Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: September 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hell’s Kitchen Winners: Where Are They Now?


With the end of the 9th season of Hell’s Kitchen, it seems appropriate to follow the previous winners of Hell’s Kitchen and catch up with their successes… or lack thereof. How many chefs actually received the prizes they were promised? How many of them went on to become successful chefs in the culinary world? Do any of the winners still have a chip on their shoulder from their experiences at Fox TV's Hell's Kitchen?

With no further ado, the winners of the first 8 seasons of Hell’s Kitchen!

The winner of Hell’s KitchenSeason 1 was Michael Wray. Chef Gordon Ramsay offered Wray the choice  of opening a restaurant, or going to London and to learn under Chef Ramsay. Michael chose to learn under Chef Ramsay. Michael later changed his mind before going on the trip because he thought the experience would be too stressful for his family. Now he works as the Executive Head Chef at The Standard in Los Angeles, California. He also owns his own custom chef's knives company called, appropriately, Skull and Cleavers.

Heather West was the winner of Hell's Kitchen Season 2. For the prize, she was to become Executive Chef at an Italian restaurant called Terra Rossa at Red Rock Resort Spa and Casino in Las Vegas. However, Heather only became Senior Chef. She now works as head chef in a restaurant called Monterey Restaurant in Long Beach, New York. 

Rahman "Rock" Harper won Hell's Kitchen Season 3. His prize was to become the Head Chef at Terra Verde at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson. He fulfilled his contract as Head Chef for one year. Rahman later worked in restaurants throughout Washington, DC. Rahman joined the staff of a DC restaurant called Next Door in 2008. He supported and helped in the March of Dimes Signature Chef’s Auction in Louisville, Kentucky on November 11th, 2010.

Christina Machamer won Hell's Kitchen Season 4, and the prize to become Executive Chef at the Gordon Ramsay at the London West Hollywood Hotel. Instead, she was given the position of Senior Chef under Executive Chef Andy Cook. She then took some time off to study wine and viticulture at The Culinary Institute at Greystone in Napa Valley. Currently, she is a member of the opening team at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bistro in Beverly Hills.

Danny Veltri won Season 5 of Hell's Kitchen. He became Sous Chef under Stephen Kalt at Fornelletto at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Originally, he was supposed to be the Head Chef at another restaurant built at the Casino. When he didn’t become Head Chef, Danny quit and began consulting. He then created a catering company called Back From Hell Catering, poking at his experience in "Hell's Kitchen.” He then joined with a group of investors that wanted to create a surf bar with food. He is now Chef of the Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill near the Intracoastal Waterway in Central Florida. 

Dave Levey won Hell's Kitchen Season 6, and the prize of Head Chef at Araxi Restaurant and Bar in Whistler, British Columbia. However, as we mentioned earlier, he was treated like a line-cook. He worked at Araxi Restaurant until the end of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Currently, he is in Nashville helping his sister with her music career.

Holli Ugalde won Hell's Kitchen Season 7, which was supposed to follow with the position as Executive Chef at The Savoy in London. However, she could not get a visa to work in the UK. Ugalde called that explanation an excuse, saying, "I don't know if they even applied for my visa." Ugalde accepted an undisclosed amount of cash instead. She now has a job as the Signature Chef of a new restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida called B Ocean.

Nona Sivley won Hell's Kitchen Season 8, along with the prize position as Head Chef at LA Market at JW Marriott Hotel in Los Angeles as well as the opportunity to be a spokesperson for Rosemount Estate Wines. She is now working as Chef de Cuisine at LA Market with Celebrity chef Kerry Simon.

It seems there is a serious trend that either HK winners do not get their prize, get the title of the prize, but not the responsibility, or they leave their position as soon as their contract is fulfilled. It almost seems pointless to go through all the pain and suffering that we witness season after season. However, every winner seems to say the same thing about the show… it is the BEST experience of their lives!

Hell’s Kitchen Season 9 Finale Recap: “4 chefs compete; One Winner Chosen.”

In the Season 9 Finale of Hell’s Kitchen, every remaining contestant is given a nickname for their performance throughout the season. Paul Niedermann had a slow start in the competition, but later had a great performance and passionate performance. As the most intense chef, he was nicknamed the Pit Bull. Tommy Stevens, with an unorthodox style of cooking, was nicknamed the Wild Card. Even though Tommy was usually quiet, in the last two episodes he made his voice heard in the kitchen. Will Lustberg was nicknamed The Machine, and called a technician by Chef Gordon Ramsay. Elise Wims was nicknamed The Fighter, need I say why? With the stage set for a battle between very different individuals, who would win the prize of being the next Head Chef at BLT Steak?

After the introductions, Will defended his decision to backup Elise over Jennifer in the last episode, saying she is “honestly a good cook.” For this episode, Chef Gordon Ramsay took on the challenge to inspire the 4 remaining chefs. As a surprise, Ramsay brought out Elise’s son (Chris Jr.), her husband (Chris), and her aunt (Dolores). At a rare and tender moment for Elise, she gave her honest opinion of what she felt and said she missed her son. Tommy saw his girlfriend (Kaitlin), and his mom (Diana). Paul was visited by his brother (Chris). Will’s mother Michelle and wife Tara came to the show to inspire him. They were all given some time to re-unite. Ramsay had to scold Tommy for making out with 19 year old girlfriend Kaitlin, right next to his mother (Diana)! Everyone was left inspired, especially Will, who claimed that he was ready to kill everyone and sort out the bodies after. 

For the individual challenge, the contestants got Chef Ramsay’s most difficult challenge, called “taste it, now make it.” The chefs got to taste a dish Ramsay made and then they had to make it in 35 minutes. The winner would get to spend the rest of the day with their family. They got no information about the ingredients. The most important part is identifying the main protein. Elise was having trouble deciding whether the fish was a cod or halibut. Ramsay gave them the hint that they could use two fish and drop one at the end. Will and Tommy chose a monkfish, Elise chose the halibut, while Paul chose both monkfish and cod, in the end he went with cod. Tommy chose Serrano ham because he thought that prosciutto was too salty. Will, Elise, and Paul, all decided to use prosciutto. They all chose mushroom, kale, and cream to garnish their entrees.

Prosciutto was the right ingredient and Tommy was the only one to get it wrong. The closest contestant between the 3 was Paul. Paul got a chance to spend the day with his brother, who’s also Paul’s best friend, Chris. Together they watched the L.A. Dodgers game. As punishment, the rest had “moving day” in Hell’s Kitchen. Elise couldn’t hold back the tears.

At the Dodger stadium, Tommy Lassorda (a Dodger legend), greeted Paul and his brother. Next, they got to meet the players and managers.

In the meantime, Will was complaining that cleaning down the dorms was a horrible punishment “because females are disgusting creatures.”

At the game, Gordon Ramsay threw the first pitch and was very proud that “it didn’t bounce.” Later, at the dinner service that determined the final two competitors, Paul was first in charge at the pass and caught Tommy’s undercooked fish. Good eye, but then he had to deal with Chef Ramsay’s sabotage as Chef Todd put shrimp instead of lobster in the capellini. Paul failed his first quality control. Tommy would not answer Paul’s request for the time for the cod. Instead of calming down and helping Tommy, Paul got even more frustrated, aggravating the situation.

Tommy was second at the pass. Tommy had issues keeping control at the pass, forgetting the orders and not enunciating properly so the rest could understand. Chef Ramsay’s next sabotage came when Tommy got a false order intended to confuse him. Tommy called out the orders even though they were not on the menu. Even though Tommy called out uneven times, the orders were fulfilled.

Elise was third at the pass. She gave great orders, but her sabotage was that Chef Ramsay switched the cauliflower puree with potato puree. She was devastated at not having tasted the difference. She became emotional, especially because Ramsay pressured her with criticism for not tasting the difference. After a moment, she recovered… just in time to face another sabotage. Chef Matt switched the potato mash with parsnip puree. She caught it and Ramsay congratulated her. She found her rhythm and enjoyed it!! Once she got used to the position, she was great at it.

Next, it was Will’s turn at the pass. Chef Scott switched beef with lamb, which Will expertly caught. Elise left raw pasta in her spinach, put black pepper in the potatoes, so Will felt like she was purposely sabotaging him. When Will confronted her, communication broke down and the other contestants stopped communicating with him. Will had great quality control, but bad team motivation skills.

Rather than make the team choose two people for elimination, Ramsay asked each to come up with a reason why they should be allowed to move on to the final. Ramsay claimed that he learned to understand and appreciate Tommy, but he was just not ready to become the next Head Chef of BLT Steak New York, kicking Tommy out of the show. Ramsay said that he loved Tommy’s energy and that he belonged in the kitchen. Ramsay then asked the remaining contestants why they deserved to remain in the competition. Will said he is a chef. Paul said he communicated well, commanded respect, and motivated his team. Elise believes she grew the most in the competition. Ramsay chose Will and said he could envision both Elise and Paul in the final. However, Ramsay went on to say that one of them could command the kitchen better (when Ramsay said that, Paul immediately said “f@*k”), and then chose Paul. Watching the finale, we all thought Elise did a better job at commanding. However, Ramsay chose to eliminate Elise, but gave her the black jacket as a gift, “you deserve it!” 

Ramsay rewarded Paul and Will by taking them out to dinner. As they approached the limo, their families came out. When they arrived at the restaurant, Ramsay told them the restaurant is new and the chef is from New York. When Ramsay took them to the kitchen, they got a rock star introduction to a HUGE crowd (who later watched them cook), where they were given one hour to come up with 5 dishes that could appear on the BLT menu. The menu had to include a seafood appetizer, a salad, a seafood entrée, a bone-in rib eye and a filet of beef. Paul and Will had to present to 5 judges from BLT. The first judge was Executive Chef from BLT in Washington, DC, Victor Albisu. Will’s seafood appetizer won. The next judge was Executive Chef at BLT Los Angeles, Chef Brian Moyers. Paul’s salad won. Chef de Cuisine from BLT Honolulu, Johan Svennson judged the seafood entree. Paul’s seafood entrée won. Executive Chef of BLT Steak New York, Cliff Brooks judged the rib eye entree. Will won the rib eye entrée. Finally, the President of BLT Steak, Keith Treyball. To win the challenge, Treyball chose Will.

For the dinner service, most of the cast was brought back to the show. Will chose Tommy, Natalie Blake, Jennifer Normant, and Krupa Patel (just so he could see Carrie Keep matched up with Elise… hahaha, way to go Will!). Paul chose Elise, Elizabeth Bianchi, Jonathon Plumley, and he was stuck with Carrie (and Elise). Paul made it very clear that he did not want to see Elise and Carrie fight.

Will’s menu was accepted by Ramsay, but Paul’s menu had issues. His crab stuffed tomato was bland because Paul didn’t taste it before presenting it. Paul had a very personal moment confessing that he promised his mother before she died that he was going to win. Elise was making an effort to cooperate with Paul to win the competition for him, but Chef Ramsay pestered her when she undercooked the shrimp. I wonder if he did this on purpose to drive Elise’s performance down. Natalie served great appetizers and on time. Will got too nervous and put fish in the oven to get ahead of time, only to get reprimanded by Ramsay. Elisabeth overcooked the scallops, then she undercooked them. Krupa could not cook the fish. Jonathon undercooked the steaks, stopping Paul’s kitchen. In the meantime, Will was having problems with Krupa. Jonathon’s meat was still raw, and Paul had to kick him out of the meat station, with Elise to take over.

Ramsay read through each comment card to make his decision. Will seemed to have said it best when he said “I have a coin’s flip’s chance of winning.” The two worked great in the kitchen with teams full of people who had been kicked out for a reason. In other words, they made something out of nothing. At this point I should mention that Elise went above and beyond to make Paul’s dinner service work. She helped, she communicated, and she cooked… well. Very impressive, and very unlike Elise.

After over an hour of deciding, Ramsay began by saying it was a very hard decision to make. He said Will was the most consistent. Paul was one of the best chefs and his passion set him aside. The winner of Season 9 of Hell’s Kitchen, the next Head Chef at BLT Steak in N.Y. City, and a salary of $250k…

Paul!!! In a very unselfish moment, as usual, Paul dedicated the win to his mother. Ramsay chose Paul for being passionate, determined, and because as a chef, Paul’s enthusiasm is contagious.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hell’s Kitchen Season 9 Episode 14 Recap: “5 chefs still compete”

In this Hell’s Kitchen episode (episode 14), Gordon Ramsay teaches the black jacket chefs about value. “Chefs become heroes when they are able to take an ingredient and turn it into something worth incredible value, right?” Then a wild white Alaskan salmon literally fell from the sky and onto the table. The first challenge was to turn white salmon into the most profitable dish… ever. Each contestant had 30 minutes.

Right from the start, Jennifer Normant was stuck in the planning stage and couldn’t decide for a while what to do. Paul Niedermann’s strategy was to make a simple dish to accent the fine piece of meat. As judges, Chef Ramsay brought in General Manager of Nobu L.A., Justin Wyborn, Co-owner and General Manager of Providence (a restaurant with 2 Michelin stars), Donato Poto, and Maître D’ of Mr. Chow, Chris Denton. Each judge was to tell how much they would price the dish and the contestant would win the average.

Will Lustberg presented a pan roasted wild Alaskan salmon, and a tomato and garlic soup. The judges thought it was a little too salty. They also thought Will did a good job not overwhelming the fish, earning Will a $28.67 dish.

Elise Wims made salmon with macaroni and cheese. The Judges’ first question was "why pair fish with pasta?"  The judges were not able to notice the fish after tasting the pasta (the pasta being that over-powering, earning Elise a mear $24.33 for her dish.

Tommy Stevens cooked white Alaskan salmon, pan-roasted, in a light pomegranate sauce. The fish was a bit dry for the judges, and it looked better than it tasted. The dish earned a $25.33 price, which for Tommy was “a big kick in the nuts.”

Paul’s white salmon dish with romanesca was a very nice dish worth $29.67. Jennifer’s poached salmon with an oyster broth was very courageous, and Tommy showed a bit of a testicular fascination by saying it was a “balls-y” move. The judges thought it tasted better than it looked and gave it a $28.33.

Paul’s price for winning the challenge was to join Chef Ramsay on a tour of L.A. in a helicopter. Then they would eat lunch at the Water Grill, one of L.A.’s finest seafood restaurants. Paul then got to choose one companion. Paul said “I don’t wanna take Elise because I feel like I will be very tempted to push Elise out of the helicopter,” so he chose Tommy.

The punishment was to spruce up the bar, polish the stemware, arrange the bottles and set out the ice buckets. The dinner service was going to be Paul’s dish, so the punishment also included preparing the salmon. In the middle of the punishment Elise’s negativity came out when she commented, “Will and Jennifer were joking and laughing, and I’m thinking, am I the only one pissed that we have to do a punishment?”

In the meantime, Tommy was freaked out by the height of the helicopter. I guess nobody asked him if he was afraid of heights. At the end of the tour, Paul and Tommy got to drink champagne on a rooftop in the middle of L.A. with Chef Ramsay. During the punishment, Elise claimed to be scared of messing up the fish not to have to cut the salmon because she “don’t roll like that.” Pretty clever if you ask me. Will was totally pissed off that she was standing around not doing anything. During lunch, Paul was infatuated with the female Executive Chef of the Water Grill, Amanda. All he could come up with as a pick up line was, “do you wanna come fly in my helicopter?” Swing and a miss! Tommy’s people skills kicked in and Amanda actually asked him what he was doing later. Wow, nicely done! When they returned to Hell’s Kitchen, Elise was de-boning a salmon and Tommy made fun of her asking, “you alright? Looks like you got a bone to pick… heeeeyyy!” Props to Tommy, seemed like this was his episode.

During the dinner service, the first one to screw up was Tommy. His streak was over. Ramsay said the cappellini was raw and blamed it on Jennifer’s and Tommy’s lack of communication. When they finally did communicate, the cappellini was… perfect. Tough lesson to learn in the middle of a competition. Elise overcooked the fish and Chef Ramsay broke his own rule when he sent out only half the orders. Elise clearly showed she doesn’t know how to cook fish. When Elise said “it’s the skin, I got it” Ramsay’s response was, “congratulations… you just said what I’ve been saying for the past f@#*ing hour!” Which he followed with a very sarcastic clap. After one hour with Tommy’s, Elise’s, and Jennifer’s mistakes, the group got out half the appetizers and half the entrees. Paul and Will delivered an entire table of meat entrees without issues. Tommy tried helping Elise with the fish and she declined his help. So of course, she screwed up again. Ramsay kicked out the entire team off the kitchen. Then he asked Will and Paul to return to the kitchen… and they kicked ass!

Tommy confronted Ramsay for kicking him out the kitchen. Tommy said he deserved to have stayed in the kitchen. Ramsay told him to “f@#* off” before he “put your head in the oven and talk to you through the gas burners.” Appropriate intimidation from Chef Ramsay. Elise tried to plot with Will and Paul to not get nominated. All in vain because when asked by Ramsay, Paul chose Jennifer and “Elishia,” or something. Ramsay asked Paul to choose the weakest chef, putting him in an ugly, uncomfortable spot. Will, based on cooking, chose Jennifer. Paul then chose Jennifer too, and Tommy chose Elise. Ramsay told Jennifer to leave, telling her that she is a lady and cannot lead a team because she can’t fight. SO, rather than leave gracefully, Jennifer confronted Will and Paul for saying that Elise was a better chef. In a heartbreaking moment for me, Ramsay kicked Jennifer off the show. And so, with four chefs left, the stage is set for a two hour season finale that promises to be a cut-throat competition.

Hell’s Kitchen Season 9 Episode 13 Recap: “5 chefs compete”

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.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Google Buys Zagat

Google has just added Zagat to its empire. Zagat has always been a trustworthy ratings system of restaurants in cities around the world. Holding a Zagat guide is a powerful decision making tool. As long as Google keeps the sanctity of Zagat intact then I think I’ll be able to accept this acquisition. At least Google now can spread Zagat to even more wandering crowds with only smart phones in hand. Google, just please don’t stop printing our precious guide. Kthx

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nevada IHOP Shooting: Bloodshed over Breakfast

A shooting at a Nevada IHOP killed 4 and wounded 8 when a man opened fire on a table of National Guard dressed in uniform.
The reckless, unprovoked killings at IHOP on Tuesday have made ordering Cinn-A-Stack Pancakes not only bad for your waistline, but now potentially fatal.

Our thoughts do go out to the families of the victims as such a scenario is beyond frightening, especially in such an unlikely setting.