04 August 2006

[distractions] Hell's Kitchen, Epi Eight

One more epi under our belt, and the end is in sight.

Welcome to Are You Being Served, Gordon Ramsay Edition

The Picking Up Where We Left Off Part

Garrett's gone. We are down to four: The Faux Rapper, The Chipmunk, The Groupie, and The Omarosa. With The Ex-Felon gone (I'm guessing here, folks, please no lawsuits!) the pressure is off temporarily and everyone begins sizing each other up.

There's no real alliances to be made, no power groups to form. Everyone is kind of on thier own now, but Kevin and Heather seem to be clicking still–which has disturbed me from the first and still does even now. It was, however, passing cute the way she called him "K-Greasy". In another room, Virginia is having even more crippling self-recrimination and Sara is comforting her, which, now that I think of it, is just as disturbing as Heather and Keith's bonhomie.

Taking It To The Street

Come the next day, the next intra-dinner-service challenge. To thier immeasurable delight, the chefs are told that they will be running thier own restaurant for the day. What could it be? Where? While visions of chophouses danced in their heads, they are blindfolded and loaded onto a van to be taken to...

...a construction site. But not just any construction site, a construction site with four gleaming, sparkling-clean roach coaches, each individualized with a smart placard exhibiting the HK logo and each of the four chef's names, each in a different color.

Today's challenge is to prepare a lunch for and satisfy a crew of about 100 construction workers. Each chef had an hour to prepare for them. By the each now:
  • Keith: Lobster on a bed of greens.
  • Virginia: Turkey proscuitto and feta cheese panini (actually sounds good)
  • Heather: Grilled chicken sandwich and OMG FRIES!
  • Sara: Seared quail with a micro-greens salad (miniaturization strikes again)
Additionally, each chef has a different marketing idea:
  • Keith: Just being himself
  • Virginia: Full frontal flirting
  • Heather: Alcohol in the onions...'cos construction workers looove alcohol! AND MORE FRIES OMG FRIES!
  • Sara: Apparently, speaking Spanish
I think we can see that of all four, Virginia has the most solid hand on marketing. Altho I do wonder just what sort of alcohol Heather was using.

At the end of the lunch break, all the workers returned comment cards rating which ones they liked in order of preference. The winner of this challenge will, therefore, be completely immune from The Ramdog's whim.

Back at the the restaurant, Chef reviews the action and states the prize, a very special one; the winner of the construction workers' poll will recieve immunity, a guaranteed spot in the final three, on top of whatever other prize there was. But the bad news first...the #4 spot (relentlessly termed 'the worst') was...Heather's chicken sandwich with alcoholic onions (cue Heather's absolute meltdown). The #1 spot...Virginia's pannini sandwich.

Looking back on it, it was a lock really. Anyone here have a pannini? They are teh rock! And when you pair it with Virginia's rack...of self confidence and open...and friendly attitude, you have a sure-fire winner–or, as Kevin might tell you, "slammin' money".

To The Table

So, Virginia wins, not only getting the pass to the next (and next-to-last) round, she also gets a $1000 shopping spree at Sur Le Table. Now, as local foodies know, there is a local one to Portland, on NW 11th across from Powell's City of Books. This place is better than that kitchen place at the mall, possibly even better than Kitchen Kaboodle. It's a cook's wet dream on steroids.

Virginia made out like a complete naïf in there.

What is that big knife-thing? Why it's a cleaver, dear. That's what we call it here. And a "Kiss the Cook" apron? Just the thing for the aspiring executive chef that wants to impress one Gordon Ramsay. And can I get one of your books, Chef? I've looked all over the store, where are they? Why, right here, in front of your face, luv. Sure, I'll autograph it for you. I'll try real hard to say something nice there.

A Case or two of the...Oh, skip it

Meanwhile, back in HK, the three losers get to shuck crabs for tomorrow night's service. Nobody was very happy with Virginia, though they didn't moan and groan too much. Heather showed her absolute coldness toward crustaceans by saying "Welcome to Hell's Kitchen" to one she was hauling out and then saying to another entering the pot "Get it...it's just like a bath".

Cold, man, I'll tell you, cold.

Virginia did come back to the kitchen itself after her shopping spree to say hello to her colleagues, but that didn't go well. Of course, when someone comes home, the question is "What did you get me?" Well, here's the haul:
  • For Sara, a cow creamer. For, you know, all the times Ramdog called her a cow. Get it? Oh, the rich humor!
  • For Heather, an Ove Glove. 'Cos, you know, that time when Heather burned her hand. Such sensitivity!
  • And, for K-Cheese, a...crab cracker. Hey, good thinking, V! Just a way of saying Thank you for taking me along to Vegas that time, here's a cheap tool that you are probably already using right now.
In all, about $20-30 out of a $1K bill. When your teammates already resent you for winning by playing on your obvious physical charms maybe the smartest thing not to do is to get them cheap little gags for gifts. If she didn't have immunity, this would be a short cut to the chopping block come elim time.

The Seventh Dinner Service

The crab goes on the menu, the restaurant opens, and the waste hits the air-impeller.

No, actually, it started off...well, well. Everyone clicked, starters fairly flew out of the kitchen, communication happened. Chef Ramsay had nice things to say about the crew.

Did it continue?

Well, what do you think? These are, after all the leftovers from a crew that has been called, alternately, Muppets and donkeys. Tonight, though, were it not for Heather, they'd not gotten through at all; tonight saw the return of the early, strong dynamic Heather, not the inconstant Heather we saw through the middle of the series. Virginia is suddenly overwhelmed with the veggies and starts to shut down, Sara makes a mess of the fish station, and Keith...

I'd better say something about the complication for the night. Tonight, three master chefs (whose names I've never heard of but I trust that they are) are invited in to sample what the HK chefs can produce. The chefs choose the dishes they are going to present to them. Sara is sending out something called a salade St-Jacques, Keith is sending out spaghetti lobster, and Heather is nailing the Wellingtons.

Sara's salade gets mixed reviews; Keith actually screws up cooking the spaghetti, which is amazing because even I can successfully cook spaghetti (he actually reboils the already-cooked pasta, in fear of having to face Chef Ramsay with the news that he undercooked it to begin with), and Virginia causes a fire in her pan, making it neccessary for Heather to run around to the veggie station to complete the Wellingtons.

The only success on the plate here were Heather's Wellingtons, which were perfectly prepared, though even that was marred by Virginia's screwup, which resulted in veggies that tasted charred.

Indeed, as the dinner service progressed, Heather really came into her own, leaping from station to station as though she'd consumed a case of Red Bull before dinner. The only thing that kept her from completely assuming Sara's fish station was Sara almost physically defending it from her.

Immunity isn't Forever

The lowest point of the evening was Virginia's; after burning cabbage, forcing Heather to pull a serving of duck back from the hot plate where it was ready to go, Chef Ramsay comes to the conclusion that she's coasting on her immunity, so he revokes it.

"You are no longer safe," he said, making sure she heard. It got her perked up, but there was no hope; she had really gone too far down the wrong road.

The service is completed, but only Heather looked good here. Her mission is to nom two of the other three for the chopping block.

The Lobbying, Oh, The Lobbying

The lobbying amongst the three eligible was kind of strange. Heather had a chance to tell Sara what she's needed to hear for so long but pulled her punch; Virginia actually started saying that it was time for her to got, that she really had no place in running a kitchen. Heather decided to deal with this by nomming both Virginia and Sara (Keith was weak, but not as weak as those two), reasoning that Virginia would be gone because of her sad performance and Sara (who knew she was weak but didn't want to go) would be spared.

Virginia Snatches Victory From The Jaws of Sara

The elimination ceremony starts, and Sara and Virginia are called forward. The standard question–why do you deserve to stay in Hell's Kitchen–had Sara coming up with a version of her standard disingenuity, that there had been mistakes here and there, but she thought she had what it took.

Virginia started in on her usual ramble, but said that, in essence, she didn't think she deserves to win. This gives Chef an opportunity to make good on his immunity word; it becomes up to Virginia who will go home. Either herself, if she's sincere about her not deserving to win, or Sara, if she decides to stay.

The tension is brought to a point as Virginia dithers and Sara tries to get another word in (which Chef isn't having, BTW)...

Virginia decides: Hell no, she doesn't want to go! She deserves to stay!

And, of course, sic transit Sara, her usefullness outlived. She shan't pass this way again, and we won't miss her.

Next Week, in Virginia's Last Epi

In the next (next to last, that is), epi, the last three are going to get a taste of the Big Ramdog Life, each doing the head Chef job in turn. They're going to find out that cooking is one thing, and Cheffing is quite another. I'm looking forward for real adventure. These people are going to hand each other thier own backsides.

And, lets just be honest here; this is going to be Virginia's exit. She's survived on borrowed time; the amount of bullets she's dodged suggest that there may be a God and that Virginia's His current project. She's said herself that she just can't hack it in a hot kitchen service, and every time she goes into that kitchen it's obvious she can't really hack it; she gets overwhelmed way too easily. And with only three chefs in the kitchen? It's going to be brutal.

And, So, It's Prediction Time

Which, kind of, we already made here. Virginia's looking straight into the face of the end of her Hell's Kitchen career. We find that, over the course of the series, we've read the chefs pretty well, though Virginia's tenacity has surprised us and earned our grudging admiration.

It's going to be down to Keith and Heather. Now, if the competition went like last season, expect the restaurant to be riven in twain, with each side redecorated and themed in a manner of Keith and Heather's choosing; then, it's battle of the restaurants, in which the winner will be the people's choice.

Until then, diners.

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