Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Hell's Kitchen: “4 Chefs Compete”

Illustration for article titled Hell's Kitchen: “4 Chefs Compete”

Watching Dave talk to himself in the mirror at the outset of tonight’s Hell’s Kitchen episode transported me all the way back to Season One, when the scraggly Michael wandered the HK courtyard at night, psyching himself up. The difference is that when Dave’s not engaging in self-pep, he’s groaning in pain in the corner of the pantry.

With Ariel and Kevin having long-since emerged as this season’s likely finalists, it seemed like the only real drama this week would be whether Dave’s debilitating injury would take him out of the running before Tennille’s obvious weakness would send her home. And for three-quarters of the episode, it was wholly the Dave and Tennille show. For the challenge, the chefs had to prepare vegetarian dishes, but weren’t told in advance that they’d be cooking for children, so rather than preparing pizzas or mac-‘n’-cheese—guaranteed kid-pleasers—they made the likes of sweet-and-sour beets and stuffed eggplant. Amazingly though, Tennille’s stuffed eggplant impressed the wee ones (perhaps because it was mostly rice), edging out Dave’s dish. Dave grumbled that he never wins. (Also: ow.)

For her reward, Tennille got a makeover and a gourmet sushi lunch. (Cue Tennille doing her best Russell-from-Fat-Albert: “I LOVE SUSHI!”) But Dave, still steaming, couldn’t be happy for her. While he and his colleagues cleaned up the dining room, Dave speculated on how Tennille’s afternoon was going to go. “She’s not going to like it,” he said. “They’re going to make her feel uncomfortable.” Later, during dinner service, Dave mocked Tennille’s inability to cook a piece of fish properly, sniping, “You can’t put high quality ingredients in the hands of someone as dangerous as Tennille.” And yet, left to his own devices during clean-up, Dave ate pieces of candy off the floor. When it comes to the subject of Tennille—and proper candy-eating etiquette—Dave is like a burned-out schoolhouse.

The thing is though, Tennille really isn’t in the same league as the other chefs. At dinner service, she made perfect scallops one moment and rubbery scallops the next. She charred the sea bass and called out the wrong time for the halibut. Chef Ramsay berated her, but gently, saying that “it breaks my heart” to see her turn out food that she has to know is sub-standard. He claimed that her fish was “panic-cooked,” which I’m guessing is bad. (Me, I like my food panic-cooked. Adds zest.)

So it was obvious to Dave (and to us) that Tennille would be hanging up her jacket, “As long as I don’t do anything stupid.” And Dave didn’t do anything stupid. He just crumpled to the ground every time he picked up a skillet. At elimination time, Chef Ramsay asked Dave to triple-swear that he was okay to continue. And when he did, Ramsay sent Tennille on her way, with a few words of encouragement. Earlier in the day, Tennille was given the gift of knives. Then she had to pack them and go.

Grade: B-

Stray observations:

-Hell’s Kitchen threw a little curveball after Tennille’s exit, giving the impression that Dave was going to be sent home after all (since there were still 10 minutes to go in the episode). Instead, the producers trotted out the loved ones for the annual tear-filled reunion. Psych!


-“There’s no bigger pain, anywhere in the world, than a vegetarian.” Take that, Osama Bin Laden!

-At the beginning of the episode, a juvenile Gordon Ramsay impersonator stood in for the chef. Ariel called it “an awesome way to start the day.” Uh-huh.


-I liked the little stick figure one kid drew of a hollering Gordon Ramsay (alongside a stick figure of a crying chef).

-The secret ingredient is passion, by the way. Not, as I had assumed, cardamom.