Hell’s Kitchen, aka “Let’s See If We Can Kill a Guy”

August 19, 2009 at 4:46 pm (Uncategorized)

I don’t know why I watch Hell’s Kitchen. I really don’t. It’s the guilty and dubious pleasure in my life, worse than Survivor; I can find some small justification for Survivor, sorta, and I find more genuine enjoyment in it: justification enough. HK… It’s the proverbial train wreck. These people are (or are portrayed as – I’m well aware of the agendas of the editing department) meaner and often dumber than anyone I can usually bear to spend time with; for the most part, I wouldn’t knowingly eat in a restaurant they cooked in if you paid me (I’m looking at you, garbage-picking girl). This year started off particularly badly; a more obnoxious group of people I have never seen – and where they weren’t obnoxious they were so stunningly *stupid*… Of course they compensated for this by editing so that the confrontation between the deeply psychotic contestant and Ramsay was continued in the next episode, and the others, perhaps cowed or perhaps merely given a nicer edit, weren’t nearly as horrific, and on we watched.

In that first episode they brought back a contestant who had to leave the show last year: Robert, who we liked in the beginning but who exhibited such machochistic tendencies – in other words, turned into such a prat – that we were glad when he left, though of course not glad of how: he had chest pains and ended up hospitalized. He’s about 30, weighs well over 400 pounds, and obviously is not well. In episode one of this season, Ramsay booted two people, and approached Robert (who just happened to be dining in the restaurant that evening) to offer him another shot. It didn’t seem like a great idea; hello, stress galore, again? Heart problem? Is this wise? But one assumes the producers checked him out to make sure he was up for it.

Or not.

In last night’s episode, the boys’ team lost their challenge (miserably, after having done really well last week and patted themselves on the back so hard they probably left bruises). This entails punishment, which in this case was on surface absurd and humiliating: in addition to prepping both kitchens for the dinner service they had to go to the store to pick up onions and potatoes … Which is kind of idiotic given that they’ve shown the place getting produce deliveries in the past. Even more idiotic was that Sous Chef Scott Leibfried, the wrangler of the boys’ team, rolled out on a motorcycle and directed the boys to get on a bizarre multi-seat bicycle/octopus hybrid. They complained, but they mounted up … and then Leibfried led them up a hill. I have no idea how steep this thing was, but Robert was already huffing and puffing and none too happy. As were the rest of them – none of them, however, weighed what Robert weighed or had the heart condition Robert had. Unsurprisingly, Robert got back into the restaurant and slumped down on a bench not far inside the door… next thing you know there were ambulance sirens and paramedics, and off Robert went. Again. And all I could say was “Happy, Scott? You may have killed the man – How are you sleeping at night?”

I know full well that Scott was only the face of the situation. I know that there is plenty of responsibility to go around. The producers (the same producers who provided a reward last year when Robert was competing the first time which consisted of a helicopter ride to an island or some such. He couldn’t go on the chopper, as he exceeded the weight limit, so he had to take a ferry – and when the ferry arrived the rest of them were just getting ready to go back. Giggling) are the main fault-bearers (i.e. the ones I would sue first), as they came up with this punishment. Ramsay has to take a part of it; he probably is one of the producers (don’t know don’t care), and had to have some kind of approval: his name is on the show. He’d be an idiot not to have his hands on the reins. Then there’s the rest of the guys: they live with him. They should have an idea what he’s capable of. I hope if I were in their position I would have said something like “Um? Maybe Robert could get a start on prepping for tonight’s service and not kill himself on this … thing?” Of course, Robert himself should have spoken up – “Um? Have you forgotten the small incident of the hospitalization last season? Maybe I could get a start on prepping…?” But as I said, the face of the disaster was Scott Liebfried, screaming at them to get their *^@! posteriors up the *&#! hill… He was the responsible adult, the representative of the show and the one giving the orders. In the end it came down to him forcing the team to pedal up the hill. As an apparently direct result of which Robert wound up in the hospital again. Scott would be individually named in my lawsuit. I used to like him, too, on the Food Network, with his weird strangled voice and lack of hair; I even liked him well enough on HK, though he has always seemed to enjoy his job torturing the contestants a little too much; for the most part the contestants were obnoxious enough that we enjoyed their torture too. But that was when “torture” was hyperbole, meaning being woken up in the middle of the night by Scott and what’s her name banging on pans or by being mocked and sworn at during service. “Torture” was never quite so literal before.

I hope they pay. I hope Robert’s contract leaves him room to sue for grievous bodily harm, and I hope they pay.

But at least the boys all wore helmets. Safety first.

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3 Comments

  1. Brian said,

    I definitely agree that putting Robert on that bike contraption was an accident waiting to happen. Considering he had already been diagnosed with swelling of the heart (a precursor to heart disease, according to what Robert was told by his doctors), it was extremely negligent for the show to force him to peddle that contraption up the hill.

    That said, assuming Robert was an actual contestant (we’ll come to that shortly) and considering the previous season, the producers would have made him sign a contract that stipulated that his health problems are entirely his own, that he participates at his own risk and the show would be absolved of any issues that might arise from his health issues. Effectively, the show washes its collective hands of his health issues related to participation. So, that would mean Robert would have to do the punishment and be responsible himself for any health issues that might arise.

    On the other hand, the whole ride the bike up the hill thing could have been completely fabricated along with the ambulance and everything else about Robert. For example, his seat’s chain may not have even been connected (peddling, but doing nothing). I have long suspected that Hell’s Kitchen hires plants to put into the contestant pool. That is, people who are employed directly by the show, but pretend to be a contestant. Their sole goal is to shake up the show, keep things fresh and keep the drama at maximum. It makes perfect sense, too. It’s a small investment by the producers. The person can’t win, so they will eventually be eliminated. But, they can keep the person on the show for as long as possible. Names that come to mind, Robert, Lacey and Jen (among others).

    So, Robert could have simply been a plant for his ‘second’ appearance on the show.. and everything he did was likely staged by the show for dramatic purposes. We all know that HK is more drama than cooking. Few of the contestants appear to have never worked in a kitchen, never properly handled knives or properly practiced any form of food safety. It’s all about the ratings and less about the outcome. It’s all smoke and mirrors, the stuff that Hollywood is famous for, but without any real substance. It’s highly doubtful that any of the ‘winners’ will actually continue to chef for the restaurant position they ‘won’ for longer than a few months (if it even happens at all). What’s actually more amazing is that Gordon Ramsey would actually agree to be part of this plastic show and for six seasons!

    • stewartry said,

      Robert was definitely a plant for this season, though it honestly didn’t occur to me that it was /all/ a sham. It should have – and what you say about probable other plants makes a great deal of sense: the examples you give certainly generated a great deal of discussion. (I know I’d sure rather believe Jen was a plant than … whatever that was.) This season’s Joseph, too – that was either a psychotic break or a heck of a performance. I mean, I’m a better cook than some of these people – the complete and repeated failures to accomplish basic tasks backs you up, and the often abysmal ignorance.

      It didn’t take all that long to become more and more jaded by HK. I guess the trick is to watch it as something like a restaurant-based “Office” – or stop watching entirely…

      • Brian said,

        It is a kind of ‘The Office’ show. The kitchen antics are almost laughable.. with the exception of when someone gets seriously cut or burned. I mean, Andy gets mauled by the Mandolin in the next episode. But, who uses a mandolin without hand protection? Again, these are basic kitchen safety skills. Either the show is extremely negligent in its kitchen safety protocols or these people are plants with FX prosthetics. It is Hollywood, so anything is possible. If HK has the money to send these contestants off to Las Vegas for the royal treatment, the show can certainly afford a special FX artist on the set to dress up a fake wound. If these wounds are real, I wouldn’t want to go anywhere near that kitchen or near the food. The show appears to take no precautions to protect the food from contamination after an accident. That seems like enough to get most restaurants closed down by a health inspector.

        Worse, Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares prides itself on cleaning up other people’s kitchen’s sanitary problems… yet Gordon Ramsay simply ignores the seriousness of cuts and burns in his own kitchen! Although, he did try to find the lost ‘fingertip’, but the show never explained whether or not it was found. And they still served the food!

        As far as plants go, it would make sense for one person on each team to be told to sabotage the night’s service in the first 6-8 episodes by overcooking, undercooking or by botching the dish. It’s the only way Ramsay can go ballistic.. which is why everyone watches that show anyway. The amazing thing, though, is that Ramsay seems almost obsessive about checking foods before they leave the kitchen, yet amazingly food still somehow makes it out of the kitchen and to the table that’s raw or undercooked.

        By the time it’s down to 5 contestants, you can see just how much more calm and smoothly the kitchen runs… that is, after the plants are no longer there. When it gets down to 3 contestants, the kitchen service seems almost perfect. So, there is something else at play that we’re not seeing on tape.

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