Thursday, July 05, 2012

Hell's Kitchen: Grading the Top Ten

With the elimination of Patrick, we're down to the Hell's Kitchen top ten. I have to say, for all the drama and chaos of this season, there's a fair bit of quality amongst the chefs remaining. Not all of them, of course -- we haven't cut all the deadweight yet. But there are at least three chefs that seem to me true top quality, and a few more that are only a step behind.

Red Team

Dana: One of the top three cooks remaining, Dana probably has the most personality of all of them (not saying much -- generally, the best cooks are the ones providing the least drama). Dana seemed on the verge of getting pulled into the massive red team drama-fest, but has mostly extricated herself and seemed content to watch Robyn and Kimmie annihilate themselves backstage. Now that they've been separated, more eyes are going to fall on Dana. She's been sharp on station, but the one thing we haven't seen yet is leadership skills. A

Barbie: Barbie started off as the scapegoat for the Red Team, which was approximately 33% just, 66% unjust. She did have struggles on station and a bit of an attitude, but no more than anyone else, and the red team's picking on her seemed more motivated by personal animosity than objective ordering of talent. Fortunately, she seems to have gotten past that and coalesced well with the Red Team (except Tiffany, but we'll get to her in a moment). She's shown an ability to jump on flailing stations (like Tiffany's) and get stuff done, while handling her own affairs, which is good. But some consistency issues still lurk on the line. B+

Kimmie: Ever-shifting relationship with Robyn notwithstanding, Kimmie is enigmatic in the kitchen. Streaky might be the best way to describe her -- she can cook, but there are times she loses her cool and composure and suffers as a result. I'm not convinced she has the mental fortitude to hang with the top dogs much longer, and I've also seen no leadership ability from her at all. C+

Christina: The de facto leader of the Red Team, Christina has been a voice of maturity and sanity all season. One got the feeling that everyone on the Red Team respected her, no small feat given how bad that team's dynamics have been all season. Plus, she's been consistently excellent on the line. I think she's the whole package -- great leadership, great cooking, and a great head on her shoulders. A serious threat to take to the title. A+

Tiffany: Oh lord, where to begin. Tiffany's biggest problem isn't that she's a bad cook, though she is. It isn't that completely lacks any self-awareness, though she does. It isn't even that she doesn't care, though she doesn't. It's that she seems outright offended that other people do care. Why is Barbie the weakest chef? Because she does bother to communicate times. Bzzz. Wrong answer. Tiffany is only still here because there have been more high-profile screw-ups (I won't even say worse) than hers each week. She could have easily gone home five episodes ago. D

Blue Team

Brian: Jill and I couldn't remember his name (we called him "the goofy one"). Brian seems like a solid cook. He's been pretty strong all season, mostly staying out of trouble, but never really shining. I also haven't seen any real capacity to lead from him. And judging by some of his interviews, having ladies in the kitchen come black jacket time will cause him to suffer from a never-ending boner. He's definitely in that second tier, but it's still very much in the air whether he kick it up another notch. A-

Justin: The strongest chef left on the Blue Team. Justin (who looks kind of like Brad Pitt, no?) has done a very good job, never to my recollection been singled-out for shame on the line, and has kept his cool on the line. Recently the editor-monkeys tried to stir up stuff by making him out to be a control freak. Because if there is one thing Chef Ramsey hates, its someone who is obsessed with making sure food gets made right. A

Clemenza: "Credenza", as he's known on the TWOP forums, is a bit of a dark horse. He's the most experienced cook left. He's not bad by any stretch. He's shown a good ability to fight back from adversity. But I don't see him able to consistently perform against the tip-top competitors. He might make black jackets, but he's not Vegas material. B

Royce: Royce may not be as bad as some think he is, but he's nowhere near as good as he thinks he is. He may be the only chef that rivals Tiffany in the non-self-aware field. Seriously, this whole season has been Royce declaring his perfection immediately before, during, and/or after he screws up. It's unbelievable. And I think Ramsey doesn't like him -- I actually agree that he didn't deserve to get booted from the kitchen last episode, but he's on thin ice. It's a shame -- I so like his mentor Ralph. C+

Robyn: The Blue Team's newest addition, Robyn is an interesting case for me. I actually wonder if Chef Ramsey sees some of himself in her. Gordon always toes that line of barely contained rage perfectly -- his fury makes his food and kitchen run better, but he never really loses control. Robyn ... does not have that control. But I do get the sense that her meltdowns stem from a similar passion about putting out good food and high standards, rather than just a generic mental imbalance. She's very type-A, like Chef Ramsey (whom I'd be curious to see in a genuinely subordinate role). But even though I have an odd affection for her, I just don't think Robyn has enough self-control for Gordon to put her in charge of one of his restaurants. B

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