Chef gets personal with the women

Times Staff Writer

There’s really only one reason to watch “Hell’s Kitchen”: to see just how high chef Gordon Ramsay can turn up the heat on his charges.

Using colorful from-across-the-pond language like “donkey” and “cow,” combined with other spicy adjectives and expletives, the British chef heaps all kinds of verbal abuse on the men and women who have made a deal with this devil, signing away any shred of self-respect for their shot at running a professional kitchen. Contestants do little more than try to keep their faces from crumpling up and respond, “Yes, chef!”

Monday night’s episode, though, seemed to cross an unwritten boundary in this S&M; mash-up.

When things went from bad to worse for the four women on the red team (they served a bride-to-be and her fiance an overcooked duck breast on a plate -- that’s it, no garnish, no sauce, no sprig of parsley), Ramsay turned on them with a vengeance. “You four hell’s bitches,” he said. “I am embarrassed ... that was a joke. You should be ashamed.” And then he banished them from his kitchen.


It certainly isn’t the first time the term “hell’s bitches” has been used during this season, but previously it was invoked by the blue team, and it was impossible not to catch the strong whiff of misogyny when that term was used not in jest or with affection, but in anger.

But chef Ramsay?

It might have also been excused as a one-time lapse for a chef who curses a blue streak and whose comments are sometimes indecipherable given the censor’s bleeps. But he did it again and again while dressing down Melissa, who was nagging teammates into following her, and then distancing herself when anything went astray. (At one point, Ramsay also told her she looked like a “jumped-up little cave woman” too. We didn’t get it either. Must be a British thing.)

Melissa appeared to be heading out of Hell’s Kitchen after her pitiful performance -- she was responsible for the overcooked duck breast, among other slip-ups -- but in a surprising twist was asked to hand over her red cooking jacket and don a blue one.

With that, she joined the men’s team (heaven help them, they’ll need it), and the remaining women will finally be left to prove whether they were indeed a sad lot in need of a leader or emerging leaders who needed the shrill Melissa only to get out of their way.

So why didn’t Melissa -- who remains a front-runner -- or any of the other women pick up a hot frying pan and smack Ramsay upside the head to protest his use of a term that really goes a step too far?

Ah, that’s right, this is reality TV, and there’s a prize to be had, so any self-respect goes into a doggie bag.



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