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The recent popularity of shows like Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen and Bravo’s Top Chef speaks to the fact that people are interested in seeing the inner workings of a professional kitchen. If producers ten years ago would have attempted to air shows like these, I doubt very much that they would have lasted long–maybe one year, tops. But in the new millennium people seem to have an insatiable appetite for the heat of the kitchen, and the inflamed drama that comes with it. Unfortunately, some shows miss the mark when it comes to reality, which is often the case with reality television.

1) Where Do They Find These Idiots?

The worse thing about shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Marco Pierre White’s new show The Chopping Block, is that they make it seem like all cooks and aspiring chefs are blithering idiots. People who are supposedly “executive chefs” can’t even properly sear a duck breast or fillet a whole salmon. It makes you wonder if the producers are out to find the biggest dumbasses on the face of the earth with the full intention of watching them fail–kind of like American Idol producers finding the worst singers possible to liven up the audition segments. But, let’s face it: the shows would be boring if they actually chose competent people. Nobody would tune in to hear Gordon Ramsay continually complimenting his cooks. Top Chef, on the other hand, does a much better job of finding real cooks and not just some hacks that claim to have experience–many of them are culinary school graduates.

2) Cafeteria Chef?

Relating to item numero uno, it’s funny how in Hell’s Kitchen all the contestants, with the exception of a token “executive chef,” list their titles as “cafeteria chefs” and “presentation chefs,” and “personal chefs,” meaning that most of them have never spent one minute on a real, fast-paced restaurant line. So, of course they are going to bomb–it takes a lot of practice to become a competent, efficient cook; you don’t learn how to do it overnight. And it adds to the drama, and really gets Ramsay’s forehead vein throbbing, when a “cafeteria chef” can’t even make beurre blanc or simply sear scallops, which is more about finesse than following a specification recipe in order make pasta salad for 200 people.

3) No Spa Treatment in Real Life

It seems strange that contestants are given rewards and fun outings when they win cooking challenges. In reality, you may receive, if you’re lucky, a “good job” from your boss, followed by “don’t forget to restock your station; it’s going to be even busier tomorrow night.” It’s highly unlikely the management is going to send you and your comrades to a day spa just for doing the job that’s expected of you. There’s nothing special about competently finishing a dinner service–millions of cooks do it every night. So, why do the contestants make such a big deal out of it on reality TV cooking shows? Wow! You actually made it through a dinner rush. So what? That’s hardly a reason to break out the expensive champagne.

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