went on the menu. He flew through getting out appetizers, then they all came back because he screwed them up. I’d hire him ahead of Josh, from what I’ve seen, which is of course heavily edited and may not reflect reality, but he gambled big and paid the price.

Brad has not once been able to give a coherent and reasonably concise response to the question of why he should stay. This episode was no exception.

Brad is gone, and next week there’s no more competing teams. These five are the equivalent of American Idol’s top ten, except they won’t be going on a cooking tour together next summer.

Looks like next week will be exciting, with early exile for one contestant during service.

Rock remains the leader, and I’m increasingly torn between Julia and Jen as his competition in the finale. I still lean Jen, but Chef is pushing Julia hard, and she certainly has potential. Bonnie has more to her than I think usually shows, but she’d have to do an amazing transformation and perhaps be a bit lucky to make the finale or even third place. She and Josh are too obvious as the next two to leave. Which come to think of it makes the elimination of anyone else in the next two episodes a surprise elimination that changes the whole dynamic.

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