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Gordon Ramsay opens 'Hell's Kitchen' for 11th season

by jmaloni
Sat, Mar 16th 2013 07:00 am
`Hell's Kitchen`: Chef Gordon Ramsay returns for season 11, airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on FOX. (Fox Broadcasting Co. photo by Patrick Wymore)
"Hell's Kitchen": Chef Gordon Ramsay returns for season 11, airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on FOX. (Fox Broadcasting Co. photo by Patrick Wymore)

Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni

You'd think chef Gordon Ramsay would've had enough by now.

In 10 seasons, most of the contestants on "Hell's Kitchen" demonstrated they couldn't make risotto or properly cook beef Wellington.

So why return for an 11th time?

Well, in the myriad of not-ready-for-primetime cooks, Ramsay discovered more than a dozen top chefs who went on to work at or lead successful restaurants across the country.

It's for that reason he returned for season 11, which debuted this week on FOX. This year's winner will take home $250,000 and a position with Ramsay's Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

"All I do know is that we have some phenomenal chefs," he said. "Season 11 was quite scary for me because, 11 seasons, I mean, extraordinary. So it's just 11 times I've opened that amazing Hell's Kitchen, because I'm in love with it now. I'm in love with the restaurant. I'm in love with the competitive edge. So it's like launching a brand new restaurant every time. So yes, a lucky number 11."

While Ramsay is often critical of his chefs, it's because he remembers what it took for him to become the world-renowned culinarian he is today.

In keeping with Ramsay's goal of training his chef-testants to become kitchen masters, "Hell's Kitchen" is taking a cue from other reality TV competitions this season.

"Well, first of all, I insisted this year that we have a little bit more mentoring, and you'll see sort of week six or seven when we sort of start focusing on the real talent," Ramsay said. "You'll see how we almost took a leaf out of 'Idol's' book and 'X Factor.' I really wanted to get these guys good, because the better they look, the better we look. Yes, I'm always sort of defensive when they get criticized they're not real chefs. They are real chefs. They just want an amazing break.

"So I think back to when I first started out and I had to take two jobs to continue training. This is an amazing opportunity, and I just look at what (season 10 winner) Christina has done in Vegas, and how she's handled the pressure of running the kitchen and (is) still there this length of time after that program, and the success of that. But it's the success of the business in the real world. So I introduced Christina early on in the competition to say to these guys, 'Look, this is not a fly-by-night 24-hour success.'

"This is the real deal and you know the stakes are high this year with the Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace, so we are lifting the bar even higher. But we sort of collaborated with last year's winner more, and then had that mentoring aspect that went on more than ever before, cooking classes in downtime, little insights. I'm far more involved this year cooking, because that's what I miss. I missed that buzz, because I also like the, I suppose, the little things of 'The Voice' over the last 18 months where the actual judges physically get off their chairs and stand up on the stage and perform in front of their contestants. And that's exactly what I started doing in 'Hell's Kitchen.' ... I thought, 'Look, you just see me now as this guy that is fronting a program, but you've got no idea I've made more mistakes than all of you put together. I continue pushing myself to the full extent, and more importantly I can cook and here's why.'

"So I like that vulnerability and I think you'll see that after sort of maybe week six or seven when you start honing in this talent to how good they are."

"Hell's Kitchen" airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on FOX.

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