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

Hell's Kitchen: 9 Chefs Compete

Illustration for article titled Hell's Kitchen: 9 Chefs Compete
Illustration for article titled Hell's Kitchen: 9 Chefs Compete

Last week Robert got kicked off of Hell's Kitchen — for the second time.  That's a distinction that I'm sure will take him far in the restaurant world.  As far as who will go home tonight, the director sets us two people for the kill: Andy on the blue team, and Suzanne (whose sin is caring too much, rather than not being able to cook) on the red team.

This week it's time for the palate test!  One of my favorites, since I know I would suck at it.  Andy believes he can taste "weird stuff," and Suzanne believes she has a better palate than Tennille, though how she can taste anything past that tongue stud I can't imagine.  Poor Van mistakes venison for … tuna?  And Dave thinks egg yolk is squash.  Kevin puts a clam in his mouth and tastes … spinach?  The women are afflicted with too much specificity disease: "That would be cooked apple, chef."  "I believe that's a poached egg yolk, chef."

Andy comes last, and after he correctly identifies a lychee nut, Tennille calls him an "epicurious mama-jama."  But then he can't name avocado, substituting boiled coconut.  (Boiled coconut.)  His last chance for redemption comes with ahi tuna, which he calls … salmon.  And for once the challenge doesn't come down to the very last item, a trend that tends to make one suspicious of whether the challenges are really fairly judged.

Punishment: The guys make sorbet, which involves unloading, sorting, cleaning, and chopping fruit and berries.  Reward: The women go to the famous eat-in-pitch-darkness place, where Suzanne commences brown-nosing: "Cuisine seems to be going in this new new nouveau direction," she rambles before asking how Chef Ramsey stays so awesome.  That seems to be the trigger that pushes all the other women contestants together and leaves Suzanne out in the cold.  When they get back to their prep, the Gang of Four exclude Suzanne as if they were middle schoolers on the playground.

As service begins, Andy volunteers to lead.  "Andy's going to command it, and if he needs help, I'll step in … " proffers Kevin.  "But I'm not going to need it, that's the point," Andy retorts.  In an interesting reversal, Tennille tries to warn Suzanne that her scallops are too dark, advice Suzanne refuses to take — but then Chef Ramsay praises the scallops for having perfect color.  Face!

The twist in service is that one of the chefs has to run out between courses to serve the six palette-cleansing sorbets, a task that falls to extra red-team member Ariel, while Kevin has to abandon the apps station to go out front.  And what's happening to Andy in command?  He's disappeared.  Far from calling tickets and keeping everyone on track, he's trying to keep track of his garnish orders.  Could anyone who's been watching Andy all season have predicted that, I wonder?  Sabrina gets bullied by Suzanne into serving raw lamb, and then Chef send her out to the bar to eat it.  Tennille stands up to Suzanne when the latter tries to shave a minute off the time to the pass, and gets a word of praise.  When the tables are turned and Sabrina is ready on time, Suzanne can't get the final order of sea bass cooked, and the whole table has to get dumped and started over.  Then Amanda commandeers an order of halibut from Suzanne's station and puts it up on the pass half raw.  The whole mess sends Chef Ramsay to his knees, in a perfect demonstration of the finger-pointing chaos that can overtake five people who have to depend on each other to accomplish a task.

Just as the men are about to finish a service, Andy reveals that he's about to run out of mashed potatoes, so one-armed Dave runs to the back and finds potato scraps for the final orders.  Poor Andy gets shown up by Dave in the emergency-mash challenge, and the former has to endure sous-chef Scott and Chef Ramsay talking about his lack of energy as if he's not even there.  Suzanne and Sabrina are the clear nominees from the losing red team, and Tennille isn't about to be cowed by Suzanne's efforts to explain herself by claiming she has an urgency in her.  (Sounds like she ought to visit a doctor to have her prostate examined.)

At the elimination, the anti-Suzanne brigade nod emphatically in unison to support Sabrina's claim that she was wasting lamb to try to stay even with Suzanne's ever-shifting fish cooking times.  But Chef Ramsay isn't impressed by their gang tactics, and sends Amanda home on the basis of a couple of space-out moments during service.  I'm sure Suzanne is annoying as all get-out to work with, but I don't think she's underhanded — just way too controlling, a know-it-all and a busybody.  The others didn't do themselves any favors by allowing her to claim victimhood.

Grade: B

Stray observations:

- It's increasingly disturbing to see prep work — you know, an essential part of actual cooking — defined as a punishment worse than torture.  As if the producers were feeling a little guilty on that very point, they make the men drink blended steak dinners, just for the heck of it.

- When I'm calling a child or student on the carpet, I'm going to start squinting intensely, point, and giving them the ol' Chef Ramsay two-finger "c'mere."

- Who are you picking to win?  I suspect all the ladies will be falling away and we'll be left with Van and Kevin at the end.