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Hell’s Kitchen UK – the customer is very often wrong

Tonight our celebs are getting some cooking lessons from Mario Batali, described by Marco as the “gastronomic king of America”. (Bill Buford’s book Heat gives further insight into Mario Batali and even his frightfully dull Spanish road-trip with Gwynnie hasn’t blemished the impression I got from reading that book.)  Mario is demonstrating pasta making in his masterclass and the contestants are having a few problems. Grant feels that Mario made it look too simple. Danielle can’t listen and watch at the same time.  I’m anticipating that I’ll have problems typing Mario and Marco correctly after a couple more minutes.

Find out how the contestants managed their own pasta making, after the jump…

The challenge for the chefs is to make their own ravioli, giving it a particular “English twist”. They have 45 minutes, which is a lot longer than Mario’s demonstration took, apparently. They are being spied on by Marco and Mario. “Linda’s nice”, says Marco. “She’s beautiful” corrects Mario. “Did you see her cooking show?” asks Marco. “No, I saw her in Dynasty,” responds Mario. “That’s what I’m talking about.” They have a little Statler and Waldorf muppetesque thing going on.

The celebs aren’t doing very well at producing workable pasta dough. As they struggle to work it through the machine, Ade spots Mario’s leftover dough. He justifies using it by quoting Marco’s “use the best ingredients you can find” aphorism. “It’s not cheating; it’s being creative”. Jody’s dough actually looks quite good but he drops it on the floor and cracks the shits. “Pasta disaster.” He gives up.

Taste time – and Mario lets them know that Marco’s on his way, creating what Ade describes as “a frisson of fear”.

Jody explains that he’s not serving anything because he didn’t want to serve something “sub-par”. Nobody’s impressed. Bruce serves his ravioli with a baked bean sauce. “Surprisingly nice!” says Mario. “Tasty… like everything you do,” adds Marco. Roast beef with fried onions and peas from Grant is “a little chewy, but delicious”. Stilton, asparagus and parma ham from Anthea – “excellent!”. Beef and horseradish from Ade – “mmmm! wow!”. Roast beef, peas, onions, garlic from Niomi. “Could have sunk the Titanic. You could make shoes out of it” says Marco, who judges Linda’s to be “perfectly cooked”. (All her cooking show experience counts for something, then.) Danielle ‘fesses up about using Mario’s pasta. She says she used her initiative and Marco holds her with a steady stare. What will Ade do? Will he cop to pioneering the pasta fraud?  Um, no.  Linda’s was Marco’s favourite. Mario likes Ade’s and Danielle’s pissed off.

Marco gives the forecast for the evening to come – rough seas. He’s assigning the contestants to new stations. Bruce is now on meat. Danielle’s on crabs and she doesn’t like being up the back of the kitchen. Anthea’s off fennel, and onto chips’n’mash while Niomi takes over fennel wrangling. Linda’s working with Marco. Ade’s on fish. Marco reminds them that they don’t know what they’re doing, which… is because he hasn’t told them what to do. Nick’s training the waiters, Jody and Grant, and Jody is pissing him off by asking lots of questions and not listening to the answers. First order, one turbot, one lamb, two veal.

Claudia catches up with Nick, whose advice for dealing with Marco is not to show weakness. Let’s see if our contestants have learned this? Anthea feels that she’s been set up for a fall and Linda tries to talk her away from the ledge, so she’s certainly not hiding her frailties. Bruce sends a hot tray and Marco burns himself – will Bruce wilt under Marco’s haranguing?  He holds firm; shows no vulnerability. Jody is not only showing no weakness, he is actively pursuing confrontation by advocating for a customer on an overcooked tuna.  His victory means that Ade has to cook it again. He interviews that Jody is annoying and, whilst Jody is coming across as annoying, by moaning about it Ade just looks petty.

Grant is in Nick drag for his waitering stint, right down to the Clark Kent frames. He’s trying to massage customer egos – apparently Chris de Burgh still has a massive ego. Who’d have thought. He’s pissed off that a customer sent his lamb back for being cold, when it had gone out hot twenty minutes ago. If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s getting meals delivered at different times, so this customer is well within his rights to complain – his companion’s meal still hasn’t arrived by the time the lamb is returned. Jody’s handwriting is causing problems for the kitchen and he’s trying to sneak a lamb dish back so that Bruce can cook the colour and flavour out of it for a customer who doesn’t like rare meat.

Now we’re onto Nick’s nightmare night. He’s getting a bollocking from Marco because food went to the wrong table. “You couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery,” says Marco. “Which food went to the wrong table,” asks Nick? “Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it,” responds Marco. Nick tries to regain control over service, but it called over to manage a difficult customer. He’s complaining that his asparagus starter is unacceptable: “There’s 40 pieces of asparagus here!”. Nick asks him what the menu read: he reads “asparagus”. It appears his problem is not about the flavour of the dish, it’s the presentation – too much. Nick ejects him from the restaurant. Note to self: don’t complain about getting too much food.

Chris de Burgh sings “The Lady In Red”. Really. I think Claudia chose her outfit for tonight with the clear objective of circumventing that, but it seems that context is irrelevant when you have a massive ego.

Overall score for starters 6/10. Mains 7/10. Service – Jody 9/10 and Grant 8/10. Ade hates Jody’s fake martyred expression and looks as though he’s trying not to gag when Jody makes a big speech congratulating the waitstaff. He really is a bit of a prat.

Who’ll be waiters tomorrow? Marco felt that Linda struggled but didn’t give up. Ade did okay – he cops to being good at cooking but struggling with timing. Niomi thinks she did okay. All the celebs have learned to self-deprecate when they’re asked how they did. Bruce is the star boy, apart from the blisters. Danielle says she found working at the back difficult. Marco asks her whether that’s because she likes being the centre of attention. She says she likes working next to Marco because she learns such a lot. Marco would like to work next to himself, too. “I’d feel quite privileged”.

Anthea’s front of house. Marco ponders aloud whether Niomi or Danielle should join her. Danielle volunteers because she “don’t wanna get into that her or me thing” and Marco wishes she’d be more tenacious. “Wha’s tha?”

Surely we have to get some eliminations soon…

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