Season 9 of Hell’s Kitchen is over and Gordon Ramsay totally picked the wrong dude.
How do I know this?
Because I’m desperate enough to watch anything that’s A) free online and B) involves food, with the possible exception of that week on Survivor when everybody was playing tonsil hockey with the herpes boar. Gnarly, gnarly times.
Anyway, Hell’s Kitchen. Not to spoil anything, but Ramsay picked Paul, the cocky young upstart with great wingspan and upside, over Jennifer and the other Ted Washington-sized contestant, Will, both the kitchen equivalent of four-year college starters putting up steady numbers.
It was the upset of the season, narrowly edging out the remarkable fact that Ramsay went the entire series without referring to Jennifer as a “fat cow” on tape. I’m guessing that, with all the barely concealed race-baiting toward Elise, the head-wagging, trash-talking kitchen lovechild of Rasheed Wallace and JR Smith, the producers felt they’d already exceeded their political incorrectness quotient for the season. Which, considering Ramsay is involved, is saying something.
Paul’s victory is just the latest proof that Ramsay’s the Al Davis of the kitchen, a paranoid, old-school dude who picks based on narrative and potential while ignoring every possible red flag or quantifiable measurement.
By all rights, Hell’s Kitchen should have produced a big, steaming pile of four-star chefs by now. Gordo’s got an immense budget, a national platform and the whole US of A as his talent pool yet, as we’ll see in a minute, he’s produced about as many top chefs as the Waffle House down the road from my freshman apartment. He’s got what’s essentially the easiest GM job ever. There’s no salary cap, no collective bargaining agreement — absolutely no regulation whatsoever.
Imagine what would happen if you gave Ramsay’s profile and money to any of those AAU creepos from Play Their Hearts Out. Within a week, they’d have have a squad of seven-foot future all-pros, four spin-off reality shows and an urban clothing line called “hewpZ.” Meanwhile, all Ramsay’s produced is a steady trickle of burnouts and wannabes. Which brings me to the season-by-season breakdown.
WARNING: This post spoils past seasons of Hell’s Kitchen. If you are the sort of person who cares about past seasons of Hell’s Kitchen, stop reading now. Also, take a few minutes to reassess your priorities.
Season 1 (Summer, 2005)
He ran a couple restaurants, none of them affiliated with Ramsay, then tried to start his own Hell’s Kitchen themed restaurant in Arizona. It has, much like his career, completely failed to get off the ground. In the mean time, he’s living with his parents and teaching cooking classes at the Cochise College Center for Lifelong Learning.
The highlight of his Sr. Chang-style career switch? The following actual quote from a Cochise spokesperson, as told to the Arizona Daily Star‘s Valerie Vinyard: “It is rare that one would have an opportunity to take a course from a chef of his caliber at such a low price.”
Also, he’s got a tattoo of a Dungeness crab somewhere on his body. My money’s on upper pecs, with one pincer drawn as if it’s tweaking his left nipple.
Teaching cash-strapped housewives the joys of sauces. Which, coincidentally, is also the name of a Ramsay-themed script he’s pitching to Cinemax.
Season 2 (Summer, 2006)
For a while, she was the executive chef at some restaurant in Long Island. It closed, but not before it pulled in 2.5 stars on Yelp, which puts it a star behind my local Dunkin’ Donuts.
Building on that gangbusters start, Reality Television’s self-appointed First Lesbian Winner will now deep-frying stuff and become head chef of what I hope is Long Island’s only jellyfish-themed restaurant, if it ever opens.
Waiting around for the chance to flip jellyfish for day-trippers from North Jersey.
Season 3 (Summer, 2007)
The good news? ‘Chef Rock’ qualifies for his own Wikipedia entry. The bad news? He clearly wrote it himself. After an entire pint of schnapps. The best news? He’s currently teaching at ‘Stratford University,’ which, according to Wikipedia, is a “wholly owned subsidiary of The American Transportation Institute, Inc.” In other words, he teaches anyone with a mid-life crisis and two nickels to rub together how to make their own mayonnaise. At a trucking school.
He also wrote a book. It has three reviews on Amazon. I have a feeling that’s because that’s how many aliases he forced his roommate to create before the poor bastard gnawed his own arm off to escape. My favorite review is the one that tries to beef up the dude’s credentials by crowing that “he even has his own website.” Well, then!
Did I mention that he’s teaching cooking at a trucking school?
Season 4 (Summer, 2008)
As far as I can tell, she’s “bridging the gap between food and wine” at B Cellars in California. She appears to be moderately successful, but not so much that the B Cellars website doesn’t ask you to “please email firstname.lastname@example.org” to reserve a spot at their “Wine Tasting & Gourmet Box Lunch on the Patio.”
Contact person for a $35 box of lunch. I didn’t watch Season 3, but I’m reasonably confident Ramsay wasn’t listing that as one of the prizes.
Season 5 (Spring, 2009)
According to this hard-hitting Volusia County Hometown News profile, he only lasted a few months at his Ramsay-assigned New Jersey kitchen, and now has “big plans” to launch “an on-line culinary store selling equipment and focusing on hunting and camping.”
Wannabe webmaster. Which puts him on the same level as the one sloppy-drunk Alabama redneck who fell for those godawful Danica Patrick strip-teaser ads and visited GoDaddy.com, but behind the 828 million people who have actually figured out how to register a domain name.
Season 6 (Fall, 2009)
He originally got posted to a restaurant in Whistler, BC, but eventually bailed. As far as I can tell, he’s now in Nashville, helping his sister release an album. If he’s back in restaurants, the internet doesn’t know about it yet.
Season 7 (Summer, 2010)
As far as I can tell, after totally failing to get a visa to work at the Savoy Grill in London, she’s resorted to food blogging. Crud.
International fugitive and unemployed food blogger. Like me, only without a day job. Or a wangly-dangly.
Season 8 (Winter, 2010)
She has a job! She’s the Chef de Cuisine at LA Market, which is part of LA Live. I assume this means she’s the lady who operates the rotating weenie warmer at the Staples Center.
Re-heating Blake Griffin’s hot dogs.
Those of you who have been following along at home will note that, after burning through thousands of applicants and hundreds of on-screen contestants, Gordon Ramsay has picked exactly two winners who are now employed by something resembling a restaurant (that one wine cellar and concessions at LA Live, respectively). Counting all eight past winners, that’s a 25 percent success rate. Which, considering the national exposure and connections each contestant starts out with, is Billy King-level pathetic.
As my brief career as a line cook should amply demonstrate, it’s not hard to get hired in a kitchen. Yet, despite being given an honest-to-goodness job as part of winning the show, the vast majority of Ramsay’s picks haven’t managed to hold anything resembling a steady cooking gig, something millions of felons and undocumented immigrants somehow manage to do every single day.
I understand Ramsay’s in the business of television, not human resources, but that doesn’t make him any worse of a talent evaluator. By consistently picking cocky outsiders over steady performers, he has effectively set up winners to fail, despite the fact that entire show is built on the premise that he’s sculpting America’s culinary future. Maybe, just maybe, a penchant for “mavericks,” systematic psychological abuse and a super-duper creepy cult of personality aren’t the foundations on which to build a talent-producing machine?
I just wish someone had told that to Al Davis before it was too late.