Hell's Kitchen recap: A la Carte Blanche
After the contestants prove once again they can't work together, Gordon Ramsay lets them create their own menus
Welcome, my little onion rings, to the continuation of what I think I’m going to have to start calling Matt’s Kitchen, as the portly Muppet eagle-man continues to dominate the story line, with a strong B plot courtesy of the increasingly hostile Jen. While I find both of their personalities somewhat repellent, I can’t complain about the uptick in action on the show. Sure, no one can cook (still), but at least it’s gotten a lot more quotable in hell.
This episode kicked off with Matty moping about how he let everyone down. Corey was in agreement — she thinks he’d perhaps make a better used car salesman, though having recently purchased a previously owned vehicle, I’m pretty sure that guy couldn’t sell me oxygen on Mars — but the Blue Team couldn’t be bothered to weigh in, so distressed were they about their own problem child. You’d never know that Bobby has decided to let his cooking talk by the way he was going on at the top tonight. Jen, he declared, is a big baby, and he wants to nip it. Nip it! That’s gonna be my new favorite expression. I will also be calling Jen ”Big Baby Jen” from here on out, as a tribute to the late ODB. (She’ll be damned if she let any man come to her center! She’ll bite your motherloving ass!)
Because the cheflings in general are still struggling with timing and communication, Ramsay announced that tonight’s challenge would be a sort of kitchen relay race: They’d make three entrees, with three cooks from each team having six minutes to cook before handing the pans off to the next teammate. Blue was a man up, so they had to pick someone to sit out. Jen more or less decided this would be Louross, who announced he hates Jen. ”If I don’t have any talent, why the f— am I still here?” asked the diminutive cook, whose confessionals have been getting more and more gangsta with every passing week, but he may have had a point — even Ramsay was surprised he wouldn’t be participating. (Needless to say, that confidence would not last long.)
The race was on, with Matt lumbering into the kitchen like Belushi in SNL‘s Little Chocolate Donuts commercial. ”Go, Matt! Don’t fall!” the girls cheered. He put the chicken in to poach, and when Christina came in to tag, Matt gave her explicit instructions. ”I got all the veg on, chicken stroff, everything’s miso plus,” he said. Okay, that’s probably not what he said, but that’s what I heard, and I think what Christina heard. Meanwhile, Bobby tagged in for Petrozza and got right to work, because Bobby is a four-star general and he knows how to think, plan, and execute. Or so he says. With his mouth, not his cooking.
NEXT: Wet suits aren’t pretty
The last leg was Corey vs. Big Baby Jen, and once the food was plated, Ramsay tasted it all. On the scallops, the Red Team forgot the salad, but BBJ overcooked the eggs and undercooked the scallops themselves, so point to Red. BBJ was in disbelief. Then the John Dory: The Red Team had no presentation, but Jen scorched the Blue sauce, leaving it off the dish completely. Somehow, Blue won this one, but the lack of sauce would haunt them on the chicken, which again arrived at the pass completely dry. Red won the challenge, and all Petrozza could say was ”Jen lost the challenge for the team.” Jen, meanwhile, was not going to apologize — though I think if it’s your job to put sauces on things and you don’t put sauces on things, that’s pretty much a big ol’ Fail Dog, no?
So the Blue Team stayed behind to scrub the entire outside of the restaurant, while the Reds got to go to the beach for surf lessons. Though this initially seemed like a producer’s wet dream — let’s get Matt into a swimsuit! let’s watch Matt fall off a surfboard! — I was a little disappointed by the results. Sure, our clueless Sam the Eagle tried to show off his surfer hand gestures by wiggling his mutilated thumb at the camera and saying ”hang loose!” while flashing what looked a lot more like the University of Texas ”hook ’em Horns” sign, but when you’ve got to resort to having Ramsay throw maître d’-turned-towel boy Jean-Phillipe into the ocean, you’re reaching. (Though I must say, J.-P.’s cries of protest at being picked up by his strapping blond boss were less than convincing. ”Oh, God,” he said. ”Oh, no.” Please, Chef Ramsay, don’t throw me in the briar patch!)
More comedy was happening back at the ranch, as Louross walked around in his cleaning jumpsuit like Beaker after an explosion, and Jen and Bobby got into a nice little spat. ”I come in peace,” said the general in a confessional, ”but if you break my sanctuary, you will feel it.” (Actually, that sounds way more like Wu-Tang lyrics than anything Jen’s spouted so far, doesn’t it?) She started bossing him, and he responded with, ”You don’t run this s— here.” ”Do you?” she replied. ”Yeah,” Bobby said. Salute! Meanwhile, Louross just kept steaming the carpet. ”Nobody wants to listen to the little Filipino boy,” he sniffled. In other words, it was a little tragic out there on the front steps of Hell’s Kitchen today, onion rings. What were the chances that service would be any better?
NEXT: Salmon rushed in
As it turned out, not great. Amazingly, both teams would finish dinner tonight, but it took a bit of effort to get them there. To start, Ramsay ripped up the menu and gave each team a chance to create its own. The Red Team enjoyed quite the planning lovefest, especially Matt, who started picking out wedding china and seemed about one shuttle ride to a tattoo parlor away from getting ”RED 4-EVAH” inked above one of his mighty pecs. They decided on tomato soup, pasta with black truffles, pork chops, and other hearty dishes. Meanwhile, Big Baby Jen dominated the Blue Team’s decision making but came up with nasty-sounding stuff like strawberries and feta cheese (she may have stolen that one from Matt) and just plain odd choices like halibut wrapped in zucchini. Louross et al. tried to suggest other dishes. How about salmon, for example? ”Everybody and they grandpappy do salmon,” Jen said. (I think she had a point: The last thing I cooked outside of my usual Stouffer’s pizza/chicken nugget rotation was, indeed, salmon.) But when it came time to show the menus to Ramsay, BBJ couldn’t boss her way out of the unfortunate list. ”That menu sounds hideous,” Ramsay spat, after Louross sold Jen out as its mastermind. Given a chance to try again, the men threw on filet mignon and, yes, salmon. And then it was time to open Hell’s Kitchen. Pity the diners.
When service began, Big Baby Jen hollered at Louross — who was in a full pout — to ”crush the petty-ass s—, for real.” On the other side, Christina was stressing that Matt wouldn’t be able to make her truffle-pasta app. Turned out both women were well-founded in their crabbiness: Louross couldn’t make a proper filet mignon to save his tiny little life tonight, and Matt was sweating into his salty pasta. Both dishes came back several times, which seemed to only exacerbate the problem. ”Cook like a normal person!” Corey yelled at Matt, but it was too late, and the only solution was to boot him off the station and have Christina do it herself. And with every steak that came back, Louross would groan, leading Ramsay to scream, ”If your cooking was as good as your acting, you’d be talented!” (Ouch.)
So Matt pouted around like an even bigger baby, and Louross freaked out. For some reason, Jen was also in a snit, mismanaging the dessert station so badly that Ramsay broke a soufflé plate to make a point. The only people working with any competency were Corey and Christina, who have combined their warring thirsts for power into one unstoppable kitchen force. When the dust settled, the Blue Team was named the losers, Petrozza the best of the worst, and it was pretty obvious who’d go up. Certainly not Bobby — he’s more talented than everyone in all things, after all, like ”cooking,” and ”life.” Oh, and complimenting himself. No, Petrozza’s only move was to send up Big Baby Jen and Louross, which he did, and then Ramsay put him on the spot. ”Who should I send home?” he asked poor Pet, who miraculously did the right thing again and sent the little Filipino boy packing.
But we weren’t done! Ramsay then called Matt forward and told both him and Jen to take off their jackets. Holy wow! I sat forward in my seat, psyched to witness what I am sure would be the only triple firing in reality-show history…but no such luck. Matt and Jen were told to return to their original teams, setting up yet another girls vs. boys challenge for next week. ”Nine are gone. Aren’t we due for something better?” Ramsay asked at the end. Dude, I wholeheartedly agree, and the scenes from next week — Vegas! the two teams merge! Matt totally loses the three marbles he has left! — look like we might be headed back in a better direction after all, and not a moment too soon.
So what did you think, onion rings? Did the producers tell the diners to send their food back at the drop of the hat tonight, or was that strictly based on the nastiness of what the cheflings were sending out? Based on his comment to Matt about the bandanna he was wearing (”Homer!”), do you think Ramsay’s ever seenThe Simpsons before? And despite the fact that she probably is a total bitch, is anyone getting sick of everyone calling Jen a bitch? I mean, is Bobby really any less inherently bossy that she is? Is there anything less attractive than a bunch of dudes constantly calling a woman a bitch for lack of any better word? And can the Pistons take one in Boston tomorrow night?