TV Review: Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen


I might be one of the only weirdos who loves cooking shows but is not much of a cook.

My menu for the week might have included hot dogs, spaghetti and frozen Lean Cuisines heated up in the oven. I recently halted my subscription to the Blue Apron meal delivery service because everything went bad before I could cook it. Sure, I would love to make cavatelli pasta with pork ragu or chipotle-roasted cauliflower.

But by the time I get home at the end of the day and can barely hold my eyes open, takeout or a five-minute fix sounds a lot more glamorous.

Especially whilst watching one of Gordon Ramsay’s cooking shows. I binge watched every single season of “Hell’s Kitchen,” which is a culinary competition in which amateur chefs compete for a $250,000 annual salary to run one of Chef Ramsay’s kitchen.

The work is grueling – they have to make cuisine they’ve never heard of; they have to do challenges to test their palates while blindfolded and wearing headphones and they have to cook under the great pressure of Ramsay yelling at them while celebrities sit in the dining room.

One of the challenges is called “Taste it, Now Make it” where they get a bite of a Ramsay signature dish and have to recreate it down to the seasoning.

It does increase my blood pressure to see this kind of stressful environment, but it also inspires me to be a little more creative with my cooking and make the best use of my leftovers.

It also reminds me that if I smell something rancid when I open the refrigerator, it’s time to edit the inventory.

These cooking shows have made me very skeptical of using frozen food or packaged rice or just adding ranch dressing to make everything more flavorful. Honestly, I had to Google “risotto” because it seems to be a highly popular item in Ramsay’s restaurants and it looks to me like a skillet of Uncle Ben’s rice.

Cooking is a great hobby because here’s the thing: you have to eat. Why not make it good and good for you? Our waistlines and our budgets suffer when we eat crap food. Ramen noodles are cheap but all that sodium … and who knows how long that sat on the shelf of the dollar store? It might be worth the splurge to just try making a protein and vegetable for dinner rather than taking the easy way out.

Gordon Ramsay scares me but from his shows, I have learned a thing or two about the importance of keeping a clean kitchen and creating meals with flavor and substance. The portions of meat should be the size of your fist, and you lose 45 seconds on the heat every time you open the oven. Those are some pro tips I can use.

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