In this Hell’s Kitchen episode (episode 12), Gordon Ramsay decides to teach each team about presentation. The first challenge was to make ugly food look good. The name of each dish was written on plates that were scattered across Hell’s Kitchen. The chefs had to race against each other to earn their dish. Once they earned their dish, they had 50 minutes to make it look good.
During the race, Elise Wims pushed Paul Niedermann out of the way to get the eggplant parmesan (which everyone wanted), which allowed Jennifer Normant to beat Paul to the lasagna. Tommy Stevens opted not to race, and instead calmly strolled to the chicken dumplings without any competition. Paul ended up with the tuna casserole, which he had never made before. Immediately Paul started complaining about working with Elise. She used too many pans for the eggplant parmesan. As judges, Ramsay introduced Lesley Bargar Suter (dine editor of L.A. Magazine), Susie Heller (cookbook author – who also worked with Julia Child), Valerie Aikman-Smith (food stylist), Deborah Jones (food photographer), and Eric Greenspan (Exec. Chef/owner The Foundry on Melrose). These judges would rate the dishes based on presentation and taste, 50 points each, for a total of 100 points.
Tommy’s chicken and dumpling had a great use of onions for a great presentation, but the dumplings were a bit soft. For presentation, he was given a 44. For taste, he only received 30. That earned Tommy 74 points.
Paul’s tuna casserole was next. Food photographer Deborah Jones said that it looked “cat food-like,” which earned him a presentation score of 33, a taste score of 27, and a total of 60.
Jennifer worked with the lasagna. The judges liked the color, but didn’t know what it was. For presentation Jennifer got a 28, for taste a 24, and a total of 52.
Elise’s eggplant parmesan had an impressive presentation score of 42, and a delicious taste worth 44. Her total score of 86 became the score to beat.
Will Lustberg had the last chance to beat Elise with a meatloaf recipe that he loves. Will had a slow start because the sauce didn’t look appetizing. However, the dish was delicious. With a presentation score of 38, he needed a 48 to tie Elise. In the interview, Will said “I know my food tastes good, I’m just hoping that the judges get what I’m trying to do here.” He earned a fantastic taste score of 49. Will won the challenge with Elise in a very close second. Will said his “my mom’s definitely gonna be very happy with that.” For a prize, he got to dine at some of the most unique locations in L.A. and he got to choose one of the other contestants to dine with. Will chose Elise as the “honorable decision” since she got 2nd place.
As a punishment, the chefs had laundry duty. In the meantime, Will hoped to build up team morale with Elise for the dinner service. For the first restaurant, they went to the Spago restaurant, and were greeted by Wolgang Puck. Next in line, was the Foundry on Melrose where Will talked about the competition and how important it is to work as a team. I was impressed with Will foresight to clearly tell Elise his intentions of working as a team for the dinner service. The two were very happy eating together while the rest of the team hand-washed the laundry. Something none of them had done before.
After the reward and punishment were done and everyone was in the living quarters, Ramsay called and Elise picked up the phone. He wanted to see everyone in the dining hall, “urgently”. What is that all about? He wanted to introduce another team that would take the Red Kitchen for the dinner service. Ramsay introduced Black Jacket chefs: from Hell’s Kitchen 5, Ben Walanka (who got 4th place), from HK 6, Tennille Middleton (who got 4th place), from HK 8, Trev McGrath (who got 4th place), from HK 8, Jillian Flathers (who got 3rd place), and from HK 6 Van Hurd (who got 6th place). Each returning chef had something to prove, making the dinner service quite a challenge for the current chefs. Each team had one hour to decide the menu they would prepare. Not surprisingly, Elise started drama by complaining that the men only took ideas from the men, and when Elise and Jennifer suggested a dish, it wasn’t even considered. So, as usual, Elise started arguing, creating drama, and making the whole episode unpleasant for the viewer. Will yelled at her and pointed out that Elise must have been the problem with the Red Team all along. So he walked away to the living quarters, threatening to go home.
At the end of the hour, the returning chefs were confident in their menus, while the current team had to settle on theirs. Will and Tommy started the challenge creating appetizers. Will was encouraging Tommy, and Tommy asked for Will’s opinion. So obviously, Elise called Tommy “Will’s bitch.” Trev, while claiming to be calm, cool and collected, was rushing around the kitchen, yelling, looking like an idiot. The current chefs had fantastic appetizers. After, Elise was constantly bothering Paul, asking him questions about how her dish was being turning out. Paul had to waste his time answering her questions, and when Ramsay congratulated Elise for her dish, she took the whole credit for it with a smirk on her face. Tennille did not perform, ruining the tuna dish twice. Elise started bossing people around and when Paul needed more time for his lobster, she confronted him, which wasted even more time! Paul then took over, controlling the time of service, calling out “3 mins!” At the end of the service, Ramsay complimented everyone by saying that they all proved they “deserve to wear the black jacket, good job!”
Both the current and the returning teams performed so well, that the winning team was to be decided from the customer comment card. In one kitchen, 80% of the customers said they would return. No bad! In the other kitchen, 96% said they would return. Amazing! The winning team turned out to be current chefs. However, they still had to choose 2 people up for elimination. Jennifer, thinking that she was about to get kicked out, confessed her crush on Paul! She was adorable about it, and she even let her hair down for the event. Paul said “you’re from Boston and I’m from New York, it’s never gonna work… but I love you anyway come here,” and gave her a BIG hug. A tender moment in Hell… ’s Kitchen.
Chef Ramsay asked Elise to nominate someone for elimination and then asked the team for a nomination. Elise picked Jennifer, and when Ramsay asked the team to pick someone, nobody spoke up, so Elise picked herself. Ramsay asked Jennifer to take off her jacket! A shocker, no doubt, but his reason was that Jennifer’s jacket was too dirty, and handed her a clean one. Phew, close one. Elise was given another chance because nobody deserved to be eliminated. Their service was fantastic! Since the service was the best one yet, Ramsay gave everyone a second chance, just like he did for the returning team. Finally a little bit of justice from Chef Ramsay. If Elise does get kicked out, it should be for a bad performance.