Hell’s Kitchen/Hell’s Kitchen Extra Portions, ITV1

by | May 23, 2004 | All, Reviews

What makes Hell’s Kitchen such a fabulous spectacle is Gordon Ramsay’s inces-sant rants at his hapless staff. But you do feel he would sacrifice audience satisfaction if he could get the celebs to work efficiently – and he could protect his reputation, which the fiery chef believes is being damaged by the prime-time culinary humiliation in front of the whole nation.

The fury in the kitchen is superbly complemented by sardonic narrator Angus Deayton who doesn’t disguise his scorn for the chefs or the format of the show. He justly referred to the daily competition as “tonight’s waste of space”, where viewers could win a table, if not a meal, at the restaurant by knowing what l’escargot were – one of the options was “French for car keys”. The only time he appears flustered is when Gordon is too busy to offer a comment on how the kitchen is faring. Still, he escaped lightly compared with Mark Durden-Smith on Extra Portions when Gordon threatened “to shove a risotto” up his rear end.

The focus in the early episodes is wedded to the amateurism of the kitchen and especially the weak links who, of course, are also the stars of the show. Tearful James Dreyfus, with his lank hair and deathly pallor, looks like a fugitive from a Stalinist gulag, but he would probably rather be working down a frigid Siberian salt-mine than facing Gordon’s infernal wrath.

Amanda Barrie staggers round the kitchen like a mad cow and could soon find herself slaughtered and served up to the customers as she would be safer and more palatable than the food she is currently churning out.

And new arrival Tommy Vance lurks like a barely-animated coat stand, while looking as though he’s been hastily assembled from an zombie model kit.

The only distasteful element is that the carrion fumes of a new reality show need only waft across London for a day before the restaurant is swarmed by odious “celebrity” scavengers (eg Dr Fox, Jilly Goolden and Vanessa Feltz) who come to feed on the nutritious publicity. Thankfully they are mostly relegated to the sideshow of Extra Portions where Durden-Smith’s efforts at professionalism are crippled by the ineptitude of co-host Jordan.

Worst of all was a sketch performed with Gordon where Durden-Smith tried to enrage the master chef into losing his temper only for Gordon to calmly admonish the offence – it was so bad it almost plumbed the depths of Andrew Collins and Stuart Maconie’s humour on Naked City.

It’s perhaps cynical to think that to expect 10 novice chefs to run a busy London restaurant is deliberately doomed to failure, but perversely the continued visual triumph depends entirely on chaos in the kitchen. One person who would not share this view is Gordon Ramsay. But as he shies away to the fringes of the kitchen to observe the incompetence around him, he is diminishing into Prometheus, inextricably chained to the deteriorating restaurant where each night viewers delight in feeding on his misplaced vanity. And it’s this that makes it such brilliant television.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

23/05/2004

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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