Reality Food Shows Prove Difficult, But Beneficial

The New York Times published a great article over the weekend on the background of reality television shows, the oftentimes vapid and opportunistic genre currently dominating the airwaves. With reality shows on everything from finding love to talking to your pets, the Times article includes a look at Gordon Ramsay’s hit food reality series, Hell’s Kitchen – and it’s not pretty.

“On “Hell’s Kitchen,” contestants said they were usually awakened at about 6 a.m. and then taken to the kitchen for a challenge. The losing team had to work on preparation for the night’s dinner from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dinner service often lasted until 11 p.m., when contestants had to clean the kitchen, then deliberate about who should be nominated for elimination. The lineup with Mr. Ramsay, at which one contestant would be sent home, and exit interviews and confessionals often lasted until after 2 a.m.”

According to the article, most reality show contestants are subject to sleep deprivation, long work hours, and complete lack of contact with the outside world, which includes weeks without phones, newspapers, or television. And if they’re lucky, there’ll be food ‘at least every six hours’.

Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, the principals of the company Magical Elves, which produced the first five seasons of “Project Runway,” said in a written statement that the show kept contestants isolated “to ensure fairness and prevent cheating,” as well as to prevent results from leaking. “We always give contestants the best conditions we can,” the executives said. “Our budgets are less than half what a similar network show would have, and that means very long days for cast and crew, but our contestants are fed at least every six hours, and there are always snacks and water available.”

All reality show contestants must sign contracts prior to appearing on screen, so all know the rules and regulations they must follow in order to participate. With recording deals, new restaurants, and unlimited Hollywood potential, most consider the tough conditions worth the rewards.

Andrew Bonito, another contestant from the 2005 “Hell’s Kitchen,” said being on the series “helped me grow professionally.”

“It definitely contributed to my success,” said Mr. Bonito, who is now a manager at a Manhattan restaurant, The Palm. “And I got an opportunity to be a part of popular culture.”

~Jennifer Heigl

One reply on “Reality Food Shows Prove Difficult, But Beneficial”
  1. says: Mharia Ibarra

    I would tend to agree, to a certain point, that being a participant in the “now – celebrity” chefs shows is beneficial to one’s career growth.

    Deciding to become a chef requires maturity, 100% committment, dedication, as well as facing up front- coming to terms with the requirements of the job: long hours, not great pay, demanding clientele, continuous education, integrity, and hard long term choices regarding our family, relocations, our weakness and strong points.

    To me, what is necessary for a chef to lead by example. The constant demeaning, yelling, name calling, insulting, does not accomplish a thing. All it shows is machismo, and all its nonsense that comes with it.

    As a chef one has the obligation to teach (deveining a shrimp, making sausages in not a great feat)how to achieve the correct temperature in different types of meat, poulry, fish etc. How to make the perfect sauce, saute vegetables so they are perfect for taste (not ovedone, flavorless) it is a technique, one’s one palate and practice, practice…a great deal of humility and patience

    It would also appear, that all participants in Chef Ramsey’s Hell Kitchen are clueless as to the main purpose of becoming a leader: one does not accomplish the goal of having the perfect dinner service if one is not A TEAM, the team accomplish THE ORCHESTRATION, not the individual. Communication, mutual respect, appreciation of strenghts, developing areas of weakness is what a chef does. Spitting on a person, simply lowers one self not the individual we are pretending to put down.

    As for the top chefs competition such as Iron Chef, it would be more productive if they actually took one dish and taught the entire process to produce it. As of now, the show is a group of egos trying to outdo one another.

    There is a difference between “the housewife” self proccaimed chef, who DID TEACH Madame Julia Child, and what are you exactly trying to accomplish Chef Ramsey?

    We all as chefs, continue to learn EVERY DAY, even our dishwasher can teach us effectiveness, time saving procedures, and refinement. Which is an art, as it is culinary development.

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