Chef Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” and the importance of
Communication, Teamwork, Praise, and Leadership that Earns Respect
By Dan Watt, Fitness Trainer and Author
For years I had heard about Hell’s Kitchen and seen Gordon Ramsay on talk shows. I didn’t really pay attention until became available on Prime Video. I decided to see what it was all about.
As I started watching Season One of Hell’s Kitchen my impression was that Chef Ramsay, who once played professional soccer, is one of those male soccer players who crumble to the ground, fakes being hurt and cries as he points an accusing finger at the other team. I noticed he was allowed to swear at the contestants but if they swore back they were chastised. It didn’t seem he understood if you dish it out you have to be able to take it.
His attitude was also similar to how I imagine a captain of an ancient galleon would behave: terrible and all powerful. As I continued to watch Season One and other seasons I realized the bathrooms must have a lot of liquid soap for Chef Ramsay and the contestants. If I owned a swear jar on the show I would be very rich right now. However, it’s better to relieve tension by getting it out by swearing than holding it in and exploding in violence. The contestants get to express their true thoughts and feeling in separate interviews, suggesting Chef Ramsay isn’t afraid to be criticized outside of the kitchen.
The winning teams are always rewarded with amazing prizes that include visiting restaurants, helicopter and plane rides, and numerous activities, such as surfing. Chef Ramsay becomes Gordon outside of Hell’s Kitchen and a much more enjoyable person to be around. The prizes have at least two important purposes. See what fun you can have if you work hard and succeed, and an introduction to fine dining with the introduction of wine and food tasting. A good palate is extremely important to Chef Ramsay when he’s looking for a chef to run a restaurant.
Chef Ramsay also educates the contestants (and the viewer if they pay attention) by demonstrating how to make different dishes, such as crêpes. He also shows his love and respect of the cooking industry by bringing in guest chefs to judge the food, and food critics to be included during dinner services. Fire fighters, military personnel, kids and others are invited to breakfast or lunch, and in some of the shows, food trucks are used to serve construction workers. There’s an interesting point made about what foods to serve; knowing your customers preferences leads to better sales and customer returns. Type of work, what city, and time of day all can have a bearing on a customer’s food preferences.
For those who choose to look beyond the drama there is a great deal to learn watching Hell’s Kitchen. As Chef Ramsay says in one episode, great chefs are imaginative, think on their feet, and understand the importance of combination, execution, and marriage of foods. Using that knowledge they are also willing to take chances.
The importance of having a good palate and tasting food to make sure it’s the right food being served is drilled in constantly.
Chef Ramsay has contestants wear blindfolds and headphones than gives them a variety of foods to taste in a competition between teams. The point is a chef must have a great palate and be able to taste the differences between foods such as beef and chicken, and distinguish one cheese from another.
The contestants need to work as a team to prepare a plate of food properly. That means calling out cooking times constantly to each other. The contestants need to know how long it takes to cook chicken, beef, and pork to perfection compared to how long it takes to cook potatoes, broccoli, and garnishes properly so all of it can be served at the same time.
As a dreaded vegetarian I greatly appreciate that Chef Ramsay demands certain foods are not cooked together. He also makes it clear mixing foods can be a health issue because of potential food allergies. If food isn’t cooked correctly he’ll call the contestants up and tell them in the most colourful language why it isn’t. If the contestants can ignore the yelling and name calling they’ll learn a tremendous amount about proper food preparation.
I also appreciate that he has contestants who lose a competition sort out recyclable food waste from non-recyclable and makes them aware of how much food is wasted when it can’t be served because it’s under or over cooked.
His decisions don’t seem to be based on who is the most experienced but on other qualities. I second guessed whose jacket he would take and tell to leave Hell’s Kitchen until I started to notice a pattern. He’s looking for who improves the most, who has the best palate, who works the best with others, who shows the greatest leadership qualities, and who shows the most passion to succeed.
The show is a reminder that during busy times there isn’t always time for niceties. Minds are racing to remember orders, and how long to cook food at what temperature in unison with the other cooks’ preparations. Hearts are pounding with exertion to get the orders delivered on time. However, it’s also imperative to commend those who do a good job, show improvement, and to let go of anger and frustration once the orders are done. The swearing is for effect on the TV Show. Swear words will escape out of frustration or exhilaration but should be avoided using towards another individual. However, it’s better than bottling up to let out as violence towards someone else, especially an innocent bystander.
The four vital factors I’ve been reminded of by Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen are: communication, teamwork, praise when deserved, and a leadership quality that earns respect.
Stay Strong and Stay Safe!