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
There are two questions that I am always asked about my experience in Hell’s Kitchen. The first is “What is Chef Ramsay really like?” This is easy to answer. No one is really that atrocious in real life. If they were they could not run a successful restaurant, have a family AND gain the respect of others in their field. Gordon, as he prefers to be called, is a real person. Sure he gets upset, and sometimes screams, “What is that? What is that? Is that the best you can do?” However, most of Ramsay’s critiques come with good reason. The second question is, “Where do they find these people?”
In light of our most recent elimination(s), I find this to be our most appropriate topic. Of course I say, “Ding Dong, the lazy b**** is gone!” But we all know the affinity I have for she who shall no longer be named within this blog. Though she made for great viewing, she was, quite possibly, the worst contestant on any reality TV show, ever. Does anyone else suck more at life then our fallen chef-testant? So here is the answer to that “meaning of life” question: where do they find these people?
The truth, unfortunately, is that they are all around you. They are in every kitchen that I have ever worked in, and the idiot quotient in culinary schools is high. Recently, I have happened to work with one of those people. For the sake of his future in this industry, we’ll call him Fanning. Fanning has two personalities. One is a real person; the other is an absurd malformation that comes from growing up in a strict European kitchen. (Think yelling and throwing saucepans with no labor laws or recompense). Fanning may have grown up to be a normal cook; however, he was forged into the Michelin-starred ways and (pardon the reference) has embraced the “dark side.” Fanning has never worked in a “real” restaurant. By this I mean those establishments that feed most of us most of the time. He has always worked in that place you save up for a month to eat in because it is a birthday, or an anniversary, or you bought a new home. The kind of restaurant that has so much ado on the street, but once you get there, they have lost your reservation, the food is just “okay,” and you leave wondering what all of the hype is about, to stop by a drive-thru on the way home. Sure, to his credit, Fanning has a few skills, but when it comes to the ranch dressing, cocktail sauce, or over-easy eggs this country was built on, he is clueless. Fanning doesn’t realize just how ignorant he is. He has always worked in that restaurant you wish you could go to, and because of that he has become the anti-cook.
The anti-cook is the opposite of she who shall not be noted in this blog. The anti-cook is someone who has worked in the same restaurant, or chain of restaurants, for over five years. They are what we in the industry refer to as “old dogs.” Old dogs of course have problems with any new tricks, techniques or ideals. They are those colleagues who have to cut others down in order to supplement their productivity. He, anti-cook, if left on the street to fend for himself, would whither and crawl back into the same repertoire of recipes he has been perfecting over and over.
Fanning seems to have much in common with our dwindling few would-be executive chefs. He is young, and very naïve, like Danny. Also like Danny, he has a few rational skills. Nonetheless, the hardest lessons to learn are the lessons of life. None of which can be taught. The anti-chef has an over-inflated sense of ego based upon time and title, much like Ben. His temper is short, and his words are harsh, but in this day and age, when there are so many aspiring chefs and so many choices, is there any room for this lack of empathy or modesty? As with LA, the anti-chef is easily deflated. Any protocol outside the norm causes both confusion and defeat.
Worst of all traits, Fanning could never support the weight of the team on himself. When prep times get tough, Fanning says, “Flick off, get it done,” and returns to the importance of running his mouth while completing his menial task. The problem with someone like Fanning is that he cannot conceptualize the results of his actions. If he were to “dig in” and “push out” as someone who is senior in the company should be able to do, he would become a solid asset. Instead, he lets his ego fall into place, and takes away from the enjoyment of the guests who are the jugular of any restaurant. To this end, I wonder how Carol and Andrea could perpetuate their feud with any hopes of success in this game. Forgetting those who, in essence, pay our salaries, is an egregious mistake, one that no amount of consuming raw pasta can make up for.
So when asked if these people are actors, I have to sadly say no. Though it adds to my job stability, the contestants we endure are all around us, and in every restaurant. Even Gordon’s own West Hollywood outpost has its share of “What is thats?” once in awhile. So for all the Fanning out there: “Piss off.”
Until next week, as our leaders emerge (Paula for Cory and Robert for me) and our anti-cooks get their good riddance, 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: Final Four Predictions
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