Hell’s Kitchen: A Struggle Between Entertainment and Relevance

Every television show needs to have the right balance between entertainment and value of purpose. Especially when it comes to reality TV. Watching Hell’s Kitchen, I struggle with its balance.

The winning chef of this show will be rewarded with their own restaurant in Hollywood. You would think they would be learning how to be an expert chef and run a restaurant. The name in itself, Hell’s Kitchen, implies there’s probably something more to it. It seems the balance tips the way of entertainment before it tips the way of teaching these chefs how to be the head chef of a restaurant. Then again, it is on Fox.

The expert chef in charge of teaching these burgeoning chefs is Chef Gordon Ramsay. Before the show even started he was being compared to Simon Cowell, the American Idol judge with a sardonic wit. At least Cowell’s way of speaking to contestants has a purpose. He has stated that’s the way it is in the music business. If they were auditioning for a record producer they would be spoke to even worse, so the contestants are learning the ways of the business.

But the chefs on Hell’s Kitchen are not auditioning to work for a tyrant chef; they are trying to win their own kitchen and live the American dream of owning their own business. Why would they need to be spoken to in this manner?

Even some of the punishments and rewards for challenges leave me scratching my head at purpose. In one show the teams were woken up early and forced to watch a demonstration on how to set a proper table. Each team was then given five minutes to set it correctly. Well alright. If they owned a real restaurant they wouldn’t get much sleep and would have to oversee table service setting. Understandable.

The losing team had to polish two hundred glasses and all of the silverware. The winning team got to have massages, facials and pedicures. The losing team used their freshly polished glassware and served the winning team champagne. Is this what would happen if you owned your own restaurant? If you did a good job setting the table you’d get pampered, if you did it wrong you’d have to polish everything?

After their long day of polishing and pedicures, the teams were relaxing outside and they saw a huge billboard of Chef Ramsay watching them. I thought Big Brother started next month. I’m hoping the nearby neighbor kids weren’t too frightened by his devilish image.

Chef Ramsay reappeared again the following day as the teams were challenged to see who could serve fifteen dinners the quickest. Chef Ramsay went between the two kitchens barking at everyone, to which they were only allowed to say, “Yes, Chef.” When the risotto was bland on three orders, he made the kitchen start the three meal services over completely from start to finish … twice. When the risotto chef was kicked off the show at the end, she had to hang her chef’s jacket, impaling it on a meat hook.

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to eat in that kitchen, no matter how good the food might taste. Not when the chefs are treated so horribly. I kept thinking they’d get so mad at Chef Ramsay they’d spit or pee in the food.

Sure, it’s entertaining as “Hell” to watch people ordered around like that. I admit I was entertained. But what are they learning? That in order to succeed in life they have to be treated poorly? Or maybe all kitchens are like that. Maybe when Emeril says, “Bam” he’s really smacking his employees around.

Hell’s Kitchen has that odd balance. It’s one of those that you watch, not being able to stay away, but knowing after the show is done, that the success of those involved will be in question. Just like some of the lame dating shows out there. We know most of these couples won’t last. I just wonder what the success of the winner’s restaurant will be, and if they will now learn to treat their employees as horribly.?

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