• Jason Howell

Things I Want to See Happen on Hell's Kitchen

Updated: May 21

I have been a fan of Hell’s Kitchen since I was a kid, and I have been anxiously awaiting the premier of season 19, which was confirmed along with season 20 in February of last year. But since then, there have been no updates. When I read online that the season had already been filmed, the lack of updates left me increasingly worried about when the show would return.

But now, it looks like the launch of season 19 may be fast approaching. A local news report from the hometown of one of the contestants (the only one I’ve seen confirmed so far on the Hell’s Kitchen wiki), indicates that the premier will be this summer.

In recent months, especially since the pandemic shutdowns began, I’ve been binge-watching all the old episodes. So here is my list of the top things I want to see happen in Hell’s Kitchen.

Someone to get eliminated during the signature dish challenge

Just once I want to see someone get eliminated during the signature dish challenge.

If you watch Gordon Ramsay for more than a couple of seasons, you should have a pretty good idea what Ramsay’s expectations are.

And yet, even in the more recent seasons, contestants will still present dishes with prepackaged ingredients. In the premiere for season 12, for example, Chef Mike presented Ramsay a dish that included packaged tortellini and canned tomatoes. While I have no problem fixing that at home, I know better than to present it to a world-renowned Michelin-starred chef as an example of my finest work.

What’s worse is when Ramsay blasts a chef’s dish and the chef tries to argue with him or make some snide remark.

Ramsay has had a time or two where he has threatened to eliminate someone during the signature dish challenge. But just once, I wish he actually would. After nearly two decades on the air, chefs coming in today should be expected to have watched the show and, therefore, have higher standards.

On a related note, something else I would like to see during the signature dish challenge is…

Awarding ZERO stars for a dish

When it comes to the signature dish challenge, perhaps the worst reaction you can get is to have Chef Ramsay literally throw up, like in season 4 when Chef Matt served his experimental “exotic” tartare, which included a mix of raw venison, scallops, caviar, and white chocolate.

While in this challenge, dishes are judged on a scale of 1-5 stars, with 1, of course, being the lowest, I feel a dish that can cause an instant upchuck reaction shouldn’t receive the dignity of a single star.

More aggressive eliminations

There are few things on Hell’s Kitchen more heart-pounding than surprise eliminations. Most often, they occur when a chef is eliminated in the middle of service, when Ramsay decides to throw out someone on the winning team, or the dreaded double elimination.

But just once, I would like to see Ramsay drop all the deadweight at once. Sometimes, I feel the only reason he doesn’t is because it would make the season too short. But I think it would make the season move along quicker and keep the chefs constantly on their toes to know that, at any moment, they could be up for elimination.

More effort to discourage smoking

I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but the fact is, cigarette smoking damages taste buds, and a professional chef needs to be able to taste. That’s why it floors me every season to see all the chefs in the dorm chain-smoking.

I do recall a couple of contestants over the years who have alluded to having a taste-impairment caused by smoking. But besides that, the only time I remember the issue being explicitly addressed was one season where Chef Ramsay encouraged the chefs to stop smoking a day or two ahead of the famous blind-taste-test challenge, and one chef admitted he wasn’t able to follow it.

I want to see an effort by the show to discourage chefs from smoking, even as far as to offer counseling and other services to help chefs quit.

Behind-the-scenes special

While there may be those who would rather “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” I would love to see at least one or two full one-hour special taking us behind the scenes of the making of Hell’s Kitchen. I want to see what goes into putting the show together, from the casting, editing, setting up all those crazy challenges, and even how they put the opening montage together (something I personally have always wanted to see).

It would be a good opportunity to shine a light on the unsung heroes of the show and the restaurant: the producers, the film crew, the medics, even the back-up chefs and custodians.

A loose narrative taking us through the filming of a season could be intercut with montages such as bloopers, worst dishes, worst customers, biggest fights, etc., making it an all-around enjoyable experience.

Are you excited about the premiere of Hell’s Kitchen? What are you hoping to see this season?

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