Gordon Ramsay had a dream. He wanted to push the boundary of Possible. He wanted to turn myth and history into Mystery. “Representatives of the media,” he proclaimed, “I officially guarantee that we will complete the opening night dinner service at Hell’s Kitchen.” Commence teeth-chattering and eyebrow-cocking, new contestants! “It’s never been done before,” said Autumn. “Has he lost his damn mind?” asked Jason. “Roar!” said the tiger shark that lives on Mikey’s head.
And just like that, season seven of Hell’s Kitchen was off and running. The new chefs had forty-five minutes to create their signature dish. We learned a little bit about some of the chefs:
Stacey: A celebrity chef, she namechecked several people who will probably never call her again: “I’ve cooked for Nathan Lane, Martha Stewart, Martin Short, Don Rickles, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, and they’ve all loved my food.” Pause to visualize a dinner party with only those people in attendance. Now pause to imagine that they’re all locked in a mansion, and every hour, another dinner guest dies. Who’s the murderer? I’m going with Rickles.
Holli: “I’ll play that cute factor. Let’s put it this way: I’ll work just as hard as everyone, but I’ll look better doing it.” Holli proceeded to trip over her high heels.
Salvatore: A pizza chef, Sal has maintained an impressive Italian twang despite having lived in America for 21 years. Why? “For woman. Girls like [my ridiculous accent] in America.” Sal, meet Holli. Holli, meet Sal. Sal and Holli, meet Hot Tub. Hot Tub, meet Airsick Bag.
Andrew: “When I win this competition, I’m gonna buy two walk-in coolers. That’s all I really want. Two. Walk-in. Coolers.” Christened by Gordo as “the Hell’s Kitchen Hannibal Lecter.” (Personally, I get more of an adorable, wannabe-sociopath Dwight Schrute vibe.) Farmer Andrew noted several times that his number one hobby is butchering animals. Viewers, I’m calling Andrew the (very) dark horse.
To kick off the first challenge, Gordo called up a bookish stay-at-home cookbook author with zero kitchen experience. She made a veal scallopini that looked like baby vomit, but earned her a “delicious.” “Relax! Relax!” Gordo said cheerily, massaging her shoulders with his brutish fingers before forcing himself upon her. Bookish Cookbook Mom pulled her face off, Tom Cruise-style, and revealed herself to be Mrs. Ramsay. “Job well done,” he told the Missus, hopefully referring to the scallopini.
The teams split up by gender. Holli’s “North Indian” food couldn’t impress Gordo, even with high heels thrown in. Jamie mixed a toothpick into her meal. Mikey and Siobhan had an awesome-hair faceoff: Mega-Hawk vs. Ginger Dreads. (GRimsy gave them both a point. I’m betting these two go far. Since Mikey’s Hell’s Kitchen tattoo indicates a zealot-level devotion to the show, I’m going to make a ridiculous wager that he wins it all.)
The boys beat the girls in a nail-biter. While the females licked their wounds and the males gave each other friendly backslaps, Gordo sweetened the deal by announcing the stakes: the winner of this season gets to be the Head Chef at the Gordon Ramsay restaurant at the Savoy Hotel in London. Everyone acted like this was incredible news. Jason: “In rap terms, that’s like Jay-Z!” (Which means the Savoy Hotel used to be cool, but it’s been super lame and corporate ever since it got married to a former member of Destiny’s Child.)
Now, a quick internet search informs me that the Savoy is currently closed. It’s supposed to reopen this year, but I like to imagine that Gordo is setting up these contestants for a horrifically depressing finale, where he drops off the winner in their new kitchen…and it’s a barren construction zone. Twist! Shyamalan!
The culinary gang retreated to the dorms for a night of studying. The Red Team (Ladies) studied good. The Blue Team (Guys) studied bad. A fire alarm went off. The cooks went into the lobby, and were assaulted by a video of Gordon Ramsay cooking Lobster Risotto. “Praise be to you, Chef Ramsay,” the chefs exclaimed, as they retreated to their bedrooms for quiet meditation. Cue the fire alarm, which went off again, and again, and again, throughout the night.
You have to love the gusto the HK narrator injects into lines like this: “After an exhausting night of lessons, the Red Team’s Sous-Chef Andi wakes her team earlier to inform them of their punishment for losing the signature dish challenge.” The punishment in question: serving the boys breakfast in bed. “Thanks, ladies!” said Salvatore. “Is this every morning thing?”
Finally, the anointed night arrived, and the cooking started. Some highlights:
-Stacey’s scallops did not pass muster. “I asked you to season them with curry powder, and you macerated them. You’re gonna blow someone’s mind off!” exclaimed Gordo.
-Benjamin accidentally dipped his tasting spoon back into the food. “You can’t stand there and eat the food, and dip all your BLEEPing slobber in there! I’m not serving that!”
-Fran, a 44-year-old with 30 years of experience, mixed crab in the lobster risotto. “Can someone explain to Fran what the BLEEP a lobster looks like!”
-Maria had a sudden giggle-attack. Gordo re-enacted the Goodfellas “How Am I Funny?” speech, and promptly kicked Jamie, Maria, and Fran out of the kitchen. Up in the dorm, Maria and Fran tried to one-up each other’s crazy confessional faces. Jamie demurely sipped some red wine. (Seems to me that she just got caught in the line of fire.)
-Mikey didn’t let the halibut cook, which led to the Gordo Nuclear Implosion of the night: “Raw f—ing halibut! Raw! RAAWWWW! RAW! F—! RAW!” Mikey was ultimately kicked out of the kitchen. “And get your f—ing hair done!”
-Salvatore and Benjamin were thrown out of the kitchen, one for cooking with a cold plate, one for making risotto without rice. Salvatore played the “He doesn’t like my accent” card, followed quickly by the “He doesn’t like Italians” card.
-Scott and Autumn both made moves to seize the leadership of their respective teams. The plan seemed to backfire: Mikey and Fran both seemed a bit miffed by their teammates’ attempt to assume control. When Gordo pulled a reverse-Solomon and mashed the two teams together, Ed instantly swooped in and assumed control of the chefs. He even earned a stamp of approval from Coach Ramsay: “Bring it together, Ed!” Ed’s leadership guided the team through the rest of the night. After it was all over, when everyone else was ready to faint, Ed simply said, “That was awesome.” Clear Frontrunner Alert!
Gordon Ramsay’s beautiful dream became a terrible reality. Dinner service was served. (Admittedly, considering that the Beef Wellington took about two hours, Gordo basically had to shackle them to their table.) The ladies lost, setting a bad track record early in the competition. I might have been wrong about Autumn: her nominations to go home were Fran and Stacey, and they were the team’s ultimate picks. It seems to me that Autumn is playing a dangerous game here: trying to seize political power makes sense in most gameshows, but it’s not that helpful when the competition is presided over by a roaring elephant-dragon with a thick Scot-Brit accent.
Fran couldn’t say how many legs a Lobster has: “I was a kosher chef.” But Fran’s not boring. (When Gordo asked, “Do you have any EXPLETIVE?!?!” she fired back at him, “I’ve got EXPLETIVE, Chef! I’ll show ’em to you!” Graphic.) That meant Stacey, aka Nathan Lane’s favorite chef, was the first contestant sent home.
What’d you think of the premiere, viewers? Are there any other contestants who you thought showed a lot of promise? Are you excited to see how many more crazy faces Maria can make in the confessional booth? Can we all agree that every reality show would be better if there were more people in Mission Impossible-style disguises? Sound off below!