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Hell’s Kitchen, July 6 – I Say Potato, You Say Coconut


Tonight Hell’s Kitchen is all about the taste buds. It is one of my favorite challenges of the season, blind taste tests. The cast this season seems short on skill compared to seasons past; it is anybody’s guess what is going to go wrong tonight. I sat down relaxed and ready to go, excited about tonight’s show; it didn’t take long to get my feathers in a fluff. Ben might be an experienced chef, but if I were a restaurateur he is one of the last people I would want leading my staff. He has some unknown unsubstantiated hatred of Fran. It’s my guess that if he doesn’t bring his ego in to check he won’t last much longer; watch … he will end up winning. Running a kitchen is about a lot more than just cooking skill.

Right away Chef Ramsay doesn’t disappoint this loyal fan tonight. While the chefs are upstairs getting ready, he is microwaving some nasty looking TV dinner. As they walk into the kitchen, he is putting the finishing garnishes on to his special dish. I wonder who the biggest kiss-up will be. He tells them that the dish they are about to taste is a featured brunch menu item at his restaurant. Nilka tells him it melts in her mouth; Fran thinks the chicken is delicious. Ben adds that the tomatoes add to the sauce, while Jay believes it has big, bold spices. Holli adds that she loves the dish, and Jay follows up that it is delicious. I don’t know how many of you have tasted microwaved chicken TV dinners, but they are nasty. Even in the best of them the chicken is processed and rubbery. After he reveals to them that it is a frozen dinner, Jay speaks up and says that he believed the chicken was watery.

Chef Ramsay brings them into the dining room and asks who has the best palette. Jay and Ben raise their hands. Fran speaks up and says she has a good palate and they all begin to laugh. I feel like I am in high school again with this year’s cast. I understand the entertainment factor, but I wish this show was truly about skilled chefs wanting to jumpstart their careers. It used to be, but somewhere along the way it has lost some of its credibility. Sad. Ben knows that Fran’s palate is not as good as his.

This challenge has the teams going up against each other. The chefs are blindfolded and fed the same food. They also wear headphones so that they cannot hear the other person’s guess. Each person is given a point for a correct answer. Autumn and Fran are up first. They both guess cabbage in the first round, but it is Brussels sprouts. Next they are given pork tenderloin. Autumn guesses turkey, and Fran guesses roast beef. For sweet potatoes, Autumn guesses carrots and Fran guesses parsnips. The last taste is coconut which Autumn tastes correctly; unfortunately for Fran she thinks its potatoes. I understand this challenge is more difficult than it would appear, but how does someone think coconut tastes anything like potatoes? I wonder if they try to smell the food before it enters their mouth. Blue team is awarded one point for this round.

Holli and Ed are the next set to go up for the challenge. Jason tells his team he is worried about Ed. I have been thinking that Ed might be a sleeper, maybe not. They are given ricotta cheese. They both think that it is polenta. Next up is chick peas which stump both also. Ed thinks it is turnip, and Holli thinks that it is lima beans. Heart of palm is the next culprit, Holli thinks pickled cabbage and Ed guesses artichoke. Trout wins Holli a point, Ed thinks it is canned tuna.

Ben and Jason are up next, and both win a point for fennel. Kidney beans are tricky; Jason thinks they are black eyed peas and Ben thinks they are overcooked white beans. I guess Ben was trying to be impressive by describing how they were cooked. Butter lettuce tastes like spinach to Ben and arugula to Jason. Mussels taste like clams to Ben and oysters to Jason. Chef Ramsay comments that he was surprised that Ben only got one out of four; Ben chalks it up to a bad day. The score is tied at two each.

That leaves Nilka and Jay. Kobe beef tastes like corned beef to Jay and turkey to Nilka. Cashew nuts stump them both also, Nilka says pistachios and Jay says almonds. One could say that is improvement since they both guessed a nut. They both guess cilantro correctly. Eggplant is the last food; the score is tied at 3. Jay believes it is roasted eggplant, while Nilka says prunes. Just like the coconut, as Fran I have to say what the heck, eggplant tastes like prunes? Blue wins another challenge. We have not seen the magazine cover reward yet, maybe that is today’s. Jay is happy that he has beaten Ben.

The reward is a VIP pass to SeaWorld including swimming with dolphins. I wonder if red is going to have to unload fish; yep its delivery day for the red team. Ice is the first delivery, followed up by cases of wine. Ben puts himself in charge of checking in the wine. Unfortunately for the red team, after they brought all the cases in, Jean Philippe informs them that this delivery was for Chef Ramsay’s London restaurant in L.A. Hasn’t anyone ever watched this show before? Geez it’s a given that they are going to mess up the orders. They have to reload the truck with the wine.

Over in blue Autumn is warming up to the dolphins and getting over her fear. It looks like a great day and a really fun reward.

The next delivery is a special delivery, one for red, one for blue. They are instructed not to open it until blue returns. It is a challenge. The box is filled with menus and a pad of newsprint to write up their menu. Each team is to create their own menu consisting of four appetizers, entrees and desserts. The diners will choose which kitchen they would like to eat in. The teams are taking two different avenues to complete their menu. The blue team decides easy but great tasting is the way to go. The red team seems to be relying on Ben to tell them what to do. Nilka’s lack of fine dining experience is starting to show as she does not know what most dishes are that Ben is suggesting. This includes mussels marinara. Nilka doesn’t stand up to Ben, though, to add ideas to the menu.

I don’t understand the red team. Ben is taking over and talking to them like they are his trained muppets. No one stands up and puts him in his place; they just look at each other and roll their eyes. Now I am rolling my eyes too. Ben is not a fan of serving rice in a restaurant because “it is poor food”. Seriously, he gives me agida. I always find myself pulling for the red team; it is always the women’s team. In what seems like a lifetime ago I had aspirations to be a great chef. I even was accepted into the most prestigious cooking school in the country, CIA Hyde Park, New York. This is a male dominated career and, being a woman, I always want them to succeed. This year however I just want the team gone. They let Ben belittle them and roll all over them and just sit there. They are part of the reason this field, 25 years later, is still so male dominated, in my opinion.


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