Gordon Ramsay’s hit reality cooking competition show Hell’s Kitchen is one of the most challenging competition shows to be on. For starters, the contestants have got a furious Gordon Ramsay screaming sweary insults down their ears all the time. And then there’s the fierce competition with each other and the fact that the losers don’t get to just leave with their dignity – they are subjected to various “punishments”. You have to be one tough cookie if you’re going to hack it on this show, currently in its eighteenth season. Here are 10 things that you (probably) didn’t know about Hell’s Kitchen.
10. The restaurant customers love the drama going on in the kitchen
Robert Hesse, who was a contestant on the sixth season of the show, has explained exactly how it works when all of the behind the scenes drama is going on just a few feet away from a bunch of customers who are eating in a restaurant. As it turns out, it doesn’t ruin their dining experience – in fact, they love it. Hesse said, “It is almost like dinner theater”. The diners love watching Gordon erupt on people and seeing the inter-contestant drama. Hesse said of these rubbernecking diners, “They want their five seconds of fame”. That’s what it’s all about. People want to be famous. They want to be on TV. Andy Warhol said that in the future, everyone would get fifteen minutes of fame. Our fast food internet culture has condensed that to five seconds and that’s what Gordon Ramsay’s show offers to the diners in whatever restaurant of his they are shooting in for that particular season. It makes sense. If you were in a restaurant, and in the kitchen of that restaurant, you could hear Gordon Ramsay yelling at a bunch of incompetent chefs, you wouldn’t be annoyed – you’d go over there to get a closer look!
9. Gordon Ramsay thought the latest season of the show was the best so far
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly to promote the new season of the show, Gordon Ramsay revealed that he thinks that the latest season of the long running cooking competition show is “without a doubt” the best out of all eighteen. He also said that what he finds the most exciting about the show is the fact that the contestants have come from backgrounds without the resources to go to culinary school, but with the eagerness to make it as a chef. Discussing the new season of the show, Ramsay said that he was most excited this year about “the rookies”. That’s the theme of the season this year: it is all about young and hungry and talented chefs who could not afford to go to culinary school, but do want to cook, taking on the professionals. It is heated and it is exciting and Gordon loves it. He gets that millennials these days can learn things on YouTube and other online sources. You don’t necessarily have to go and get yourself into hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt to learn how to cook anymore. Those people are the contestants on the show this year and it’s very exciting.
8. Contestants aren’t allowed to eat in the restaurant
Despite the fact that they spend weeks on end cooking in a brilliant restaurant under the tutelage of Gordon Ramsay, the contestants on this show are not actually allowed to eat at the restaurant. They are expected to make meals for themselves in the little kitchenette in the corner of the room that they are put up in for the duration of a season’s production. Seth Levin, who was a contestant in the sixth season of the show, has explained exactly how the food schedule of the contestants works. He said there is a little kitchen in the dorm where you’re staying and contestants have to hash together a sandwich quickly within the hour that they get off between the different parts of the show. It’s not long. We spend so much time watching them make food for other people that it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that they need to eat food themselves. The diners aren’t so hard done to. In fact, according to one of them, they have an open bar to feast on. Levin says you can have “all the free beer and wine and bread you want” when you’re featured on the show.
7. Gordon is surrounded by bodyguards
On screen, Gordon Ramsay can appear to be very tough and brave as he squares off with just about everybody on the show when he butts heads with them. But it turns out there’s a bunch of bodyguards that we can’t see. Robert Hesse, a contestant from the sixth season of the show, has explained that Ramsay is always surrounded by a bunch of bodyguards who do not appear on camera, but are there at all times, ready to pounce if an argument that Ramsay is having with a contestant actually turns from a verbal encounter into a physical encounter. During the shooting of every episode, Gordon is surrounded by what Hesse calls “a few Suge Knight looking [guys] waiting to break some necks”. The cameras are always rolling, too, and they are everywhere. Seth Levin from season 6 said that there are unseen cameras who are waiting to capture a spontaneous kick-off behind some mirrors on both sides of the kitchen. Gordon has protection up the wazoo. He’ll be fine. Meanwhile, he has the camera crew out in the dining room, going from table to table to shoot the diners’ reactions to the food. That crew ain’t missing a beat.
6. Contestants are sent to rehab after they get kicked out
One of the crew members who have worked on the set of the show has revealed that when contestants get kicked out of the show, they are set to a therapist to have their mind put back together. After being torn a new one by Gordon Ramsay and then being booted from the competition of a lifetime and then being subjected to horrific “punishments” on the way out as a way of a final insult, contestants can be left feeling very fragile and depressed. So, the show’s producers send them straight to a psychiatric evaluation at the end of their stint on the show to ensure that they are not a danger to themselves or to others. The source from the show’s production said that the experience of being on the show is sometimes “quite draining” for the contestants, so in order to keep them from becoming either suicidal or homicidal (or both), the producers send them to rehab. It is a gorgeous, giant house in the middle of nowhere that has a spa where you can decompress before you are released back into the world. So, it’s not all doom and gloom when you get kicked off the show – you go to a spa/rehab center.
5. ITV executives’ meddling sent Gordon Ramsay to the American version of the show
It is a sad truth that in the television business, network executives will sometimes have their own ideas for a show that they think will make it better or at least more successful when they definitely won’t. More often than not, the creators of these shows will disagree with the ideas that the network executives have and therefore they will butt heads. It messes with their vision of what the show should be and it leads to long running feuds between the creators and the networks. In this case, ITV was pushing for Gordon Ramsay to include celebrity contestants on the show instead of budding chefs who want to test their mettle and build a career in the kitchen and get their names out there and prove their worth. So, rather than having aspiring chefs competing against each other in a cooking competition, it would be people who are already famous and can’t cook competing against each other. It would be like having movie stars and famous athletes on singing competition shows instead of aspiring singers. It was a terrible idea. Okay, people might watch it for the fact that celebrities are on it, but there would be absolutely no point to it. So, this asinine idea is what led Ramsay to turn his back on the British version of the show and head to the American one.
4. Fox executives were all for Gordon’s vision for the show
ITV executives thought that celebrity contestants would work for this show. Their development boss at the time said that the joy of it would be seeing Gordon yelling insults at powerful people. It’s all well and good to have him yell at little people who always get yelled at, they thought, but it would be something else entirely to have him yell at powerful people who you know from TV who never get yelled at. They wanted to have Members of Parliament on the show, so that the British public could see their least favorite politicians get torn a new one by Gordon Ramsay. That’s what they had in mind for the show, and if you think about it that way, it does sound like it would be fun to watch. But that’s not what Gordon Ramsay had in mind as his vision for the show. Executives for the Fox network, however, were more in line with his vision. They loved his idea for the series. Mike Darnell, their head of alternative programming, was particularly interested, according to ITV’s Paul Jackson, who helped to sell the show overseas. According to Jackson, Darnell responded to the pressure cooker atmosphere of the kitchen. He also loved Gordon as the star and, of course, the title.
3. The producers like to trick applicants
Since her stint on the show, contestant Ariel Malone has opened up about what it’s really like to be featured on the show, including the application process. Apparently, there is an application that you fill out and then you get an on camera interview where they ask you the same questions that they asked you in the application. They basically want to get an idea of a potential contestant’s personality, because that is what the viewers are going to get invested in. It doesn’t really matter so much if they’re a good cook; it’s about how competitive you are or how funny you are or how aggressive you are. Is there a hook to you that will make you interesting to watch? Also, the producers don’t want viewers who have been watching this show for almost twenty years to get a sense of what they’re looking for and how the show plays out, so they like to trick applicants. Malone described one nightmare situation where she was told they would all be going out to eat, so she dressed up with six inch heels on, and then they were taken straight to a plane and flown out to cook a dish somewhere.
2. There is a Hell’s Kitchen video game
A video game being based on a TV series is nothing new. When a brand becomes popular, whoever is in charge of that brand’s bank account will be happy to plaster its name all over whatever merchandise they can in order to make the largest amount of money possible. But it is surprising that a video game has been based on a reality TV cooking show. These TV show games are usually based on shows that revolve around aliens or zombies or werewolves, you know, things that are fun to play around with on an LED screen. The game has been described as “a time management cooking video game”. That doesn’t exactly scream thrills and excitement. It’s hardly blasting spaceships out of the sky or beating up ninja warriors. There are two modes in the gameplay: “Career” and “Arcade”. In the “Career” mode, you build up a crummy little diner into a five star restaurant. In the “Arcade” mode, you simply cook food for the sake of it and have a good time with it. Unsurprisingly, the video game did not get some of the best reviews in the marketplace: GamesRadar gave it two and a half stars and Serious Eats gave it a C- grade.
1. Gordon Ramsay has never regretted an insult he’s said to a contestant
The insults that Gordon Ramsay hurls at the contestants are among the most famous things about this show. It is a big selling point and it is the driving force behind why a lot of people watch it in the first place. Because he doesn’t just say mean things to people, he’s very creative about them. A lot of his insults have become memes. Gordon says that his philosophy behind the whole thing is that when a contestant lies to him, then they have insulted him in a way, and then he feels free to insult them in a more real way. He has said that his favorites out of his own insults against people are “I’ve forgotten more than you know,” and “The butternut squash, would like it diced and rammed up your backside”? He does not watch his own show, and so he never sees himself and thinks to himself that he regrets saying such shocking insults to people. He has also said that he stands by what he says, and so if he was angry enough at any given time to insult someone with a lot of swears, then they probably deserved it and he stands by that.