Hey, I thought Top Chef was the Vegas-themed cooking competition this season! And yet here’s a makeshift craps table in the dining room at the start of this week’s Hell’s Kitchen, and a pair of custom-made oversized dice, covered with letters. The challenge? Each member of the team has to roll the dice once, and come up with an ingredient to match the letter they roll. Have a lucky day, cheftestants!
The Red Team rolls R(abbit), H(aricots vert), P(otatoes), G(arlic) and H(amhock). The Blue Team rolls H(addock), F(igs), A(ngel hair pasta), A(pples) and T(omatoes). Despite handicapping themselves with an odd batch of ingredients, the Blues impress Chef Ramsay, while the Reds fall short due to a garlic puree that tastes too much like… well, garlic. So the boys are off to their reward in Vegas, where Van rubes it up a little but otherwise nothing especially memorable happens. The girls, meanwhile, are stuck with the always-crushing Delivery Day punishment, which has them running to the loading bay all day and all night. (“Night!” bitches Tennille.)
The women are worn to a frazzle, exacerbated by the bossiness of Suzanne, whose “fake-busy” ways are driving her teammates nuts. The men, on the other hand, have become a cohesive unit, though their bonds are tested when Robert (a.k.a. “Bigguns,” according to Dave) gets back from the hospital. (What the hell, he’s just a heart patient. Surely working in Hell’s Kitchen can’t be that stressful.) Robert immediately returns to getting on his teammates' nerves, shirking work so that he can chow down on what looks to be some kind of Eggo sandwich, then heading into the confessional to insist that even at 75% strength, he’s better than half the people on the show. (I crunched the numbers and the math checks out.)
For dinner service, Ramsay introduces a twist: chef’s tables in each kitchen, at which executive chefs from Ramsay’s restaurants sit and eat. That is, if they get served. In the Red kitchen, Ariel forgets to take the chefs’ order, then serves them appetizers they find overcooked and bland. (“Needs more salt… the simple things are the hardest to get right, I suppose.”) Dave does better in the Blue kitchen by just ordering risotto on his customers’ behalf, then cooking the best damned risotto of his life. But Van fails to take the baton from Dave. He has to be reminded to go get the chefs’ fish order, and then when he rushes over there, he thrusts his sweaty head at them and grunts, “What do you want?”
Then again, Van has trouble all night with keeping his head in the game. He serves two plates of fish with the plastic wrap still on. (Though to his credit, the fish were perfectly seasoned.) And the Blue service goes downhill from there. Robert can’t slice lamb properly, or cook a rabbit through, or stop sweating. Even Perfect Kevin gets a lashing from Ramsay, for following his usual strategy of puttering around in the background, pretending to work. (He and Suzanne obviously read the same book of cheat-codes before coming on the show.)
Van and Robert are the obvious candidates for elimination, but Robert gets feisty, and starts calling out Andy for his cumulative failure and his unlikeliness of winning the show. Oddly enough, Ramsay agrees with Robert and drags Andy to the firing line, before sending Van back. Robert and Andy proceed to yell “I know you are but what am I?” at each other for a few minutes while Ramsay stares mutely at them. Then Ramsay sends Robert home, and Robert just as abruptly switches from raging to smiley. Ramsay gives Robert his thanks, not so much for his cooking as for providing an otherwise dull episode with a late touch of excitement.
-Man, that’s one well-stocked pantry that has figs on hand. And hamhock, for that matter. (Or shall we assume that a PA made a run to Whole Foods before the challenge started?)
-Robert claims he was never up for elimination last season, but that’s not exactly true. He was up once, two episodes before his tiny heart broke.
-You can’t serve plastic! You’ll kill somebody! (Not because the plastic is unpalatable, but because it’s undercooked.)