Culinary Showdown 3: Hell's Kitchen vs. Top Chef

This week, both Hell's Kitchen 4 and Top Chef 4 focused on their areas of strength or weakness, depending on how you feel about each show.

Hell's Kitchen 4 had several moments of Survivor and Big Brother-like reality show schtick with chicken-killing fake-out and the ladies in a hot tub using their wiles in a strategic fashion against the boys.

Top Chef 4 had a few moments of interpersonal drama at the start of the episode, but those tensions from last week became secondary to the story as the chefs returned to creative solo cooking.

The actual Hell's Kitchen chicken task – successfully cutting a chicken up into appropriate usable pieces – highlighted once again that some of the tasks in this show might not be as easy as they look. The premise of Hell's Kitchen does seem, ultimately, rather simple: learn these certain dishes and execute. However, Craig – who has been a chef for 13 years – demonstrated that actually having the ability to execute what should be a basic (or at least by this point rote) task under pressure can be harder than it looks.

The cheftestants on Top Chef, on the other hand, made it seem pretty easy this week. The chefs returned to cooking solo, and were cooking outside for football fans. One might have expected this crop of fancy-pants chefs to have the same kind of issues we saw at the Block Party, either keeping it so simple it felt like they were dumbing it down, or being so focused on what they wanted to showcase that it felt like they forgot the audience.

For the most part, though, the majority of the chefs on Top Chef seemed to uniformly do a solid job of being creative and impressing the judges while making the football fans really happy as well. And, other than Mark's cleanliness and Nikki's portion control issues, no one seemed to have much trouble successfully executing.

Some of the comments on the recent recap for Hell's Kitchen were around the casting process for the two shows. This week seemed to highlight that the chefs on Top Chef might be cast for having some reality show appeal, but mainly seem to have some real skills.

On the other hand, Hell's Kitchen might be limited in who they cast in that they have to find people eager enough for the prize or exposure that they are willing to endure televised abuse at the hands of Gordon Ramsay. There, obviously, have been some talented people among those ranks, but it can't be easy to find those folks, and might be why we wind up with a chef like Jason in Hell's Kitchen.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Fox & Bravo)