HELL'S KITCHEN is back, whether you wanted it or not.
Gordon Ramsay returned to the titular fire-and-brimstone kitchen/eatery this week, kicking off the fourth season of the cooking competition. This season's prize? A gig as exec chef at Ramsay's new LA-based restaurant, London LA.
If you're alarmed (as I was) by what appears to be a personality-driven downgrade in the casting over at Bravo's TOP CHEF, just wait till you get a load of the contestants FOX has trotted out for this go-round with Ramsay. I remember watching the first season of the show and being impressed by chefs like Michael and Ralph (the season 1 finalists). By the time we got to Season 3 not only was I duly unimpressed by the contestants but I wasn't sure I'd want any of them to cook for me.
Watching this week's season premiere it's safe to say that if I saw any of these contestants behind the counter at a local eatery I'd contemplate running the other way. Fast.
Contestants for this year include the usual mix of current and former cooks, with some of the latter currently doing everything from working as a stay-at-home dad (Dominic) to a receptionist in a law office (Rosann, whose unbelievably annoying accent had me scrambling for the mute button every time she opened her mouth).
Beyond that you have the incredibly mouthy Bobby (who proclaimed himself to be "The Black Gordon Ramsay"), sexually ambiguous Louross, mousy gal Vanessa, mousy guy Craig (who wore a huge toque until Ramsay berated him into taking it off), lazy guy Jake (who spent the early part of this week's service smoking and massaging his feet), and a bunch of other contestants who seem cast because they'll remind us of past contestants.
Have to mention Philly's own Matt Sigel, though. Sigel, who works as a sous chef at the Radisson Warwick in Center City, launched himself into HELL'S KITCHEN lore with the unappetizing signature dish of raw venison, diver scallop, caviar and white chocolate. A bite or two had the short-fused, foul-mouthed host hurling into a nearby trashcan like yours truly after a run-in with tequila!
Sigel, whose face has the perpetually pinched look of somebody who smells something that's gone bad, apparently used to be known as Matt Bloch but changed his name to Sigel after marrying his wife Ellen Sigel.
By show's end, Dominic – whose kitchen performance would be hard to defend – got the boot over Blue Team "captain" Bobby, whose entire contribution to the dinner service appeared to be avoiding any kind of cooking and carrying around a squeeze bottle.