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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Hell's Kitchen

A number of years ago, there was a book - Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, about how young gymnasts and ice skaters get treated on their way to, sometimes, nothing at all. They lose childhoods and families and sometimes more in the hopes of gold medals before they're sixteen. It's heartbreaking.

But there was one young woman whose mother never let that happen. She was a competetive gymnast and she did very well, but she also lived at home, had friends, did other things. And she could have gone to the Olympics if she'd gone the other route. Instead, she watched them, with her friends, on televsion, while celebrating the fact that she got a gymnastics scholarship to Stanford.

In other words, she won.

Hell's Kitchen is, for those not watching or caring, a competitive reality program - Chef Gordon Ramsay, who is known for both his temper and the quality of his restaurants, in a culinary version of The Apprentice. The cheftestants (tm Keckler of Television Without Pity ), like Top Chef, come from a range of backgrounds, from executive chef to a private chef/nanny. Among them was Julia, who was a short order cook from Waffle House. And that is, apparently, lower on the totem pole than cooking for one family.

She didn't have the training in fine dining the others had, and that did show - she was always saying she didn't know something.

Note that - when she didn't know something, she said so - she asked. And when taught to cook something, she could cook it.

Throughout her time on the series, she never sniped at anyone, she never did anything questionable, and she behaved (how odd for a reality show) with grace and dignity. Oh, she cried a couple of times - once because, early on, she kept asking to help and was being brushed off. What was she asking to cook? Quail eggs. You know, just a smaller version of what she cooks *every day*. When they finally let her at it, it went perfectly. When they did a breakfast service, she not only ran her team's kitchen well (every omelet done to perfection and on time), she was asked to take over the other team's, and she did so calmly and professionally. Yes, this is her bailiwick, but the others didn't do nearly as well for the things they were trained in. The others made fun of her, put her down for her background. Again, even if it got to her, she never acted inappropriately. Strike that. On reality shows, appropriate would have been backbiting and sabotage. She never did that.

Gordon Ramsay loved her. He complimented her at any excuse ("you're tasting more than ever! Good work! Keep it up!") When the other chefs shut her out of menu planning, he made sure she had a dish on the menu - most popular one that night, and not one was sent back. Not easy with steak. Harder with steak and shrimp, given the very different cooking times needed for them. Harder still with 1/4 the restaurant ordering them at once. He gave her the win for the night.

He likes cooks with respect for the food and respect for the customers, who answer him honestly when he asks a question - he'd rather hear, "Ten more minutes, chef. Recooking a burned dish." than "Right now!" and handing him the same burned dish. And this without saying "Melissa burned the dish." Because that's irrelevent.

He has yelled and cursed at everyone else, but her? He treated her with respect because that's what she gave him and the food.

She doesn't have the training, but she knows how to run a kitchen, how to keep her cool (unless totally overwhelmed) and she's capable of learning - she did learn. And she knows what people like to eat, and that's a big part of the battle.

Not surprisingly, the fans loved her, too. People want to find her Waffle House and eat there.

She was eliminated last night - and she'd had a bad service and she really doesn't have all that was necessary to run a fine dining restaurant (the prize for this show. Or so it's said - the first winner was given the choice of the restaurant or training under Ramsay, and he took the training; the second was not offered the choice, but she's listed as "senior chef", not "executive chef" at "her" restaurant.) So, fine.

But instead of being kicked off with a curse or a dressing down or a perfunctory "Give me your jacket and get out!", she got hugged. And kissed. And told she was one of the best on the series and that he hated to see her go, and how much she improved in the short time she was there. And then he gave her a year at culinary school at his expense, with the hopes she'd go back on and win it all.

In other words, she won.


That's just astoundingly nice. What a heartwarming tale for Shabbat Nachamu.

Thank you!

DH has been into this show, both last season and the current season, while I never really took an interest. I've been watching the past few episodes, and I really thought she stood out; she was definitely my favorite for her grace under fire.

We missed last night's episode (not sure how, though. We were flipping channels saying "There's nothing on!" and would definitely stopped for HK), but I don't mind the spoiler. You have such eloquence that although I'm sad and happy at the same time for Julia, I am much happier to have found out through your post than I would have been sitting through an elimination (and the required suspenseful commercial breaks).

Thank you!

I am so sorry for spoiling you (if it helps at all, I was spoiled myself - I watched it Tuesday because I was in shul (and then in the ER) Monday night.)

It'll be rebroadcast next Monday. You should watch it then anyway.

I've seen reality show people leave with grace and dignity before, but she set the bar high.

Seriously, no need to apologize for spoiling it.
A) Like I said, finding out through your writing was a really nice way to find out :-) and
B) It was my choice to "click the cut" so to speak

I did not tell DH though. We'll probably watch it next Monday unless he's studying.

I have never watched this show before this season, but I have been this year and she was totally my favorite. For a lot of reasons--I could see him keeping Rock last night, but I was so glad she got the send-off she did. I always felt like she was somehow sticking up for me as well, because I'm a total Waffle-house person. I loved the way she seemed to look at food from the perspective of what people like to eat, as if she was one of the customers. And man, watching her go to work even with everybody *constantly* bringing up the fact that she was a Waffle House cook no matter how many times she proved that this was not some big difference between her and them (unless that was where she got competent). How many times was the kitchen sniping at each other while she focused on her work or tried to get them to talk to each other to get things done?

I was so cheering for her when she won the challenge last night. I so hope she finds great success.

I'll probably never eat in a Waffle House, but there's a lot right with standard short order home cooking. She was always focused on the consumers of her food, and that is why what she made was always good.

As an article on EW said, she walked in a short order cook, but walked out a chef.

Also - the difference between fine dining and Waffle House is the ingredients. The cooking techniques are about the same. Anthony Bourdain has even called himself a glorified short-order cook. (I love Bourdain.)

She's going to be successful - she has Gordon Ramsay looking out for her.

I was so happy about that. I had a feeling he might do something like that - Gordon gets a lot of flak, but he really will support people who work hard and want to learn. There was the young guy in the prison kitchen on F-Word who beat him chopping onions - Gordon told him when he got out of jail to come get a job from him. And he wasn't kidding.

You could tell Gordon hated to eliminate her. It was really sweet.

Gordon Ramsey gets a lot of flack for being an asshole, but that's not entirely true. In 'A Cook's Tour', Anthony Bourdain points out that when he went to the man's restaurant in London, most of the people he'd seen in Ramsey's first reality show (which led to that reputation being broadcast) were still with the man. When he left a restaurant at one point, half the staff went with him. He's foul-mouthed, and he demands the best of his people, but if you give him 100%...

She gave him everything she had, and while she had to be eliminated, he knew it, and he was proud of it, and he sincerely wants her to continue to learn, and is willing to put his own money towards that.

I'm not sure I'd even want to work for the man, but he has my respect. No wonder the season one winner decided to take the apprenticeship rather than the restaurant, saying he'd learn way more that way.