Kitchen Nightmares

So. We watched the first episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares the other night. It was good, and so cool to see him in another format. If anything, the episode length was too short really to show enough of what happened, but I supposed better to keep it from getting bogged down.

The chef reminded me way too much of my friend Adam as he looks now.

I was pleased to see they found a sore need, in this case kitchen equipment, and installed it for the participating restaurant. I was also pleased to see that they cover more than food and management, and seem to help jump start future marketing. Then again, deciding on a menu, look, approach, price and quality level is all marketing, too.

Just as this is a show more about management and business than about food. If you were expecting a foodie show, you were probably disappointed.

There had to be some behind the scenes heart-changing activity we didn’t see on screen. Peter was an absolute mess, and his turnaround at the end seemed awfully abrupt. He was THE problem in a nutshell. Managerially

, most of the rest was a morale problem, and he was the main source.

You get a morale situation like that, you get employees simmering with anger all the time, still working for you only out of inertia. Then nobody cares if they do a good job, and it makes them feel even worse to not care and to do wrong. It’s a spiral that can take someone being about as blunt and earth-shattering as Ramsay coming in was.

I look forward to seeing more of them.

Who Won Hell’s Kitchen 2007?

Title inspired by the flood of search hits I got last week after the first half of the finale. To keep up the sequence, the proper title of this post would be something like:
Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode 11 – The Actual Finale

For my non-search readers, pardon the couple weeks of nothing but Hell’s Kitchen. I’ll try to get back to posting normally soon.

Of course, the funny thing about the “who won” queries is that anyone who didn’t take pains to avoid being spoiled knew early in the season that Rock Harper would win, due to the gambling scandal leak of the winner. That’s entirely aside from it being fairly obvious from the earliest episodes of the season that it would be a finale of Rock versus someone (he and I both thought it would be Melissa, initially, and last night Melissa showed some of why we thought so when she was shocked by Bonnie’s relaxed attitude toward the menu planning, even if she did have trouble cooking the prawns), and it being fairly obvious that he had been cast as the winner. Producers of reality shows cast the contestants and make demographic choices. A man wins one season, so let’s try to cast such that a woman will win the next. Now let’s cast for an ethnic win, preferably male. None of which makes Rock less competent or deserving. He is the most deserving, most well-rounded winner of the entire series so far. It’s just that in casting and editing the season, the powers that be tried to ensure it would be Rock.

Nor did the leak make the season less enjoyable, if only for frequent train wreck values of enjoy, since so many of the contestants were clearly placeholders wh never had a chance, and at least one who was cast as a possible winner ended up off the show unexpectedly soon.

Despite knowing who won, despite wanting Rock to win, we were nervous for the two of them at the end last night. I had crazy visions in my head of the Rock leak being fake and Bonnie being the surprise winner after all. And she wouldn’t have been an outrageous choice, however unexpected.

Both did a good job designing their restaurants. I’d say it was a toss-up which I’d prefer.

I liked Rock’s menu better, but both were no doubt tasty. He did a far better job planning and prepping his crew on how to make the stuff, showing the management skills that made him deserving of executive chef. Bonnie’s lounging around in the dorm was shocking.

Bonnie had the better crew. At the end, Rock wished he had won the challenge and first choice, as he would have picked Jen first. That would probably have given Rock a team of Jen, Brad and, tossup with Vinnie here only because of her meltdown, Julia. Which would have given Bonnie a team of Melissa, Vinnie and Josh. The main thing is Bonnie would have gotten Josh.

Rock did a great job managing his crew initially, telling Josh he trusted him and knew he could cook, so go do it. Josh let him down and then he was a bit slow to fix the problem. It seemed as if Ramsay helped Rock a lot more than Bonnie, which even if not true would be an odd editing choice in terms of appearing legitimate. Overall, Rock was good with his people.

Bonnie not as much. She had some good ideas, and the rah rah cheerleading can probably be useful in that situation, but at other times she and they weren’t communicating, or were back to bickering and overreacting. Seemed like Julia and Bonnie were both capable of such intense focus that they could simply stop noticing when someone addressed them

, which comes out seeming obnoxious when it’s not intended so.

I’d have picked Rock, based on their performance in the final service and all, but Bonnie wasn’t a pushover. She should have a world of opportunities open to her. If she lost it on just one point, it would have been on poor planning that allowed her to run out of key ingredients early. Running out? It happens. She just wasn’t even close. That’s a big management skill yet to be developed, which as far as we could tell from the editing, wasn’t a problem for Rock. She also had food come back. If Rock did, they didn’t show it.

I grew to regard Bonnie highly and be proud of how well she did. She’ll go far. That was what the finale was about, ultimately; seeing how close it would be, and it was closer than it should have been.

So who won? Again, Rock. Rock Harper. Executive chef and father of absolutely adorable kids. Yay Rock! Green Valley Ranch will be fortunate to have you. If not, the publicity from a season of Hell’s Kitchen is priceless.

I hope they shake up the formula a bit next year.

Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode 10 – Not the Finale

Well then. I haven’t posted since last week’s Hell’s Kitchen post. How lame is that?

Last year, the finale was two hours, one night, but shown as two episodes, with the first hour barely worth watching. This year it seemed the finale would be but an hour, which done right isn’t sufficient.

Nope. It’s spread between two weeks. This was better than last year’s pre-finale recap episode, and it took them through the challenge and through selecting their teams.

They each get to design a restaurant in half of Hell’s Kitchen, and couldn’t be more different in opinions. Bonnie is impressive in her certainty.

That carries through to menu planning. Bonnie had a whole list ready to go and sounded sure of herself. Rock was at a complete lost what to put on the menu apart from his odd yet intriguing signature dish of crabcake and fried chicken.

They are interrupted for a trip to Vegas, where they do the challenge to determine who goes first when choosing sides for basketball. Er… when choosing their teams for the finale service.

Bonnie makes a yummy-sounding seafood pasta dish. Rock makes an intriguing if oddly plain sounding crabcake and fried chicken dish. Prominent chefs, celebrities and past winners sample each, leaving them tied. Their prospective future management from the resort where they will be indentured if they win holds the tie breaking vote and, by an apparent close call, goes for Bonnie.

Would Rock have changed anything by calling Jen first over Brad? Anyway, the teams split between the sexes, with Bonnie having easily the better team. This is one of the ways in which the competition will be unexpectedly close. He’ll win, but Bonnie is a genuine challenge.

They brought back the last six eliminated, rather than including any of the early eliminations to torment the finalists with those who were especially bad. Julia is a wildcard. She’s inexplicably emotional over not being one of the finalists herself, not realizing that she was cast as this season’s Elsie, with making the finals being improbable. She’s also rooting for Rock. She’s professional enough to chill and get down to business, and Rock would probably have been smarter to snag her as his second choice rather than Vinnie.

That’s basically where they left it. They didn’t even show any kitchen construction crisis yet.

It’s cool, we have another week to watch. It’s bad, we anticipated but didn’t get a finale.

Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode 9

And then there were two.

Hell’s Kitchen has its finalists and we’ll see who won next week. Not that it’ll be a surprise; just a matter of interest to see how close the second place person comes.

The challenge this time was picking a random classic American comfort food and making a gourmet variant. Cool idea. Gordon Ramsay introduced his mother, who brought in a yummy looking baked macaroni and cheese as an example. Then Ramsay showed his version, all lobstered and fancied up. I’m not sure I wouldn’t prefer hers.

Bonnie got franks and beans, something I always enjoyed but she never heard of as a combination. That was funny; her agonizing over it, but the result looked great.

Jen got fried chicken. Oddly enough, I don’t think of that as a comfort food. I think of it as almost an exotic or special food. We never had it when I was a kid, short of whenever we first started hitting KFC as a major, rare, huge, special treat. Which is probably why I still think of fried chicken as a big treat and something unusual to make. I’m not sure my grandmother ever even made fried chicken, but I know we never had it at home. I had fried smelts as much as I had fried chicken as a kid.

Rock got spaghetti and meatballs. I think I might have had the hardest time picturing something upscale to do with that.

What I’d like to know is what were the choices under the two extra domes. I wouldn’t expect mac and cheese to be one, since that was the example. Maybe meatloaf? Maybe hamburgers?

They all did creations that looked and sounded good.

No surprise, they brought in their mothers to do the tasting and judging, without knowing who had done which dish. Jen’s chicken won, though it was amusing seeing Bonnie’s mom not want to stop eating Bonnie’s dish.

This was the episode where the prize was a shopping spree with a $1000 certificate at a fancy cooking supply store. Jen was cute, marveling at the stuff. They did a great job getting the amount almost dead on. This year there was no gify buying for the other contestants, at least not on camera. There was also no bitching and moaning in jealousy from the others, which was nice. After seeming like a worse crew this year, they’ve really shaped up.

Rock and Bonnie had to clean the dorms. Bonnie whined amusingly and bossed Rock around. He can be patient. On her part, it’s almost more like a schtick than how she really is.

If it wasn’t already clear, just as there was more than “pastry chef” to Jen, there was more than “nanny” to Bonnie. She doesn’t do much nanny work and is really a personal chef. I’d like to be able to afford a personal chef! Well, except then I’d spend it elsewhere and enjoy cooking even more myself. Except being able to afford that implies maybe being too busy to cook. It’s a vicious circle.

This episode’s service was the one testing their lead chef skills, as far as managing the activity of the team, calling the orders, plating and quality control.

Jen failed the larger quality control test, but wasn’t bad overall.

Bonnie was remarkably good at that aspect of things, and got raves for presentation, which is no surprise. She was arguably the best of the three, though there wasn’t wide variation.

Rock wasn’t nearly as good as I’d have expected, being an executive chef already. He caught the quality problems and was overall competent.

They got through the whole service and the diners seemed happy. There were a few goofs beside the intentional ones, but it’s a far cry from even a few weeks ago.

They each had to think about and be able to make a case for why they should stay. When they came back for the elimination and made their statements, Bonnie’s was probably the best and most coherent, followed by Rock’s. Jen had trouble getting past something akin to “because I wanna.” We’ve seen a lot of that this season, when people were asked why they should stay. Future contestants should remember this is important, and when it’s close can make a difference who stays.

Gordon Seacrest faked out Rock, making him think he was going and then saying he had to be in the final. Well, duh. How can Rock win if he’s not in the final?

Chef Ramsay made sure they all knew they done good and should be proud, including Jen, who landed in third place. It an honorable place to be, and I had a feeling once she won the challenge that she’d be leaving.

Bonnie is no fool, and has obviously seen Hell’s Kitchen before, which many of them seem not to have done. You could hear her asking Jen, when they were hugging, if Jen would be on her team. They bring back some of the other contestants for the final and each finalist “hires” half of them. It’s like gym class all over again.

I can’t wait to see the final. I think I’m more excited than I was for Heather and whatsername last year. But Rock will win. What I want to see is how well Bonnie does. Whatever happens, her options are much wider open now than remaining a personal chef. By comparison

, Jen already had done quite well for herself and may not have so much upward room. I figure Bonnie has gained a lot of confidence simply by having made it this far, and will be far more of a challenger to Rock than we would have suspected weeks ago.

Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode 8

What an episode!

First, the equivalent of last year’s lunch truck challenge. This time it was one dish each by the five contestants, 100 servings, for high school students. Julia won with a remarkable 51%, which surprised us because we thought she might have gone overly lowbrow. I seem to recall that last year for the equivalent challenge the most lowbrow and highbrow dishes didn’t do so well.

Julia got to take one of the others to Vegas to see Rock’s future restaurant, stay in the resort, and meet Heather, last year’s winner. Julia was funny, talking about the bidet.

This episode was the final five, so all one team at last. Service was pretty awful. I don’t remember it being this bad other years. Julia was off, Rock was off, and Josh was absurd.

Josh should have gone home before now, and stayed through chance dynamics. He was so bad, no doubt edited to look worse, that Ramsay actually tossed him out early. Out. Completely. Unprecedented. I thought he would be the elimination for the night, and the others would just get critiqued and warned before moving on to next week.

Nope. Apparently the Aaron dynamic was indeed supposed to result in a net reduction of one episode, so they had to balance out

Bonnie had her best night ever, apparently despite the monkfish incident. I think she has hidden depths and merely comes across as flighty and uncertain. I’d not credited it as possible until now

, but it’s entirely possible Bonnie could be in the final. I’d been figuring Jen or Julia versus Rock. In any event, Rock has been positioned for the win, and whichever one he is up against is to be judged not by the fact that she loses, but how lopsidedly. Tonight Rock made it feel like more of a contest.

What’s cool about Rock, though, is he knows when he’s lost his cool and not thought straight. He’s reflective and self-evaluating enough to avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over.

With Julia gone, with what I’ve seen of Jen (or how the clever editing makes Jen appear), I’m inclined to root for Bonnie for second place. Jen likely has greater kitchen skills, but it’s not entirely about that.

So Bonnie had to select two out of the three for possible elimination. Rock was the obvious choice. Rock was also not ever going to be axed, so from a non-futility standpoint she might as well have nominated both of the other women. From a game play standpoint, you could have made a case for Jen being nominated, but Bonnie chose Julia, along with Rock.

That left Ramsay the option of sending away Julia, or overruling Bonnie and sending away Jen, for which there was no justification, and which would destroy the game play aspect.

Julia received the nicest elimination of any non-winning contestant I can remember. The last time I can remember Ramsay being that excited about someone’s talent was when Michael won the first season. Julia just needs training… so he’s personally putting her through culinary school! That choked me up.

And that provided a lovely symmetry; Josh getting tossed without even going through the normal process or receiving a parting commentary, bad or good, followed by Julia’s praise-filled elimination and consolation prize.

I am absolutely thrilled for Julia. She could probably have run the restaurant, but it would have been a stretch. With his sponsorship, no more stretch when she’s done, and massive opportunity.

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.

Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode 6

The fifth sixth episode of Hell’s Kitchen was all about Melissa and how the mighty can fall.

Chef Gordon Seacrest gave her a second chance, after last week’s implosion. He meant it. In terms of discord, she didn’t do to the blue team what I expected, and it helped the red team even more than I expected to have her gone, but in terms of a competent performance, she was the biggest drag.

The lobster challenge was funny; especially Bonnie’s reaction. Speaking of which, that was one of the top possible names had our third been a girl. No, not Lobster! Bonnie.

Those lobster dishes looked and sounded yummy, as apparently they were. Apple struck me a bit odd, but could have been good. Citrus sounded better, and lost mainly because the lobster wasn’t cooked right. Josh was not allowed to touch the lobster, balancing the teams, but seemed to do awesome at coaching Melissa.

On the other side, I thought Julia did great for being out of her element, and it was only that the delicious lobster was paired with boring risotto that lost her that round.

The cooking challenge was effectively a tie. The red team won because this was the week that the prize was a photo shoot, and the girls always have to win the photo shoot. Heck, for all we know the apple lobster salad really wasn’t as good as the citrus lobster salad. The girls seemed especially funny, and tickled by that, this year.

The punishment wasn’t as bad as Ramsay made it sound, but it was interesting to see Rock’s temper at even the idea of rooting through trash. Then they punished him for losing his temper by sending him to the photo shoot for a bag of trash. Poor Rock! Good thing he’s going to win and will presumably have been worth it.

Of course, it would have been funny for Jen to be on the losing team for that punishment…

Service was no contest. Despite the excitement of Bonnie having a pan flare up and not knowing how to handle it, and the weird, spurious giving a hard time to Julia, they were just on, like a well oiled machine. Bonnie and Jen have both grown on me.

Speaking of Jen, it was funny at the beginning of the episode when they did a big reveal of her skills being far beyond that implied by “pastry chef.” Rock applauded her game playing. I’m starting to see her as the potential other finalist. I can’t see Josh or Brad getting that far; especially Josh. Julia is way better than she is credited with being by some of the others, and is capable of learning, being a leader, and certainly working hard. Yet she still has the weakness of not knowing things or having the experiences that most of the others do. I could see it being her in the finale, but Jen seems like an increasingly large obstacle to that. Bonnie is better than what they edit her as being, but she lacks confidence that would allow her to get to the finale by anything but accident. Then again, her lobster salad did go on the menu, to everyone’s surprise, even if part of the reason was the give Josh an extended punishment of lobster fetching. Obviously my early prediction of Melissa versus Rock won’t happen. I have to go with Jen or maybe Julia versus Rock.

I couldn’t believe the mashed potato scene! That was absurd. When I saw Josh pouring potatoes, I thought it was some kind of batter and wondered why he would be baking something just then. Perhaps I’m spoiled because Deb makes the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had, one of the things I leave to her, but I never envisioned mashed potatoes as pourable. It made me think of a tragic accident involving excess liquid and a box of instant potatoes. Then they ran out of potatoes! Of course, you know certain things like that have to be contrived to a degree.

Compared to that, Brad’s mishearing an order and making an extraneous risotto seems minor.

Was it just me, or did Melissa’s overcooked monkfish look like pieces of light colored hot dog or sausage? Ramsay made much of showing it to us, and everyone there, so we got a good look. The poor fish should have stayed in its monastery under the sea.

Anyway, after they ran out of potatoes on the blue side, and had all six lobster dishes returned from a six-top (using that expression for larger tables reminds me of the circus), they were shut down. The customer who at least wanted dessert was funny.

Gee, hard decision. Could it be that the blue team lost? Hey, Gordon Ramsay thinks so too!

He punished them by making the team overall discuss and put forth two candidates. Sounded like that would have been Josh and Melissa, though they agonized over whether to count tonight or cumulative more heavily. Brad seemed to think he had a worse night than Josh, even though Josh had a bad history.

Then they didn’t even get to say who the two were. Melissa got sent packing summarily, which is good management. That is, he warned her she had one more chance and then she was out of there. She didn’t recover. He did as he’d said he would.

Then Gordon Ramsay put on his Ryan Seacrest hat, saying he wasn’t done yet, having Josh and Brad step forward.

Ooh, could I have been wrong about last week’s non-elimination keeping the number of episodes from being affected by Aaron? Two in one show would put us back to the status quo.

Nope. It was a warning shot. They each got to say why they should stay. I prefer Brad, but he was the incoherent, babbling one who didn’t give a good answer. Josh at least tried to give some reasoning. Then they both got to stay, fair warning that they’re both on shaky ground.

Next week appears to be the one in which each team designs a menu, and it’s red versus blue on how well they do with the menu and then with the dishes they incorporate. That should be interesting. If nobody else crashes and burns, unless the other team loses, it’s most likely Josh’s turn to get booted, but those darn editors can make anything happen.

Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode 5

The fifth episode of Hell’s Kitchen was all about Melissa and how the mighty can fall. I still think she has a lot going for her, but man, the attitude. “Leader” and “bitch” are not synonyms.

The teams had a meaty challenge, starting with shopping for their own ingredients on a budget. This would be the annual “shopping episode,” then. I really don’t envy them, not so much the budget part; $100 isn’t that small for making three sample dishes. My fear would regard the relatively short time available for deciding what to make and getting all the ingredients that implies.

The women came in just right. Despite the appearance of careful buying on their part, the men were not even close; almost 40% over. You would think that putting so much back on the fly would ruin them when it came to the cooking, but not so.

The rest of the challenge was preparing three dishes for review by a couple whose wedding reception would be courtesy of Hell’s Kitchen. The men nailed two out of three, but the big highlight was the dead duck.

You could see it coming, too. Melissa took over, demonstrating she lacks what it takes to be in charge, which is as much what the winner needs as any familiarity with cooking. She insisted the duck, to all appearances finished, go back in the oven to stay warm. When it came to for presentation, Melissa didn’t even want to bring it out, earning Ramsay’s ire on top of his and her teammate’s embarrassment.

I should note that the one dish the girls won, the sea bass, was obviously Julia’s. Collard greens and bacon? Had to be her, and it looked and sounded great. Go Julia!

The girls decorate under direction of a wedding planner I dubbed “Jack,” as in the Jack from Will & Grace. The guys get pampered.

Cut to the service for the reception, which I assumed would go far worse than it did. Melissa now has trouble with potatoes, apparently unable to keep them from oxidizing. Jen to the rescue. She’s really grown on me and seems to be growing steadily in competence and confidence.

The men are “rewarded” with cooking the bride and groom’s order

, which goes slowly enough to gum up the works for the other kitchen. Oops. At least it turned out good.

The wedding planner is a riot.

The women are hands down the losing team, per Ramsay and anyone watching, though Julia and Jen were both good. Jen gets tapped again for selecting candidates for elimination. Could the choices be any more obvious?

Could it be any more obvious who should go? What a surprise, too.

Rock continued on his path of getting better and better, and being more bold and outgoing. He was clearly delighted in anticipation of Melissa’s demise, both because they tangled during the episode, and because he has to know she was his most obvious competition from the beginning.

Bonnie is the other nominee. Melissa gives a lame reason why she should stay, and Bonnie a better one.

But wait! We have to make up for Aaron’s unscheduled departure, keeping the number of episodes up, not to mention making sure one of the prime contenders doesn’t get eliminated when it might ruin the script. Melissa gets another chance… on the men’s team! Poor Rock. That ought to be interesting, if not in an “oh God, oh God, we’re all gonna die” sort of way.

I can’t wait to see the sparks fly with Melissa trying to boss the new team, and see to what degree the other women grab this chance to shine without her. I’m in luck! Since I was late posting this, in a mere matter of hours, I will be able to see what happens. Yay!

Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode 4

I guess I should get around to writing a Hell’s Kitchen post for the last episode. Not that it was that exciting, as Rob Sama noted in this post.

Well, except they did the tasting challenge, which to my disappointment ended in sudden death as soon as the men were in a positiong to be impossible to win. I’d have liked to see how the last pair did on the whole set of three foods. I couldn’t believe how bad some of them were. Not that I’d have known something like bok choy, but really; pears, carrots and egg yolks?

Then there was the punishment. The other punishment, besides doing the prep for both kitchens and being given the apparently untaken opportunity to sabotage the girls. They had to eat offal types of meats, like tongue, tripe and organs. Yuck. I mean, if you gotta to survive, yeah, but they didn’t even prepare it to look that appatizing, just to be cooked rather than raw. As I recall, my grandmother actually developed a taste for tripe from eating it when she was a kid, and would make herself some once in a while through adulthood. Apparently Rock was the one with the weakest stomach for that stuff.

Things were a mess, and Melissa didn’t look so golden this week. Maybe it’ll be Rock versus Julia in the finale, with Rock winning but Julia showing everyone not to scorn Waffle House cooks.

Rock was the only bright spot, and Jen didn’t suck, so with no winning team declared, they each nominate one. They both decide to go with playing the game to get rid of threats or people they dislike or targeted, rather than who was actually bad. Josh was not a bad nominee by Rock, but Melissa was a silly nominee by Jen, purely strategic.

Ramsay overruled them both, no surprise, bringing forward Vinnie and Bonnie. They would have been the correct choices to avoid irritating the chef. Bonnie expected and even wanted to leave, yet gave the better reason why she should stay, Vinnie couldn’t stop being full of himself, or something, and got sent home as well he should have.

One of these weeks real soon, though, Rock will nominate Josh again, Josh will go and we’ll be glad.

Next week will be the shopping episode. Is it perhaps a little wrong that we have an idea what each episode will be like and that they’re already rutting enough that there are no real surprises?

I know it’s a game show

, and it continues to hold some interest as such. Yet I’d still love to see more behind the scenes, more about where they show them how to cook things and boot camp them into being able to handle dinner service even to the extent that they can despite some of their minimal backgrounds.

Oh well. Let’s see what Bonnie does this week to get sent home. Or hey, maybe there will be a surprise!

Hell’s Kitchen 2007, Episode 3

That was a bit more interesting this week. I’m relieved to see that the doctors the producers told Aaron he was off the show because he was too sick was too obviously a plant and people were talking, besides it was time to decrease the pathos level.

Doesn’t eliminating an actor and a contestant in one episode reduce the total episodes in the season by one?

This episode’s challenge was scripted to highlight Julia’s skills. The other girls harp on her lack of knowledge of fine dining, and granted that doesn’t help her any. However, she has basic competency, is capable of being a leader and a manager, is capable of learning, and would be surrounded by staff who do know details she doesn’t. It’s a different set of skills, but she strikes me as this year’s unassuming Elsie, only with a better chance of taking it.

Vinnie seems to be little more than a jerk. Again, they edit to give you the characters they want, who are not necessarily really how the contestants are, but there’s at least a little core for the editing to work with. He and Josh are the guys who will probably go first, maybe even beating Jen and/or Bonnie out the door. Brad seems more together, if not like Rock.

Melissa disappointed me tonight. She has a lot to offer, and is a likely finalist, but that was absurd to push for Julia to be nominated to go based on overall knowledge rather than performance that day. Certainly cumulative knowledge, attitude, ability and performance count for something, but not in the face of clear choices.

Joanna redeemed herself in the end in a couple ways. She self-nominated when the girls were talking over who to nominate. She knew she was gone. Then when she was telling Ramsay who the other nominee was, she made it clear she disagreed with their choice of Julia.

Jen stepped up by self-nominating and confessing about taking spaghetti out of the trash, the vehement halting of which was another way in which Julia stood out.

Jen and Bonnie are both kind of inconsequential, so I barely notice they are there. Joanna was a bitch, but she was alive. It’s very strange, but it has to mean they have no chance. Again, leaving the final four in my mind as Melissa, Julia, Brad and Rock. I almost have to hope things turn upside-down, as it shouldn’t be that predictable. Perhaps Brad will prove to have a bad nose like Joanna, when the producers plant rancid food in his kitchen. Or perhaps he’ll try to pass raw food through to the dining room.

I was surrpised how much trouble they had with breakfast. How do you get cold hash browns? Then again, I’m always surprised when they turn out anything seriously cold or raw, or aren’t even close with something seemingly basic. But then, I’m not under that pressure.

The big punishment, peeling all those potatoes and onions, just didn’t seem that bad to me. Kind of high volume, and the onions would be inherently rough, but hey.

Next week features my favorite challenge; the blindfolded taste test! It’s remarkable how badly people do each year. Perhaps they should do a smell test, in memory of Joanna. I can’t wait. Of course, they tend to include some strange things. I’d be nervous about what they were making me taste.