The Summer Heat Is Coming From the Kitchens: Cooking Reality Shows Serve Up Lots of Mean

By , Contributor

Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef and Hell’s Kitchen continue the cursing tradition with some extra spicy contender humiliation. Bobby Flay’s The Next Food Network Star is a bit gentler on the ears but still the contenders are chastised and/or eliminated as the cooking wars of the summer of 2011 blaze brightly.

Here’s an update on this season’s cooking wars, for now the contenders of all three shows have become more familiar to viewers.

It’s very much part of the design of reality TV for the contenders, over the course of the episodes, to endear themselves to viewers or enrage them. While feuds, grudges, and personal vendettas are not always totally scripted, I suspect the producers do intentionally play them up so that the viewers become involved with the on-screen dramas. The viewers will, of course, continue to tune in so they not only see who wins the actual competition but can root or hoot, as the case may be.

hells-kitchen-logo.jpgWe begin with Hell’s Kitchen, the Gordon Ramsey vehicle that has been so successful for this chef of international renown. As of this writing there are 13 competing chefs in this competition to win a position as head chef of Manhattan restaurant BLT Steak.

The Hell’s Kitchen formula continues with a mini-challenge at the beginning. These few past episodes had the contenders properly preparing beef from “rare” to “well-done” and presenting a chicken dish to a sophisticated panel of cooking magazine chefs. After an afternoon of racing cars for the winners, there is, of course, a service in Hell’s Kitchen.

This service was fairly routine with a lot of cussing, Ramsay spitting out badly cooked food, entire entrees dramatically thrown into the trash. There was one incident during this service that even had me paying closer attention to hear through the cussing bleeps.

It was contender Monterray, normally a quiet, easygoing sort. He committed some mortal sin or another, perhaps not correctly searing the scallops. Ramsay’s sous chef, a regular on the show who works with the contenders during the meal service, got poor Monterray back into a corner and cussed and berated the man till I almost had tears in my eyes. For his part, Monterray was, in a solo camera vignette, taking a tough-guy stance, declaring how he’ll not be talked to so shabbily, that he’ll fight back. Only a sous chef has way more power than a lowly Hell’s Kitchen contender, particularly a sous chef hired for, trained by, and paid by Gordon Ramsay.

I suppose this was extra dramatic scripting encouraged by the producers but it worked. I felt so sorry for Monterray but he did live to tell the story. Later he was put up for elimination, interesting in that his cooking faux pas was not all that big a deal. Contender Chino, ultimately, had to hang up his apron and leave Hell’s Kitchen.

Meanwhile, the more refined The Next Food Network Star is now down to five contenders. Now is the time that this show begins to attract more attention beyond the food reality TV junkies. All of the finalists - Vic of the tattoos, Susie of the Mexican food, Whitney who’s still a bit stiff in front of the camera, Jeff the king of the sandwich, and Mary Beth, a camera perfect home cook type - are all possibilities to win the grand prize, their own Food Network show. My money’s on Vic this week but I reserve the right to change this as the clock counts down.

rachael-ray.jpgThis past week the contenders appeared on Rachael Ray’s show and most did a good job. Jyll was sent home not because Jyll couldn’t cook very well, not because she’s not camera material. It’s just that the other five were so much better.

Finally there is MasterChef, another Ramsay vehicle running almost hand in hand with Hell’s Kitchen. I’m sad to report that my Twitter buddy and early choice for this contest was eliminated this week. Well, Alejandra did serve raw pork, a big no-no in the world of chefs.

In fact the challenge this week for the MasterChef contenders was to create a dish out of a cut of pork, said part of the pig determined by contender Adrien who won the earlier mystery box challenge. Alejandra’s cut of pork was pork loin chops; goodness how simple a dish is this? Alejandra didn’t check both sides of that chop but the judges did.

Alejandra wasn’t the only female contender to receive the wrath of the judges. Suzy chose to prepare a German dish and has not shown any greatness as a cook here, and I predict she’ll be going soon.

Meanwhile, MasterChef’s drama queen Jennifer was berated horribly by judge Joe Bastianich. Once again we have a Ramsay colleague doing the very nasty mean thing. He had Jennifer sobbing, and while Jennifer does tend to overdo it, Bastianich was unnecessarily cruel.

Does Ramsay’s tendency to get rough rub off?

The Next Food Network Star can be seen on Sundays at 9p/8c. MasterChef airs on FOX, Mondays and Tuesdays at 9p/8c. Hell’s Kitchen airs on FOX on Tuesdays at 8p/7c.

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Pat Fish has been a blogger for almost ten years. She has been published numerous times in the Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort book series and wrote for Blogcritics. She has written a few books and vows to write till death does part her from the keyboard. Pat loves to write about current…

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