Tags: tv club: hell's kitchen

food bacon

I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was

I've spent the past couple of days watching Top Chef Masters, season 3. My first impression looking at the lineup is I can't help but wonder if they're running out of 'masters'. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I'm hardly a foodie. Left to my own devices, the only restaurants I end up going to are more likely to serve burgers than anything else. That isn't to say I'm not interested in various types of food, in theory, but I don't put it into practice. Even so, I've been watching Top Chef from the beginning and I also like other cooking shows like Hell's Kitchen and various offerings from the food network. That has at the very least acquainted me with various with various big name chefs out there and this is the first season of masters where I don't really recognize anyone. It makes me wonder if they're running out of the whole 'celebrity chef' category and are forced to start using the B list. Or hell, maybe even the C list or D list since I wouldn't be able to tell not knowing any of these people.

This isn't to say that these individuals are duffers by any means. I'm pretty sure that any of them would end up near the top of a normal Top Chef season assuming they didn't get tripped up early by a challenge where they had to cook upside down while playing the battle hymn of the republic on a harmonica. Still, you can't help but get the impression that the title of 'Master' is being diluted somewhat. All of that said, it was still a fun season though none of my favorites ended up making it to the finale. I've actually watched all episodes except the finale at this point so that there's no urge to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. Here's what I thought of the season.



In normal seasons of Top Chef, I've had a pretty stellar record of being able to pick out the winner, or at least the top 3. While you don't have absolute disaster contestants like in Hell's Kitchen, it's still clear relatively early who doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell. For one thing, anyone who is still in culinary school might as well just commit seppuku during the first episode and save themselves the heart break. It's harder to tell who is going to make it to the end, though I usually pick 2 contestants before the first season ends and so far at least one of them has made it to the top 2 in every season except 7 (Washington DC) which I felt was just a complete car wreck.

With the Masters show, it's a lot harder to pick a winner right from the beginning. For one, there are no real talentless hacks who got there because they had sex with a producer or are placed for drama. Every single person has got skills and often what trips them up is the idiosyncrasies of the challenge itself; the whole cook while hanging upside down thing. Because of that, you really don't know who will come out on top and so I just decided to root for people I liked. In this case, I decided I would pick Hugh Acheson and Naomi Pomeroy. Hugh just seemed like a funny guy and despite Naomi's first episode bossiness, she really grew on me. Of course, I was a bit disconcerted when Hugh got tossed right in the first ep, which had never happened before to a pick. Luckily due to another contestant's withdrawal, he was able to return and made a pretty deep run. I will also admit I was a bit disconcerted when I noticed that he had a unibrow. I don't think I've ever seen anyone sporting one of those who wasn't in some third world country or had one made up for comedy bit in a movie or tv show.

As for Naomi, I feel like she was practically the narrator for the show. They probably featured her on screen giving her thoughts more than any other contestant. It's not a surprise really since she seemed pretty talkative and open, always giving her take on things which could later be used to set up some surprise twist and she's photogenic to boot. She has really beautiful eyes, which is not something I usually notice either, but she spent so much time on screen talking to the camera it was kinda hard not to notice. She was also, based on the commentary of the other chefs, apparently one of the people with the least amount of experience and so it was also fun to root for the underdog. Unfortunately, she got the axe right before the finale which was sad since I was really hoping she would at least make it to the end.

It's been a while since I've watched the first two season so of Top Chef Masters, so I'm not sure if my recollection is accurate, but it also seems that there were a lot more whacky challenges this year. This is of course with the exception of the first episode of Season 1 which was so fucked up they had to retool the entire show because of it. You simply cannot have Hubert Keller cook pasta in a fucking bathroom and except to get other chefs of his caliber to sign up to compete. Maybe with the lowering of the prestige requirement they felt they could get the monkeys to jump through crazier hoops. The bugs quickfire comes to mind immediately as a WTF and also other challenges like taking away water and having them cook on a tour bus.

Of course, no reality show is complete without having someone to root against and it was pretty easy to find some jackoff to nominate himself. That honor went to Suvir Saran. He seemed kinda cool and funny at first, but you soon realized that that was simply covering a ridiculous amount of ego. Not to mention the attitude really got irksome after a while. I remember thinking to myself 'What a complete ponce' and then upon finding out he's gay couldn't help but think 'Way to go for confirming stereotypes, douchebag'. I couldn't have been happier when he got tossed out on his ass for that ridiculous self-righteous veggie burger of his.

Anyway, I'm going to go watch the finale and see how the season concludes. Among the three that are left, I probably like Floyd the most and frankly I never thought either he or Mary Sue would make it. He just seemed too much of a wall flower and nice guy to win and she just seemed too flaky. I don't like Traci much but it seems clear she has the most experience and it's probably hers to lose.

On a sidenote, this season of Top Chef Masters also introduced me to a dish that I had never heard of nor seen before. It was apparently popular in the 60's, which frankly does nothing to change my impression that the entire decade should be temporally nuked from the space time continuum. May I introduce the Ambrosia Salad.



Does this look absolutely vile or is it just me? I know that all that white is supposed to be some sort of whipped cream, but I can't help but think of it as mayo and it sends a shudder through me. Hell, I'm not even sure I would want to eat this even as whipped cream. Why the hell would you bury the fruit in it like it were some sort of giant snow drift? What the flying fuck could those crazy 60's spazzcases been thinking? And don't even get me started on naming it for the Food of the Gods. I have no clue what God would be crazy enough to want to dine regularly on this but I'll bet he has to inject insulin hourly.
food coffee bear

More reality show nonsense



So, along with a new season of Solitary, there's also a new season of Hell's Kitchen which I'm watching right now. It might not be common knowledge, but it turns out that despite the fact that there have been 7 previous seasons of Hell's Kitchen, very few of the winners have actually received the advertised reward. For those who don't know, the idea behind Hell's Kitchen is that it's a cooking competition hosted by Gordan Ramsay, a world-famous michellin-star chef, with the winner of each season winning the right to become the head/executive chef of some fancy 4-star restaurant for a year with an annual salary of $250,000. The restaurants featured have all been incredibly high-brow establishments, located in various food capitals of the US (as well as one in Canada and another in London). Much ado is made of this opportunity and the contestants often talk repeatedly about how they will earn the head chef role once they win. Despite that, the advertising hasn't met the reality.

It's not a surprise if you think about it. The fact is that few if any of these contestants have the skills, ability, and knowledge to actually meet the standards of these restaurants, much less thrive. An analogy would be to have med students compete to see who the best is and then have that person become head of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. It makes for good tv, but only a madman would actually let any of these bozos actually near a scalpel or a head chef position. I know that Gordan Ramsay must be complicit in this, but it's hard not to feel bad for the guy since it's clear that the producers of the show try to push this envelope by finding him the biggest crew of misfits and fuckups to compete. After all, it brings ratings when the audience is snickering at home at the idea of some line cook at a sloppy joe and burger joint actually becoming the head chef at a world-class restaurant where a single meal costs more than the monthly foodbill for a family of 4. Ramsay might winnow down the field so that the last person standing isn't completely incompetent, but it's clear that they will never, ever, ever have the skills to fill the position. It would be insanity if not outright financial suicide to actually place the person there.

Really, from a chef's standpoint, believing that you would become head chef upon winning is just delusion to begin with. These locations are so prestigious that even getting the chance to just be one of the lowly line cooks would be a hell of an experience and would make more sense. Win the season and win an internship at one of these world famous establishments for a year along with the prize money. That would in itself be a prize that's worth an almost incalculable amount to someone's career, but it wouldn't make for as good a narrative. I can't help but wonder if this is just a symptom of a screwed up American value system which places such emphasis on the idea of some hard-working everyman who manages to win the lottery and rise immediately to the top.

Sadly, this seems to be getting worse from season to season, as each batch of wannabes are more incompetent than the last and it should be clear to anyone that the winner has nowhere near the qualifications necessary to really claim the prize. Of course, this is made worse by the fact that the winners seem to also get more delusional as the years go on, pumped up by ridiculous and unjustified levels of self-esteem, no doubt influenced by the self-esteem movement in our education and parenting system over the past few decades. These people don't even realize what a joke they've become, and last season's winner, Holli Ugalde, surely qualifies.

London's Savoy hotel reopens but without Hell's Kitchen winner Holli Ugalde

That said, I still think it's sort of sad that they really believe they are good enough to step into these positions and what disappointment they must feel when they at last realize that it isn't coming. I guess the cultural belief that you really can get something for nothing sort of lulls them into the fantasy-land idea that it could really all be true.
gamer rolled a 1

Swing and a miss

It's been ages since I've posted anything here and there are no excuses. Well, actually, there are plenty of excuses. I could probably rattle off a half dozen in quick order but the core of the matter is that 1) no one would care and 2) it's all sophistry anyway. I always seem to go through stretches where it's harder to get around to updating and it almost always happens after some trip or event disrupts the rhythm.

In this case, I was off in Chicago and then after that Gencon in Indianapolis for a couple of weeks. I got back last Tuesday and have been moping along ever since. It took a while to recover from the sleep deprivation, but I've also been plagued by injury of sorts. I managed to trip and took a hard fall on the streets of Indy soon after gencon started and I landed with all the aerodynamic grace of a 3-tier cake dropped from shoulder height. I did something pretty painful to my ribs which I diagnosed as a bruise since I imagine if they were broken the agony must be unbearable. Instead, the pain is generally controllable as long as I cram down a shit-ton of drugs. I guess it's a lucky thing I've got a small mexican pharmacy's worth of opiates. Whenever I don't keep up the heavy drugging the pain is pretty intense during certain kinds of movement and it's just gimping along.

I haven't done all that much since getting back from the trip either. About the only thing of interest is I downloaded and watched the last season of Deadliest Catch. I had read about Captain Phil Harris's death in the news half a year ago and even posted something here about it but hadn't wanted to watch the season until all the episodes were done airing. I was sort of curious how the Discovery channel would handle it and I think they put exactly the right touch on all of it. Once the stroke occurred, they spent around half the time of each episode still following the other fishing boats and half the time following Phil and his sons. I was pretty shocked to realize that Phil was only 56 years old. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise considering the lifestyle he led, but that's still amazingly young to have passed on. I had also been baffled how he had died in the first place when all the news reports I had been following at the time suggested he was getting better. Depending on how you view such things, it was either fate's cruel joke or divine grace. If you believe the latter then he was given a blessing in that he was able to say all he wanted to say to his sons and have that final time with them before the second stroke took him. Many people never get such an opportunity and he could have easily just dropped dead on the spot. Instead, despite the sense of false hope, he was able to put all of his affairs in order and no doubt that was or will be a comfort to his family.

Right now I'm in the middle of watching the 6th season of Hell's Kitchen, which is actually a couple of years behind. Not watching tv, on a tv anyway, makes it hard for me to keep track of what shows are running and it's hard to remember to grab a season as it ends. Gordan Ramsay is amusing as always and you can't help but wonder where the producers find this huge batch of misfits and nutjobs. I don't for a minute think that I could last very long cooking on a line, but the very fact that I might entertain the fact that I could cook anything on par with these nimrods tells you about the quality of the contestants. I wouldn't even begin to think I could make a fucking ham sandwich as well as any of the people competing on Top Chef, but it's hard not to watch Hell's Kitchen and begin to suffer the delusion that you could cook risotto at least as well as some of those morons. I guess that's why Hell's Kitchen is the low brow version of Top Chef to begin with.

Anyway, hopefully I've gotten back into the swing of posting on here and I'll get around to back-posting about the trip to chicago and gencon at some point. Stranger things have happened.
zoloft sad

Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.

Anyone who tells you they don't fear death is a fucking liar. We all fear death, or at least certain types of death. When death comes upon you unawares with pain and with confusion, it can only bring terror along with it. Our view of death reminds me a lot of an old psychology experiment where they would gather strangers in a room and not let them talk. In the middle of them, on a table, the experimenters would place a big bowl with some peanuts inside. Every minute or so they would double the amount of peanuts already in the bowl. People were free to take as many or as few peanuts from the bowl as they wanted and what the study found is that no group made it to the 1 minute doubling. Basically, everyone descending on the bowl like it was fucking feeding time at the zoo. The study even said that in one case a participant dived across the table in his urge to reach that nutty goodness and ended up flipping the bowl, sending all the peanuts to the floor. Of course, all of this occurred only if you used strangers and didn't allow them to communicate. When people were given time to talk before the study began, things were very different. They were able to very quickly work out a system of how many peanuts each person got and how long they would allow the bowl to double up before taking any out for consumption.

In my opinion, death is sort of like this. We can't help to fear it because of the unknown and with the speed is sometimes comes upon us. If, however, we're given the time to get used to the idea, to think it through, then it's not as much of a specter. Lately, I've been contemplating my own death quite a bit more than usual. Whether by my own hands or through illness or accident, the only certainty is that it's coming and probably sooner rather than later. I'm sort of at the age where the warranty on my life has expired and it's now open season. Now is when it's no longer unheard of to simply drop dead from stroke or heart attack or from one of a multitude of life-rending conditions. It may also be that one day soon, I'll find that this life is more than I'm willing to bear and find an exit, stage left. Regardless of how it works out, I think that thinking death through is probably the best way to deal with that moment when it comes. Luckily, it's not like I have all that many attachments and it's not like I'll have to deal with many issues that may afflict others like a spouse or children or career or responsibilities. Maybe that's a blessing in and of itself. After all, isn't it a greater hardship for a rich man to suddenly become penniless than for someone already one step from being a hobo?

If you think about it, life is a rare and fragile thing. Just think of the infinitesimal odds that you have had to overcome to exist as you in this time. Millions of sperm and one egg in thousands just to start with. Where a flick of an eyelash may have changed your chance to exist as you are today. In that way, life, no matter how mean, is a rare and precious gift. It's like winning the most improbable of lotteries. All of this I know and I tell myself I should be grateful but I just can't seem to manage it. It must be one of the grossest examples of poor taste to be given such an opportunity and then begrudge that you received it at all. Sometimes, there is just no hope that you can change your course and you can only pray that the journey is a short one.



So after writing this entry, I was feeling a bit down and decided to catch up on the latest episode of Hell's Kitchen on Hulu. All I can say is that if there's one thing that makes me want to cling to life, it's my disbelief that people like Lacey can be such useless wastes of skin and not want to kill themselves. I'm not sure wanting to live out of spite is a very good reason but it's what I'm feeling right now.
tv tivo cookies

Day in Hell

So the new season of Hell's Kitchen has started. I stumbled over it while channel flipping the other day on the Fox Reality Show channel. Turns out it was a re-air of the first episode so the season's just begun and I hadn't missed anything yet.

I can't help but compare Hell's Kitchen to Top Chef. Besides the fact they're both cooking competition shows, there are some huge structural and ideological differences between the two. Top Chef obviously aspires to be something fru-fru and elite. It's no surprise that you'll always find the phrase 'fine dining' used over and over in a the course of a season. Hell's Kitchen, on the otherhand, is the cooking reality show for the rest of us schlubs in middle america. Sure, we might go out once and a while and get ourselves a nice Beef Wellington or Lobster Spaghetti, but you imagine that if most of the people are eating while watching the show, it's Kraft Mac and Cheese that they're more likely to be snacking on. In that way, you can think of Top Chef as being for the elitest coastal cities for the most part and Hell's Kitchen for the wide swath of fly-over USA.

One similarity that the two shows share is that right from the start, you know that certain people have absolutely no chance of winning. It's just clear from the beginning. For instance, if you watch the first episode of Top Chef in any season and hear the words 'Culinary Student' or 'Private Chef', you know that person is boned before the competition even starts. They're simply there as filler so the show has people to toss off in the first few episodes. Still, despite the fact that these individuals have absolutely no chance to win, some of them still seem to come across as being somewhat competent. They can probably make you dinner without managing to poison you (too badly). The also-rans on Hell's Kitchen, on the otherhand, take incompetence to an art form. These are people who you wouldn't trust to handle sharp cutlery, much less actually cook you a meal on their own. I know that I cringe whenever there's a challenge at the start of a season that requires any use of a knife whatsoever since the chances of seeing someone squirting blood across the screen is at worst 50-50.

All I can say is they really scraped the bottom of the reject barrel in finding losers for this season of Hell's Kitchen. Lacey might be the most pathetic and lazy sad sack of shit I've ever seen on tv. How in the world does she manage to wake up each day and not kill herself is something I will never understand. The fact that she seems to, every once and a while, show self-esteem makes me nauseous. Even grading on a very generous curve, she still ranks as being a complete waste of skin and connective tissue.

I'm not trying to suggest that being on one of these shows is easy. The stress must be considerable and I can understand many of the screwups. The problem with Lacey isn't that the tasks she has been set to have been beyond her skills. The problem with her is that she's a worthless human being. If you don't want to be there, then at least have the spine to quit and walk out like you have a pair. Instead, she just mopes and whines and cries. After watching her for 3 minutes, I'd pay money to get the opportunity to slap the fuck out her.
mr men grumble

Bullshit

I haven't been able to find a torrent with the 4th season of Hell's Kitchen so I went to streaming video instead. I made an entry a while back about the new advent of streaming video and how it was the new, hot thing. At the time, the main benefit was that it exploited some anti-piracy laws which say that you have to actually obtain a hardcopy of the work in question for it to be piracy. If a video streams to you and you never actually possess a copy, some felt that it was a good loophole. Not to mention that since they can pipe ads to you that you can't avoid, it's also the medium which the big media companies are most likely to back. I've already seen companies that will sell you copies of tv episodes for a couple of bucks and the site I used to watch the last season of Hell's Kitchen embeds 4-5 unskipable ads per hour-long show.

I spent most of the day watching along and I just finished the season finale and boy, am I pissed. This is the first season of Hell's Kitchen in which the best cook and most experienced individual didn't win. I had commented in the past that I felt the show was too full of fucking talentless donkeys. I almost felt bad for Gordon Ramsay in having to pick from suck a pathetic lot. There was one ridiculous asshole this last season who is supposedly a sous chef cooking for 15 years who couldn't break down a fucking chicken correctly in 5 minutes. Out of the 8 pieces you should get (2 wings, 2 thighs, 2 legs, 2 breasts), this mental retard only managed a score of 2, the wings. Seriously....WTF? Even I can breakdown a chicken better than that and have in the past. These assholes must be absolutely useless deadweight once they're actually employed at one of his restaurants. Still, I figured he at least got to choose from the best of the worse and if nothing else, it was only a 1 year contract and the salary isn't even covered by him so he could always just have them sit in a corner with their thumb up their ass for 365 days until they can be dumped.

That being said, this season Ramsay inexplicably picked Christina. I mean, she's cute and everything and I'd much rather boink her than Petrozza, but it was clear that he was the better and more seasoned chef. I've been wondering if maybe Ramsay didn't pick him because their styles don't match. He's a nice, sensitive guy who doesn't feel comfortable yelling at people and destroying them. Ramsay is like a pitbull who will go for your throat and then take a shit in your mouth after he's done mauling you. It was clear that Christina could be taught to be an aggressive animal, but Petrozza was probably too old and set in his ways to ever become a Gordon Ramsay clone.

I'm also just amazed that people on reality shows don't make more of an effort to cover up their warts. I know you can't wear a mask 24-7, but at least try to self-censor some of the crazy. Jen and Matt were both mentally derranged on the show and it came across clear as day. You can talk about manipulative editing all you want, but these were the words and actions that kept coming out of their mouth. You can always try to mitigate the effects of editing by, well, not saying crazy psychotic shit. I'd love to find out where these two bozos are working and then heckle them at their restaurants.
cookiepuss occassion

Next Mr Stay Puft will be judging your colonoscopy



So, what does this puffy, fat fuck have to do with the quality of food in fine dining? To my surprise, apparently everything. I had heard of Michelin stars before, though only vaguely, as a means of measuring the quality of restaurants. What I didn't know before now is how incredibly hard and rare it is to pick up even a single star and that it all comes from the froggy company that makes freaking tires. I had always assumed that they shared a name from simply coincidence. It's like finding out that top quality chefs will kill themselves to get into the AAA travel guide for west virginia. I'm not exactly exagerating either. There's at least one news story about a renowned chef killing himself because of rumors his restaurant was going to lose one of its stars. It turns out that in the whole of the United States, there are only 5 restaurants who rate the full 3 stars. That's pretty remarkable when you think about how many supposedly top restaurants there are.

So why am I looking up obscure facts about tire companies and fine dining? I've been watching Top Chef all day and I'm on the last episode. I've been wiki'ing all day whenever I ran across a funny term I didn't quite get on the show. This means that I've been wiki'ing a hell of a lot of crap since those motherfuckers might as well be speaking a completely different language. Damn pretentious bastards just keep spewing masturbatory culinary lingo and I got sort of curious what they were yakking about.

Anyway, while I was educating myself about Michelin stars, I also stumbled across a fun news article from a little over half a year ago that ties together both my Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen watching. It turns out that in the most recent release of the guide, Tom Coliccio's flagship restaurant in New York city lost its star while Gordon Ramsay's new restaurant in the same city gained two. Welp, so much for Top Chef being way more fru-fru than Hell's Kitchen, right? At least according to the Michelin guide, if these two went head to head, Chef Tom would get his ass handed to him despite the fact that he's the far more 'refined' person on tv. He always seems like a culinary God when he's judging the Top Chef contestants while Ramsay is doing a Scottish impression of the Soup Nazi. It's really sort of interesting when you think about it. Especially when Coliccio is so nit picky about the dishes he tastes and Ramsay is either, I like it, or, I hate it.
discworld cohen candy

Yes, Chef

I'm almost finished with season 3 of Hell's Kitchen and I'm liking the series quite a bit so far. Gordon Ramsay seems to be a fabulous asshole. You know, one of those complete and utter assholes who you just love to watch tear another person to shreds but would probably loathe if he ever turned his guns on you. Hmmm, sorta like Drill Sergeant Hartman from Full Metal Jacket come to think of it. My personal favorite is when he rips the customers who come up to complain a new one. Someone should compile all of those moments for posterity.

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There was a really good one that I can't seem to find a youtube clip for where he smacked down some broad and she went all shamu and started flipping over dishes of food. They had to call security after that. Hell, I just spent at least 15 minutes searching and can't find it. I don't even remember what episode it was in or I could go and try to clip it out myself. Oh well. You'll just have to take my word it was pretty sweet.

What amazes me about this show is the number of donkeys they let on it. I'm just baffled that so many idiots get through the screening process. Now, I understand you have to let at least a few flakes in because it makes for good tv when they fail, and fail spectacularly. Still, I can't help but think that when you're down to the final 5 or so, every single individual should have skills of some sort. It's ridiculous at that point to still have these donkeys running around screwing things up so blatantly. Maybe I've just been spoiled by Top Chef where the challenge is more your creativity as a chef and being able to produce something magnificant where in Hell's Kitchen, it's a miracle if these morons can follow simple directions.
discworld cohen candy

Not quite slumpie and slum gullet

It may sound sorta odd, but I'd really like some beef wellington right now. Last Tuesday when I got into Columbus, I spent a good part of the night watching tv. It had actually been the first time I'd turned one on in around 3 months. Anyway, one of the shows I watched was Hell's Kitchen, a Top Chef ripoff which also pits wannabe chefs against one another with a grand prize of a restaurant. Hell's Kitchen is a bit more lowbrow than Top Chef in that the participants aren't actually asked to create their own dishes as much as just be competent cooks and able to follow directions.

Anyway, one of the dishes that they were preparing that night was Beef Wellington. I had heard of it before but never actually knew what went into it. It looked pretty on tv and I made a mental note of it as being something to look up one day. Well, it slipped my mind until just tonight when I finished snagging all of season 1 of Hell's Kitchen and they were once again serving Beef Wellington. It seems that it must be a staple of the show and I took a time out to check out its wiki entry. Turns out that Beef Wellington is a preparation of beef tenderloin coated with pâté (often pâté de foie gras) and duxelles, which is then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. Sounds pretty good to me and I wouldn't mind snagging myself a slice. In a way, it's sort of like a suped up corndog of sorts.



Of course, my chances of actually getting a chance to try this are pretty slim. I almost never get out to restaurants anymore and the kind I would visit is unlikely to serve something like this. Well, not unless Applebees has dramatically altered their menu anyway. I've never been a foodie, but sometimes I think it might be interesting to try some new things. For instance, I've always wanted to give caviar a whirl. Not just any caviar but a little of the good stuff that you always see the neuvo riche raving about. I'm just curious if it could really be so good as to be worth a thousand dollars an ounce. Welp, maybe if I win the lottery one day I can find out.