The Hell’s Kitchen is a reality television program aired in the United States and other parts of the world. The program utilizes a progressive elimination method to get a winner out of a group of between 12 and 20 aspiring chefs. The American genre of Hell’s Kitchen follows a version of the United Kingdom, although the show is not performed live, and no live audiences participate in the elimination processes. The Hell’s Kitchen show is produced in a modified warehouse in Los Angeles that contains a restaurant, a dormitory where participating chefs reside, and a dual kitchen facility. Gordon Ramsey is the owner of Hell’s Kitchen and the host of the program. Ramsey is known for his fierce tempers and aggressive management style, manifested throughout the reality show episodes. The chefs compete for a well-paid job in one of Ramsey’s prestigious restaurants. The competition includes both the chefs’ culinary skills and their ability to withstand mental pressures. The Hell’s Kitchen reality show demonstrates the length at which people can go to achieve fame, money, and celebrity status while glorifying masculinity and hierarchy type of lifestyle.
The Hell’s Kitchen is an “unhealthy” process, which indicates the definition of the foods with high-fat content that are served, as well as the experiences of chefs competing for the much-coveted position of a chef. The setting is based on the stressful experiences that competing chefs endure, such as physical fatigue and sleepless nights since every moment is observed and scrutinized by the ever-present microphones and cameras. Besides, the participants are abused for the slightest mistakes done. Hence, these experiences reveal what competitors go through with the intentions of emerging a winner. For instance, the use of the word “fuck” is seen as a hallmark of Ramsey’s vocabularies. Notably, working in an environment full of insults is unhealthy and lowers the chefs’ morale.
The Hell’s Kitchen is full of humiliation and embarrassment. In season 4, for example, participants are promised to meet monsters, horror, battles, agony, and madness from the first time the season is introduced. Participants are tested for their capacity to deal with Ramsey’s rage while preparing meals for a large number of people, which are supposed to induce emotions. While participants find the experiences as humiliating, observers, on the other hand, perceive the pressure to be entertaining. As the title indicates, hell is true, and the suffering is on the participating chefs, not the guests. The chefs who pass the tests of time achieve their dreams, while those who fail consider the mental testing their worst nightmare.
In various instances, Ramsey engages in insulting invectives, loud tongue-lashings, and swearing, which participants must learn to live with during their stay at the Hell’s Kitchen. A typical situation is depicted in season 4 during his engagement with Roseanne, who is one of the competing chefs (Episode 5, 26.00). In this episode, Roseanne is responsible for preparing vegetables and mashed potatoes. When Ramsey asks for the mashed potatoes, Roseanne responds that they are ready and hands him a pot. He looks at the mashed potatoes, and with disappointment and discontent, he takes the pot and walks to Roseanne’s stove. To show that her work was inadequate while her dish was unfit for human consumption, Ramsey pours the mashed potatoes in the sink and asks Roseanne to “fuck off.” She hurriedly prepares some more mashed potatoes, and when Ramsey tastes her final product, he spits it with disgust because it has no salt. When Roseanne tries to hand him the pot of mashed potatoes, Ramsey tells her to “fuck off” again, and with his face in his hands, he shouts that Roseanne is not good enough, humiliating her. In addition, Roseanne feels that Craig is overreacting and has an attitude when he responds to Ramsey and throws a pan into the sink (Episode 4, 29:31).
This case scenario illustrates restaurant working life where a strict hierarchical relationship between apprentices and masters characterizes working conditions. Besides, it reveals the extent to which people are willing to achieve moments of fame, money, and lifestyle. It is important to note that these experiences are prevalent in almost all countries. According to Batnitzky, McDowell, and Dyer (2009), workplaces are important for producing masculinities and femininity. Therefore, Ramsey’s behavior can be understood and explained and can form a basis for justifying how restaurants are managed in our contemporary society.
Furthermore, Ramsey’s fiery temperament can describe the modern lifestyle of hegemonic masculinity. One of the ideas that can be derived from his constant abuses and tongue-lashes is that men have everything to gain by legitimating aggressive masculinity. Without having to employ violence per se, they benefit from allocations of power fostered by gender. Although how hegemonic masculinity is constructed in Ramsey’s character does not fully correspond to the lives of men, it expresses ideals, fantasies, and desires, which explains how men behave when in authority.
Batnitzky, A, McDowell, L., & Dyer, S. 2009. Flexible and strategic masculinities: The working lives and gendered identities of male migrants in London. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies,35(8), 1275-1293. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13691830903123088
Fox Network. April 29, 2008. Hell’s Kitchen: Season 4, Episode 5.
Ramsey enquires: ‘Where is the mashed potato? Mash carrots, where are they?’
Roseanne responds: ‘Coming right behind you Chef.’
Ramsey takes the pot of mashed potatoes and says in a disappointed voice: ’oh come on’
Ramsey walks away…turns and shouts at Roseanne: Is this how you are going to fucking’ respect your tables?
Roseanne responds: ‘Absolutely no Chef.’
…Roseanne for the third time tries to give Ramsey a pot of mashed potatoes
Ramsey waves his hand and pushes Roseanne away shouting: Fuck off. Will you?. With his face in his hands, he shouts: Roseanne, not god enough! (Episode 5: 26).
…The cooks have failed with dinner and the atmosphere is not exciting…
Ramsey asks Craig: ‘How long for the fucking clams?’
Craig fails to answer
Matt and Ben pleads with Craig to answer, but he remains silent
Ramsey asks again: ‘How long for the fucking clams?’
Craig shouts throwing the pan into the sink: ‘Coming up right now, fucking listen!’
Roseanne to Craig: ‘You’ve got some attitude, son’. (Episode 4, 29:31).