The fourth season kicks off with 15 new wannabe cooking stars who make Chef Ramsay angry -- and even sick. But this time the prize position seems worth fighting for

By Whitney Pastorek
April 02, 2008 at 10:41 PM EDT
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  • TV Show

”Hell’s Kitchen” premiere recap: Unappetizers

Welcome, my little crab cakes, to the first recap of the fourth season of the Dread Lord Ramsay’sHell’s Kitchen. (Now with 48 percent more doom!) I’m thrilled to be here with you once again to break down all the repetitive dinner services, debatable culinary skills, and self-esteem-shattering insults; for whatever reason, I absolutely adore this show. Maybe it’s because, as I’m always quick to remind the group, I can’t cook my way out of a wet paper chef’s hat-slash-penis substitute. Or maybe I just like the yelling. Either way, I don’t think it matters. I find this show oddly comforting. As Chef Ramsay himself might put it, ”Same s—, different day.”

Not a lot has changed since we left last season’s cheflets in the bin: In this episode, 15 aspiring cooks descended on L.A. for their shot at an ill-defined gig as the head of an ambiguous restaurant, yet another — hold the phone! What’s that he’s saying? This year’s prize is a job as executive chef at Ramsay’s own London L.A.? Well, I’ll be a blind monkey: That seems real! Granted, he could be looking for some sucker to spend all his or her time flambéing stuff tableside while the real chefs stay safe in the kitchen, but I dunno — maybe the producers finally responded to our concerns that places like the Hidden Green Giant Valley Ranch Hotel, Riverboat, and Full-Service Pet Salon seemed shady at best, especially given the fact that the fancy position filled inevitably turned out to be that of ”mascot.” (A quick Internet check-in on Rock, last season’s winner, seems to indicate he is, in fact, serving as the head chef in the restaurant where he was interred. Not executive chef, mind you, but he is in fact working there. Yay.)

A couple more tiny tweaks: There are apparently 15 new entrees on the menu (not that we saw any of them tonight; more on that later); each team will nominate a ”captain” to keep them in line each week, not unlike The Apprentice‘s famed ”project managers”; the smoking patio appears to have gained a large amount of exercise equipment, upon which people now sit and smoke; and in the premiere’s most shocking moment, Mary Ann the Sous Chef has been replaced by a rather uncharismatic woman by the name of Gloria. Not since George turned into Don Jr. have I had my heart ripped out in this manner. Gloria, you have enormous tiny-bossy-kinda-passive-aggressive-but-in-a-really-cool-way clogs to fill.

So here’s your menu of contestants:

Rosann Receptionist in a law office. Very Melanie Griffith in Working Girl, if Melanie Griffith were rail-thin and brunette and had the personality of a character from a Tracey Ullman sketch about New York City receptionists. Signature dish: spicy mussel soup that was ”not too bad.”

Vanessa Line cook who believes this is her destiny. Referred to as ”Hannah Montana” by Rosann. Signature dish: pan-seared halibut that was the best of the day.

Craig Sous chef who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and showed up wearing an absurd chef’s toque thing that Ramsay, implying it was a substitute for Craig’s manhood, made Craig take off. At this point, I did believe Craig was going to cry. Signature dish: Chilean-sea-bass risotto, deemed a ”pile of s—.”

Bobby Executive chef. Self-proclaimed ”black Gordon Ramsay.” Obsessed with generals, being a general, who is and isn’t a general. Possibly insane, so check that box on your ”Reality-Show Contestants and Race: Stereotypes on Parade” scorecard if you’d like. Signature dish: deep-fried Hawaiian butterfish that Ramsay called ”lazy.” Oh, no. Does that mean two checkmarks?

Jen Line cook who makes tooting noises and claims she can carve Chef Ramsay’s face in a watermelon. Appears generally capable. Signature dish: crab risotto with raw rice.

Corey ”Simple, plain, blond, and boring.”

Jason Sous chef. Addicted to nicotine and misogyny. Would almost certainly lose to women each and every day in an ”I’m Not Bald, How ‘Bout You?” competition.

Shayna Caterer. Burns things.

Matt Sous chef, a self-described ”true culinary.” Holds the outstanding honor of being the first contestant in HK history to make Chef Ramsay puke, courtesy of his signature dish: venison tartare, scallops, caviar, white chocolate. Oh, and capers.

Dominic Stay-at-home dad. Signature dish: chicken cacciatore, deemed ”boring.”

Petrozza Catering director who stuffed a hen in a pumpkin. ”Oh, f— me” indeed.

Sharon Room-service chef. Wears heels and makeup, and she ”don’t think there’s nothing wrong with that.” Jen nicknames her Barbie, comments on her ”knockers.” And I hate to side with the obvious on this one, but come on: ”room-service chef”? Please do not force me to sit here and come up with 36 dirty puns involving the phrase amuse-bouche. Ah, poop. Too late.

Ben Electrician. ”Not bad.” I concur. He can scoot his boots in my kitchen any day, if you know what I mean. And I think you do, Sharon.

Christina Student. Meh.

Louross Hotel cook and part-time toilet brush. Sudden burst of bossiness combined with overly fussy hair reminiscent of a significantly less fierce Christian Siriano.

Some dude who looks like a member of Spinal Tap trying to blend in at Lebowskifest Oh, wait, that’s just Chef Ramsay in full latex-face disguise, spying on the contestants.

NEXT: Kitchen nightmare

Service was predictably disastrous, and began with the men being incapable of listing the entrees they’d be serving that evening. ”Right now, you look like a bunch of [bleep] yummy [bleep] Oakland!” yelled Chef Ramsay. (Okay, that’s not what he yelled, but that’s what I heard, and that is what I wrote down.) Then, when the doors opened, Jason was nowhere to be found. Turns out he was outside smoking, thereby beating all the ladies in a ”Who Can Look Like the Most Unhealthy Douchebag on National TV?” contest. Hooray, Jason! Too bad you can’t make risotto! Oh, and hello, Dominic! I’m sorry you can’t fry a scallop!

Grr. Here is a new horse to beat: In much the same way that I am mystified by contestants who show up on Survivor without the ability to swim or make fire, I cannot possibly understand why contestants onHell’s Kitchen, knowing full well that a risotto and/or scallop will be expected of them at some point, would not spend every waking second before arriving at the gates of the TV mansion doing nothing but perfecting risotto and/or scallops. It’s not like they get cast and immediately whisked away. They know. They have time. Why do they not prepare? I would prepare. I would prepare a whole lot.

Anyhow, after an hour of service, no food had been served. Sharon had been yelled at to ”f— off and go put some more makeup on,” and Jen was slowly but surely turning out risottos. Rosann had been named captain of Lady Land after Vanessa moused it up. Dominic was turning scallops into golf balls, and Bobby — the Manly World’s purported captain — wasn’t doing jack. He didn’t want to contribute to the chaos, he said, so he just stood there while the boys ruined every piece of food they touched. Louross was then named captain. Bobby continued to refer to himself as a general. Chef Ramsay threw Corey’s chicken against the wall. Somehow by this point, three hours had passed, and the customers were going home. SHUT-TIT DOWN!

Exactly zero of the 15 exciting new entree options were served. Somewhere, a Wellington weeps.

Ramsay decided the men were the losers, and Louross was forced to choose two teammates for elimination. It seemed pretty obvious that this should be Jason and Bobby — even to Jason, who just kicked the ladies’ asses in the ”I Make Unnecessarily Graphic Comments to Demonstrate How Tough I Am, Rawr!” competition — but Louross threw everyone a curveball and nominated Dominic instead. This looked like a pretty transparent attempt to put a harmless competitor up against General Bobby and his complete lack of leadership so that General Bobby would have to go home. Louross now has the word ”fail” written on his scorecard: Dominic went home. And once again, I could not get over how cruel it is to make these average-shaped human beings walk through an unflatteringly-lit hallway in marshmallow-resembling white T-shirts after they’ve been voted off.

And there you have it, crab cakes! All the news that’s effing fit to print about mother-loving Hell’s Kitchen, Season 4, The Continuation of Hell. I hope you’ll check back in here week after week for all the fun. Meanwhile, let’s use the comment space below to discuss tonight’s episode, and let’s all do it while using our very nicest indoor voices, please. Just because Ramsay can get away with hollering at everyone around him doesn’t mean you can. Unless you are writing DONKEY in all caps, because that’s just funny. Tell me: Who’s your early pick to win? Anyone got a good scallop recipe? Is Jason a fun person to root against or just a belching, chain-smoking slob with a serious case of ”small-boy syndrome,” as Ramsay might call it? And could someone decipher that ”yummy Oakland” insult for me, please?

Episode Recaps

Gordon Ramsay verbally abuses wannabe chefs. Bon appetit!
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