Powered by i.TV
April 19, 2014

Five reasons why Top Chef tops Hell's Kitchen

by Allison Waldman, posted Mar 16th 2009 11:02AM
TC/HKWhen it comes to cooking competition shows, the two that consistently make the grade are Bravo's Top Chef and Fox's Hell's Kitchen. But while the two shows are ostensibly both about aspiring chefs competing for a prime position -- to beat the competition and emerge as number one -- there are really more things about the shows that separate them.

In terms of quality competition, food expertise and cooking skills, Top Chef is superior to Hell's Kitchen. They're both fun to watch, and I have followed every season of each of them. But the main thing they have in common is the kitchen. Read my five reasons and see if you don't agree with me that Top Chef has it all over Hell's Kitchen.

1. Point of the show
What the heck is the point of Hell's Kitchen? The show claims that the winner will get a one-year contract as the executive chef at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant -- this season it's the Borgata in Atlantic City. In order to win, the contestant has to survive the competition by pleasing Gordon. It's all about Ramsay. Doing it his way. Cooking his dishes. Bending to his will, proving his/her cooking chops only to Mr. Ramsay. He's the ultimate Michelin star. You also have endure his yelling at you like a drill sergeant. Nobody yells on Top Chef. The contestants are given numerous challenges involving all kinds of dishes. They have to be creative and intuitive. If you're on Hell's Kitchen, the main goal is to perfect the lobster spaghetti, the beef Wellington, the risotto. Occasionally, the grunts are asked to cook something, but that's usually just an excuse for Gordon to spit out the results. Top Chef rewards the winner with $100,000 to apply to their career, one that is by and large not connected to the show. Hell's Kitchen winners still have to work for Ramsay.

2. Gordon Ramsay vs. Tom Colicchio
I think Chef Gordon Ramsay is terrific. I've watched his BBC America shows, however, and he seems like a different person. He's still caustic and foul-mouthed, but he also really cooks and gets into the kitchen. In Hell's Kitchen, Gordon is like the warden in a prison. Top Chef also has a strong chef in a leadership role, Tom Colicchio. And like Ramsay, Chef Tom has a reputation built on successful restaurants from coast to coast. On TC, Tom is the main judge, but he's not the only one. There are guest chefs of the highest order -- like Eric Ripert and Wyle Dufresne -- plus Food & Wine Magazine's Gail Simmons, Toby Young, Ted Allen, et. al. On Hell's Kitchen, only Ramsay matters, and every dish is his recipe in his style. That makes the chefs basically drones. Occasionally, they get the chance to create -- like the abysmal bar mitzvah episode -- but as viewers, we never get into the food and how it was created. On TC, the food comes from the competitors, and we know how they came up with the dishes and why. The food is the star as much as the chefs.

3. Class structure
It's hard to believe the titles attached to some of the contestants on Hell's Kitchen, I mean seriously. Some of those participants boast titles like Executive Chef or the head mistress of a culinary school, but they can't figure out how to cook pasta. On the other hand, there have been line cooks and self-taught chefs on Top Chef, like Mike who was a Bennigans/Friday's cook, but they just don't seem as low rent as the Hell's Kitchen crews. It's like the HK recruits have to pass a Fox Reality Test, meaning they're ready to throwdown and rumble at the drop of a hat. They also have to act impressed by Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous rewards ("We're taking a helicopter to a spa!") or suffer humiliating punishments (going through the garbage after a dinner service to assess the level of wasted food). Top Chef doesn't punish the chefs. Of course, one funny truth is that while the perception of Hell's Kitchen is that they're blue collar and apt to explode into violence, it was on Top Chef that two contestants jumped Marcel in season two and tried to shave his head. They were drunk at the time, but still.

4. Cooking skills
Have you noticed that you never learn a single thing about cooking on Hell's Kitchen? Do you know how to make the tomato butter sauce or that mushroom risotto? They've been serving the latter every season and Gordon has yet to give a lesson in the art of making risotto. You know how the beef Wellingtons burn all the time? Why not teach viewers how to make one at home? Over on Top Chef, not only do you see the chefs actually making dishes, over on the website they break it down, show you how, and offer recipes. The goal of Hell's Kitchen is to get through the service, to complete the night by getting all the customers fed. The goal of Top Chef is dependent on each week's challenge. The TC contestants have to master more skills than just feeding a restaurant with the same dishes week in and week out.

5. Where would you want to eat?
Ultimately, ask yourself this question: would you rather eat the food created in Hell's Kitchen or would you rather try the Top Chef fare? For me the answer is simple. Top Chef. Whether it's Harold, Stephanie, Ilan, Hung or Hosea, I would welcome anything created by these Top Chef winners -- even the runner-ups, like Tiffani or Richard or Marcel. I can't say the same thing about the Hell's Kitchen winners. I can't even remember much about them because, essentially, they are not personalities. They are made in Ramsay's image and meant to be disposable once the show is over.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

18 Comments

Filter by:
Jimijo

I dunno what Hells Kitchen US everybody else is watching who might indicate is it's real, but to me it just comes off as staged at every corner. Like the constant bits with the chefs suddenly popping up on screen in another setting commenting on the situation on hand. When do they shoot those bits? Before the service? After? And Ramsay blatantly insulting the dinner guests? The bits where a chef screws up something an Ramsay/a sous chef instantly knows what it is? Ridiculous. It just clearly doesn't make sense at all. Not at all.

April 15 2009 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DISGUSTED

I had a chef from France pop off on me literally on my first day at work, in the first two minutes when I was stowing my purse before the shift, and I was just a HOSTESS! That witch went off on me for ten full minutes because the walk in was turned down. Mind you, it was my first shift at that place, didn't even know where the walk in was much less what temp. it should be. The Chef was a friend of my parents so I kept my mouth shut, had it been anyone else I would have gone off so badly they would have needed cops to get me out of there. I like both shows, but I don't care for fancy food. You learn more on Top Chef, but the food on Hells Kitchen looks yummy to me.

March 29 2009 at 7:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sigma982

Anyone who says they'd rather eat at a Colicchio restaurant than a Gordon Ramsay restaurant has obviously never eaten or seen a Ramsay restaurant.

Hell's Kitchen is a reality show more than a skill competition. The winner gets an Executive Chef job, which is basically to do what Gordon does on the show (minus the over-the-top yelling). Gordon's basically hazing the group and putting them under extreme stress conditions - all of which are key to being able to think on your feet in times of crisis. Little things like cleanliness, perfection of execution, and realizing when something is sub-par are important parts of an Executive Chef's responsibilities. BUT this is a REALITY show on FOX first and foremost, so that takes precedence. The true skills come into play when there are like 3 people left in the show anyway.

I haven't really watched Top Chef, but it seems more like a cooking skills-based competition (along the lines of Project Runway), rather than an executive skills-based show.

Those are the two differences. Apples and oranges, essentially.

March 17 2009 at 9:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laura

Well said, I couldn't agree more.

March 17 2009 at 8:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JKW

I like Hell's Kitchen, there's nothing really wrong with it. However, I have to admit that it is pretty dramatic in just about every way.
Still, I can't really see why Top Chef is so "perfect"

March 17 2009 at 6:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
hecklerz

We (wife, son and I) ask ourselves this every (3 epi's now) time we watch HK...At this point, I'd rather watch Alton Brown host Iron Chef after 5 hits of meth than see Gordon scream at these imbeciles any longer. TC is a real contest of culinary skill, HK is just a test of public humiliation.

March 16 2009 at 7:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jenny J

Um, the plot of all Hell's Kitchen episodes are exactly the same:

1. Gordon Ramsey gets mad (usually about risotto) and yells at people
2. Someone gets kicked off

March 16 2009 at 3:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gordon Werner

One question I always had about Hell's Kitchen is this ... where do the folks come from who are eating at the attempts at dinner service? is it open to anyone? do you need to be invited? do you apply to be an "eater" there?

are you sure about the one-year contract? I didn't realize that it was only for one year.

Regardless ... the point of HK is to hear Gordon Ramsay call people "Donkey" and such.

March 16 2009 at 2:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gordon Werner's comment
GL

The most annoying thing to me about HK is the diners. There are always a few people faking annoyance and insisting on talking to someone. They knew what was going to happen....sit down, shut the hell up and enjoy the live entertainment.

March 16 2009 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kendall

The thing that bugs me about Hell's Kitchen, while I get that the restaurant bits are staged, if I was at a restaurant, and instead of getting me my food in a timely manner I just had some guy yelling at his staff, I'd complain about the yelling guy just as much(if not MORE) as I would complain about the staff making a mistake. Fox misses the point with this "Reality" show. I feel like a jerk for putting that in quotes, but seriously. Some british dude is yelling at his staff in front of the patrons? I don't care if that is Wolfgang Puck, that is extremely poor form.

March 16 2009 at 1:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mj

Ramsey is into perfection. He has standards, and wants his chefs to follow them. Cleanliness is a big one. Eww, the guy who wiped his face with the towel he used to wipe plates?? Ramsey caught that. He makes them into servers, too, to show them how it is done. I'd eat at any of his restaurants, because I know they will be clean, and the food won't be bad. And I watch all his BBCA shows, too.

March 16 2009 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Follow Us

From Our Partners