12 June 2007

[hk2007] Hell's Kitchen 2007.2: Roe, Roe, Roe Your Boat; Eddie Eliminated

834 This week's Hell's Kitchen was a very nautical-themed epi. So belay that line, seaman, we have some recapping to do.

Aaron's still looking weak, by the way. Perforce, a surprise.

Also, the first uttering of the word donkey this season, though there's no signature pejorative as of yet.

The day after the first service began early, as the second epi did last season but, instead of the chefs dumpster diving to get an idea of the immense waste they'd generated (which surely must have been as bad this time around as last time) they were rousted to "catch fish".

To the parking lot, Fishboy...to meet up with a cold-storage van delivering, well–fishies. Pulled off the heap of ice in the back and tossed to the chefs, it was catch, catch, catch...all dumped into red and blue buckets (strangely, this didn't translate into a challenge). Once back in the kitchen, the true nature of the challenge was revealed.

Sole Food

Dover sole are an interesting fish. They live about 45 years (at least the version we Merikans call Dover sole, which is actually a different fish from what the Yurpeans cook with; the kind harvested from the Pacific, Microstomus pacificus, is what we usually see; Solea vulgaris, or the common sole, is what gourmets mean when they say Dover sole.

If you import the true Dover sole, you'll pay up the nose for it, it is said. And the chefs perforce got a nose-full.

The challenge was preparing the soles for the evening service, in particular, the most team who skinned and prepared the most Dover soles over a thirty-minute period. As demonstrated by Chef Ramsay (and undoubtedly edited-down by the wizards on series production) it seems fairly quick and simple if you know what you're doing, a two-step process: strip the skin from the flatfish, then run your finger along the lower margin of th meat to extract the roe.

It's simple, of course...but when you're Chef Ramsay, you set a very high bar.

What was the most surprising was that after the thirty minutes, so few soles were prepared–between the two teams (of which five chefs each participated–no Aaron, who was having another panic attack or something) I think there were less than thirty fish done. I'm thinking that there are some steps to the process that we weren't told about.

So, thirty minutes up and what was the result? A classic cliffhanger. The Blues, up first, were chumps-until Josh stepped up to the plate with his product–five soles, all perfectely done, for a total of eight. It was looking sad for the Reds, until Julia, our dark horse, came up with mad skills and delivered big-time and Joanna's three soles batted 1.000 on the El Ram scale of sole preparation–the Reds won with 9 perfectly prepared soles to the Blue's 8.

The prize and the penalty both involved fish–to the Blues' dismay. The prize, for the Reds, was quality time with Chef Ramsay on a chartered fishing boat, along with lunch (we saw Chef land a big ol' flounder, and the ladies enjoying lunch with the requisite interview shots with at least one school-girl crush (I think it was Jen)–don't these women read Chef's bio? You know? The one where he's happily married with children?

I've been wanting to say that for a while. Anyway.

The Blues got to stay behind and clean and prepare much more than just the soles for the competition. They prepared the whole day's catch. Here's hoping everyone but Josh and Rock...learned a thing or two.

There's Always Time for Some Female Skin

After the Reds returned from the boat there was the requisite scene involving sunbathing, and, of course, that means swimsuits. The Blues chilled in the dorm after cleaning the fishies, but the ladies suited up (and we got a lot of views–some of them are modestly hot). The victim here seemed to be Jen, who wore what looked like a tankini with very closely fitting bottoms, which the boyz under da range hood got good looks at by getting her to pointedly bend over and reach up for things.

The Slow-Motion Train Wreck that is Aaron

Before getting into the service, a few words about Aaron.

That fellow's a mess.

At the beginning of the sole-skinning challenge, he started to crack up. There was no obvious pressure, but he was losing it. We have been getting hints that he's not taking care of himself and actively neglecting his own needs even while on the show (he was berated by one of his Blue colleagues in a clip for only eating an apple; he replied that he didn't want to slow the team down because he's fat).

Aaron may have brought his A game, but he's playing it with B game pieces. Me and The Wife™ are getting the idea that he's got more problems than just on the psychological level, and maybe more than just not taking care of himself. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

During the morning challenge, Chef Ramsay told him to take a 10-15 minute break, collect himself, and come back. It's hard to say exactly how long that break was; the editing suggested that he snoozed in the dorm common area for quite some time. He missed the entire sole-skinning challenge, but did show up for the fish cleaning.

Chef Ramsay, who sees something in Aaron that I don't, continues to patiently try to find a place where he can function. I think he's taken him on a special project.

The Sole of the Matter

The dinner service in HK was notable this time for completing a service. This should not be discounted; in HK 2006, it was several shows in before they completed a service. What was notable was in how it happened.

The sole requires table-side deboning (it's grilled on the bone), and, as part of the penalty from earlier, one member of the Blues was designated to provide this table service. That would have been Aaron, and should have worked out famously for him: one relatively simple task repeated, not as much pressure. And, as we intimated earlier, Aaron had another attack of...something. The Wife™ thinks he was having a blood-sugar event, which makes sense inasmuch as we've observed that he's not taking care of himself. While psyching him up for table service, Chef wasn't getting any responses for him. He had blacked out and quit responding for a few minutes. Got his legs back under him, fortunately, but...

The dinner service went two ways; one for the Reds (up) and the other for the Blues (down). Eventually, after getting tired of Eddie's mistakes on appetizers (too much spaghetti being cooked and peppery risotto), Josh's lying to him (saying the Wellingtons were cooked when they weren't), got fed up and ordered the Blues out of the kitchen, instructing the Reds to complete the Blues' tickets.

Despite the penchant of overstatement on the announcer's part, this much is true; that was an unprecedented move. This was the Reds' night to dazzle, even though they started weak and had their flaws (Joanna's incident with not preparing enough lettuce stands out) they completed their service and really knitted together as a group, enough to complete everyone's jobs. By the second show of this year's series, they had completed a dinner service, which, compared to last year, is a stellar achievement actually.

Meanwhile, on the dining room floor, Aaron was making an absolute mess of his job. First he went about introducing himself to all the diners, as though he were a concierge, upsetting El Ram. He also was fairly inept about deboning the sole; the first one he made a mess of, taking 15 minutes (the narrator took pains to tell us) and leaving bones in nearly every diner's filets (I'm to understand that a skilled boner (never mind, you people) can get this job done in less than a minute).

Counting the Cost

The losers: the Blue team (after getting essentially nothing out, you think?). The best of the worst: Rock (which is really no surprise; so far, he's the only Blue who seems to have the full skill set in effect at all times), after which, the obligatory lobbying.

The Nominations

Josh (apparently for the Wellingtons) and Eddie (for handling of the appetisers station).


Eddie. Retired with dignity.


The nominations remain inscrutable. I predicted last week that if the Blues lost, Aaron should be on the chopping block; he's a wreck-up from the neck-up, as portrayed in the series so far. Perhaps they gave him a pass because he's really not contributed in the kitchen; maybe they see him as expendable in the future as an ace-in-the-hole. Rock's people skills are really being shown off in the way he encouraged and propped up Aaron during the fish cleaning. During moments like this, the Blues show a little of what they can do as a team.

The women were probably as proud as hell of what they did; they earned this victory, 100%. Gone was the dissing of Julia (though Chef did put the spur in during service with a Waffle House crack); after an uneven start, they were swingin' and clickin' like the pros. They've gotten their act together, in a major way all of a sudden; such sudden gelling has the potential to ungel just as fast. We'll have to wait until next week to find out.

We Make the Call

Next off The Reds: in terms of the overall strength of the team, which suddenly came to the fore, it's hard to tell who's the weakest. Even Joanna shed her femme fatale for a little while and developed. It was quite interesting to see. But if we had to pick a potential goat from the Reds for next week, we'd have to say it'll probably be either Bonnie or Jen. Sure, they're hawt chyxors, but they seem to freeze in the clutch.

Next off The Blues: the Blues demonstrated a signature trait–unevenness. They have powers in Josh and Rock, but we can already see they can't ride on that–no clear leaders are emerging, as with the Reds' Melissa (and even Jen showed more leadership). We still think Aaron is on his last legs (even though those last legs have more stamina in them than most people's regular legs), and we need to see Vinnie gone. He thinks he has bravery; what he has is the economy version of that, bravura.

Number of times "Donkey" was heard in the show: once, when Chef Ramsay noticed that Aaron was introducing himself about the restaurant.

Best Line of the Night: said by the announcer, before the chefs were woken for the fish: "The chefs wanted a good nights sleep, but in Hell's Kichen, you don't always get what you want."

And Lest We Forget: Interviews in the blogwindow from first-off Tiffany, second-off Eddie, and Red team-member Bonnie (as well an extended clip of Chef's bawling-out of the Blues before dismissing them for the night–its always interesting how quiet the background is in the clips) is available at the official show site. Click on "Beyond Hell" for the clips-o-the-week and the official show blog with interviews.

ZK-One, OUT.

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