'Hell's Kitchen' Insider: V-C-I-T-O-R-Y?
If you watch Hell's Kitchen, you already know that Christina Machamer overcame exceptional odds to win of the fourth season of the notorious show, becoming the executive sous chef at at the London West Hollywood Hotel. Check in each week as Christina "dishes up" her insights on Hell's Kitchen's fifth season, her notorious new boss, and life after reality TV stardom.

By Christina Machamer

This week was no V-C-I-T-O-R-Y [Colleen's spelling, not mine] for Colleen. The headache-inducing cheftestant was finally eliminated from Hell's Kitchen, ironically during one of the few times she wasn’t nominated. This, at least, is what I have been told.

Like so many others, I was incredibly frustrated when my DVR cut off the end of the show due to the American Idol spill-over. I held my breath waiting for Ramsay's decision. I watched the timer on the recording trickle down, and hoped that maybe there was enough time in the remaining 32 seconds to hear the final result. It seemed like I would get my wish... Andrea and J, both on the meat station, both went down in flames. "And the decision is... [silence]." Son of bitch!!!!

Immediately, I ran to the computer to find out who was eliminated. I can’t really say I was surprised that J and Andrea remained in their jackets. During my season, in the second episode, Jen and I were standing in their shoes while Sharon was called down. Expect the unexpected in Hell’s Kitchen, especially when it comes to eliminations. The whole process of putting up “one of you own” is an element that makes this show unique. Even though Gordon may have the final say, it is hard not to feel some sense of resentment, responsibility, fear, and relief during the whole process. It is one of the things that leads to the “drama” that makes this show fun to watch.

Before writing this blog, I went to the FOX website to watch the elimination drama I missed. I was shocked, really, by how kind Chef Ramsay was to Colleen as he showed her the door. The moment she left, he turned to the rest of the contestants and told them, “The one thing she had was fight...” (OK, so there is a little “I told you so” after Ji’s elimination.) The thing I admired about Colleen was her ability to stand in front of the 6’4” former footballer as he berated her, slandered her business, and called her a “hack.” She never broke down once. I am sure she felt some of the pain he was inflicting but she didn’t really let it show. Good for her.

Andrea and J, conversely, could never really turn their service around. In the industry we call that a “train wreck”, “snowballing”, or “going down.” No matter how prepared you are for service it can happen. One variable, such as burnt Wellingtons, can take down an entire line. It is one of the biggest challenges we cooks face. Which says a lot for a bunch of mostly overworked, underpaid renegades who are used to “slogging it out” in 120-degree kitchens. I was talking this week with my executive chef, Andy, about “working the pass.” We have a brigade-style line, the same as in Hell’s Kitchen. This means that the fish guy cooks the fish while the garnish girl heats the vegetables, sauce, and starch. All of these items come up in bits to the “pass,” where the chef or sous chef plates the dishes, garnishes them, and sends them to the guests. In other kitchens, a cook may compose an entire plate themselves, while a food runner or expeditor takes them to the guests. The difference is the level of control that is gained through the brigade system. The person who plates and sends the items is the last check in the system. They don’t have a sense of emotion invested in the items; they don’t know that the over-cooked quail eggs were put up because they are the last on hand. They are neutral, and that is what allows them to constantly monitor the quality and consistency of the products.

To this end, making the jump to the pass is a difficult move. This was the topic of our conversation. Andy said that when he was working in London with Gordon, you had to jump in, push people out of the way, and fight for your place there on the pass. Even if you don’t know the dishes well, you can ask the line cooks for the components, set up the plates, call for service, or anything else in your effort to keep the flow of the “train.”

This digression very much applies to our Borgata hopefuls. During the challenge, Lacey was forced out on the blue team, while Andrea dictated to the red. The chefs complained that they didn’t get their proper input, when really they should have simply pushed others out of the way. They should have dug in and found their place and their voice.

The single cheftestant who did emerge loud and clear was Paula, who created a tempura tuna dish, which made it onto Chef Ramsay’s menu for service. I realize that it was a collaborative effort, but she had her idea, stuck to it and executed it exceptionally well.

As we move on with the eleven remaining hopefuls, I hope more will begin to separate themselves. The prize is there, and at this point it is anyone’s battle. My advice for the contestants of season 5 is to wake up, fight back and emerge as individuals. So, while I wait for the next installment, I will have to settle for my own immersion, as my partner and I finish our BCBC Blends online cookbook, and prepare to delve into the printed version due out this fall. So till next time, eat well and be well.

After graduating at the top of her class from The Culinary Institute of America and putting in decades of work in some of the country's top kitchens, Christina Machamer's hard work has been rewarded with a Hell's Kitchen triumph. Now settled into her new West Hollywood digs, she and her partner Cory Lemieux venture into the artisan spice trade with their online company bcbcblends.com. Look for Christina, as she travels the country, seeking out food shows, farmer's markets, and a possible location for her next culinary adventure.

Read more by Christina:
Hell's Kitchen Insider: A Bar Mitzvah To Remember
Hell's Kitchen Insider: V-C-I-T-O-R-Y?
Hell's Kitchen Insider: The Pressure Cooker
Hell's Kitchen Insider: Another One Gigabytes the Dust!
Hell's Kitchen Insider: Chef Ramsay Loves a Fighter
Hell's Kitchen Insider: First Impression