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'Hell's Kitchen' turns 100

February 25, 2010 | 10:13 am


"Hell's Kitchen" overlord Chef Gordon Ramsay is celebrating 100 episodes in the can. That's 100 episodes of berrating, threatening, cajoling, shaming, humiliating — and inspiring chefs to culinary heights.

Chef Ramsay racked up other notable "HK" numbers: Eight seasons, 116 chefs, 13 medical emergencies, including one person (Robert) hospitalized twice, 10,000 guests who have walked through the doors of "Hell's Kitchen" for a live dinner service — although not all of them ever get their food. And about 2,500 filets of Beef Wellington cooked — but only about five that actually made it into the dining room.

But no recap of 100 episodes of Fox's hit cooking competition would be complete without recalling the heated, expletive-laden showdown between Chef Ramsay, who stood his ground, unflinching, as he was charged by a former Marine, Joseph, and challenged to a fight out in the parking lot. Instead, Chef Ramsay just booted him out the door.

Chef Ramsay, who joked, "Let's make one thing clear, I'm nobody's ..." -- fans who watched that episode know what word the Michelin-starred chef used, but alas we cannot -- said that he was actually sorry to see Joseph go in such a manner. He clearly had talent, he presumably had self-discipline (not that it was exhibited during "HK") and had a chance at going far in the competition, the chef said. But he lacked an ability to keep his mouth shut. "It was a shame, really," Chef Ramsay said of the ouster.

Chef Ramsay said that the format of "Hell's Kitchen" appears to be working just fine — competitors scramble to survive Ramsay's boot camp for a shot at a high-profile, high-paying job in the restaurant industry. And Ramsay said he never decides who will get kicked off until the very moment that he blurts out the name and orders him or her to "Take off your jacket and leave 'Hell's Kitchen,' " because it adds to the palpable tension in the room. But he said he still wants to shake things up and introduce new challenges. He also wants to see a live finale where viewers get to choose the winner. "I want a live final ... I want to hand it over to them ... and give them that level of responsibility." (I offered up one suggestion: Chef Ramsay doing some more cooking in front of the cameras.)  

Next up for Chef Ramsay is "Master Chef," which takes people who have a passion for cooking -- but no formal training -- and trains them. "That's my next ambition," said Chef Ramsay, who called it a chef's version of "American Idol."

The show's executive producers, Kent Weed and Arthur Smith, said some things will never change about "Hell's Kitchen" -- a live dinner service, which ratchets up the tension, prizes and punishments, and the  blindfold challenge, which truly separates the chefs from the wannabes. But they are tinkering with the format in some ways. Also one possibility on the horizon: a "where are they now" show.

The men said it's unclear whether "Hell's Kitchen" will have syndication legs. And they said that they, too, were sad to see Joseph go. (Let's face it, continuing fireworks between Chef Ramsay and Joseph, the first "HK" contestants who had no problem backtalking, made for great TV. "We were on the edge," Smith said. "We had no idea ... it was intense."

But arguably the most startling moment to come out of the 100th episode celebration, with glasses of Champagne, red velvet layer cake and Chef Ramsay's casually elegant wife, Tana, and their four young children in attendance, was Chef Ramsay striking a note of humility: "It's not me, I can assure you," Chef Ramsay said of the show's success. "I'm backed up by the most amazing team," he said, motioning to the Fox honchos, executive producers and the crew surrounding him. "Without you guys, I'm nobody."

— Rene Lynch
On Twitter @renelynch

Photo credit: Rene Lynch / Los Angeles Times