Kitchen Guy: Where do They Find These People?

By Beacon Staff

Having worked in and run a few restaurant kitchens, I can tell you that the language is every bit as salty as you may have witnessed on food-based reality shows on television. I can also tell you that many of the characters that work in restaurant kitchens are not exactly the most elegantly raised individuals.

But I find it truly hard to swallow the contention that the cast of characters currently competing for the job of executive chef of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant on “Hell’s Kitchen” are culinary professionals worthy of consideration for any restaurant job.

As a creature of television myself, I understand completely the producers’ needs to inject excitement, drama, mystery and entertainment into their program. But someone claiming to be a chef at any level that cannot prepare well-done beef or properly seared scallops – I’m wondering how they qualified to be on this show. Based on some of their other broadcast escapades, Fox set the bar rather low for what is acceptable television.

And if this crop of miscreants is the cream of the applicants, I cannot possibly imagine the caliber of rejects.

As for Chef Ramsay’s demeanor, I can tell you that he is a throwback to an era of authoritarianism in the culinary world, a leftover from the time in Europe when the only way to work your way up in a kitchen was to begin as an apprentice and take all the crap the chef could shove your way.

An executive chef or his or her immediate deputy must be in firm command of the kitchen. Debasing your staff usually is not the best way to get the best food from them. When cooks make mistakes during service, nothing gets solved and no one gets served if the chef/tyrant is screaming expletives. Someone on the line steps in to correct the problem. Then we move on and complete the service.

Mistakes generally are a result of the chef’s failure to teach the way he wants his recipe made. Furthermore, no one goes on the line until they have a complete understanding of the menu and all of the component parts of every dish on that menu. In better restaurants, the same is true for the wait staff.

I conclude that “Hell’s Kitchen” is not reality. It is a fantasy. And whoever the winner may be – I don’t think I want to eat in a restaurant they’re cooking in.

Here’s a recipe for basic Risotto Milanese, one of the dishes always on a Ramsay menu:

3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 small onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (do not substitute)
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads

In a saucepan bring broth and water to a simmer and keep at a bare simmer. Dice the onion and in a 3-quart heavy saucepan sauté in 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened.

Add rice, stirring to coat with butter. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed, then add 3/4 cup of the simmering broth mixture and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a simmer, until absorbed by the rice. Continue cooking at a simmer and adding broth mixture, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender and creamy-looking but still al dente, 15 to 18 minutes. Do not be concerned if you have a little broth left over.

Stir in Parmesan, saffron, and remaining butter, add salt and pepper to taste and cook over low heat until heated through, for another 3 minutes.

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