With Top Chef, the behemoth of all culinary competition shows, over for the season, televised-cooking addicts have a tough choice to make: wait it out for next season, or take a taste of something different? Probably the best known contender is Fox's Hell's Kitchen--but can Hell's Kitchen really satisfy fans of Bravo's Top Chef?
Allison Waldman at TV Squad contends that no, Hell's Kitchen can't compete, because these shows have even less in common than you might initially expect. Tthe two shows are about aspiring chefs who compete for a top position, but Top Chef rewards who can best work alone to show their individual skills, and Hell's Kitchen rewards who can best run a restaurant kitchen with several other chefs in tow. Accordingly, Top Chef rewards its winner with $100,000 to start his or her own business venture, and Hell's Kitchen winners get a one-year contract as the executive chef at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. In short, Hell's Kitchen is all about Ramsay's talents, not his trainees, with the challenges consist of having them cook his dishes, his way. Top Chef puts all its focus on its chefs' unique styles, techniques and flavors. And as such, Waldman claims, "in terms of quality competition, food expertise and cooking skills, Top Chef is superior to Hell's Kitchen."
Waldman's five-point argument against Hell's Kitchen included Ramsay's "caustic" tirades when his contestants screw up, which, while entertaining, are clearly a persona aimed at getting higher ratings, not higher performance from his chefs.
While lambasting Ramsay's warden in a prison role on Hell's Kitchen and the fact that he hardly does anything but yell, Waldman also pointed out that we barely see what the chefs on Hell's Kitchen are doing either. Even during challenges that ask the chefs to display their creativity, the viewer never gets an in-depth look at how an original Hell's Kitchen dish is constructed.
On the flip side, Top Chef also has a strong chef in a leadership role, Tom Colicchio. And like Ramsay, Chef Tom has a reputation built on successful restaurants from coast to coast. Colicchio, moreover, is not the only judge on the Bravo show. It also boasts of Eric Ripert, Wyle Dufresne, Food & Wine Magazine's Gail Simmons, Toby Young, and Ted Allen. And on Top Chef, "the food comes from the competitors, and we know how they came up with the dishes and why. The food is the star as much as the chefs."
What do you think? If Hell's Kitchen and Top Chef are so different in purpose and practice, are they even comparable? Which show do you like better--or do you enjoy both?