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 Gordon Ramsay 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

Welcome back foodies, friends, fanatics, and fiends…. as the gates of Hell open to another season of hopeful chefs vying for a dream gig at the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic city.

For me, episode 1 flew by. It all started with a cattle call to find the contestants for this year’s season. I imagine it must have been nerve-wracking for everyone who came so close and missed the cut. Once the contestants were chosen, they jumped right into signature dishes. Overall, the dishes were good, but really, compared to Matty’s vomitous venison, white chocolate, scallop, and egg delight, improvement wasn’t hard. The highlight was Ji’s miso-sake marinated sea bass, although her dish was quickly followed by a camel’s hoof, diapers, and something “gone bananas.”

Later that night, the contestants retired to the dorms to decide on a team name. Did anyone get the point of this? The teams never used their names. It made more sense last season when we chose team captains. Although, we didn’t really use those either.

Next morning it was off to the kitchen to begin prepping for the first dinner service. I was glad that they chose to show a good deal of this, even though it was mostly focused on Lacey’s incompetence. This is the part that makes HK so challenging. You have eight hours to learn a completely new menu. Then you have to prep out everything, from filleting the fish and making the stocks for sauces, to rolling out the Wellingtons, and even churning the ice cream. It’s quite a lot of work. I know people compare HK to Top Chef, but really they are completely different. On Top Chef, you can bring your tools and gadgets, you only compete in challenges, and you have triple the amount of time to complete them in. In Hell’s kitchen, you aren’t allowed ANY of your personal knives or tools. You cannot bring any recipes or formulas. Everything has to be off the top of your head. For savory items this isn’t such a challenge, but imagine trying to come up with a formula for paté a choux or even crème brulée with no guidelines.

Nonetheless, the contestants completed the task… or at least some did. Seth peeled a carrot, and Lacey, (who was supposed to be prepping the dessert station) whined, had a snack, took a smoke break, and left Coi the scrapes. This didn’t fly with the spitfire Texan cafe cook. “I swear to God, if I get kicked off because of you, I’m coming after you,” Coi threatened.

The doors opened, and the lights went out. Carol and Giovanni, who were pulled out of the kitchen to assist JP, tried to assuage the starving guests. While Carol softened her guests with wine, Giovanni stumbled over explaining polenta! Really? Giovanni, an executive chef, couldn’t explain a basic staple of Italian cuisine? For those who don’t know, polenta is to Northern Italy what mashed potatoes are to the Midwest. Basically, it is boiled cornmeal, flavored with cream or cheese. Think grits.

The rest of service was shit, as the first ones usually are, and the guests left before they were even served. The winning team was decided based upon the service in the dining room. Giovanni’s performance was crap, and so the Blues Brothers had to nominate two of their own. Wil nominated himself, and everyone else nominated Seth. In the end, it was Wil’s honesty that sealed his fate in Hell’s Kitchen. He was the first eliminated in season 5, and this fan was sad to see him go.

Episode 1 is all about first impressions, so here are my predictions for what this season has in store:

Red Team:
Andrea: Undecided. She does not stand out yet, but that may be a good thing
Colleen: Miss Manners will be the next to go if the red team loses
Carol: Competent, but too sweet to succeed. I think she’ll fall somewhere in the middle
Coi: I really like the way she called Lacey out, but can she control her temper?
Ji: Great signature dish, although in the past this means very little, I still have a good feeling about this caterer.
LA: I like LA, which is good, because I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of her.
Lacey: We have our villain. Although I hope she is the next to go, I think she will continue to torment me and the other chef’s for at least a couple more weeks.
Paula: Not much of Paula this episode. (To Lacey, “That looks like turd.”) I like her.

Blue Team:
Ben: I’ll decide next week. He’ll still be in the kitchen.
Giovanni: An executive chef who can’t explain polenta? Not good enough.
Seth: Run Forest Run. If the Blue team looses you’d better have your bags packed.
Charlie: “Ginger pubes” This was the nickname given to Mario Batali years ago by Marco Pierre White. Could this be indicative of something?
J: Was he even in this episode? I watched it twice, and I still don’t remember him.
Danny: This Florida “gator hunter” will have to watch his steps around Chef Ramsay. Few stay in Hell’s Kitchen long enough to cross chef twice.
Robert: When he offered to trade places with Wil, he won my support. I think he has a barrel chest to house a huge heart.
Wil: Thank you for your honesty. I wish it would have worked in your favor. Good luck in the future, with your integrity you’ll go far.

Well, one episode down. Thirteen more to go, and a city to feed in the meantime. Until next week, 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

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