He’s got a library of books, multiple television programs, and a worldwide empire of fine-dining restaurants under his name, which likely makes Gordon Ramsay one of the busiest men on the planet, not to mention one of the most accomplished chefs. He’s certainly one of the most intimidating, as Ramsay is known for his confrontational (and profane) style in the kitchen. But today he took time out to talk with the press about his most popular American series, the high-stress and high-stakes cooking competition Hell’s Kitchen, which returns to FOX for its fifth season this Thursday, January 29 at 9 pm.

This year’s grand prize for the winner is bigger than ever before: the top contestant will take on the role of executive chef at a brand new restaurant in the high-class Borgata resort in Atlantic City, along with $250,000. Last season’s winner was awarded the executive chef position at Ramsay’s new restaurant, The London West Hollywood. This time around, Ramsay noted, the top chef will get to help design an entirely new restaurant, including coming up with the menu, which Ramsay hops will provide “perfect platform” to showcase the winner’s skills and creativity in the kitchen.

As for picking the chefs for Season Five, Ramsay promises that his foremost concern was skill. Thanks to the growing popular of the show, the application process was the most competitive yet. But Ramsay is a chef who knows and demands the best, so a chef’s talent is far more important to him than whether they will make dramatic prime time television. More visibility and tougher competition means more pressure and scrutiny for him as a host, but it also makes his job “ten times more exciting” with each season.

As the stakes get bigger, it’s even more important to find contestants who are not only talents, but who stay calm through the most stressful situations, and use those conflicts to develop as chefs. And it sounds like he found the right bunch: this year’s top 4 contestants “could have easily won previous years,” Ramsay noted.

The Season 5 chefs were once again split up into male vs. female teams, and Ramsay noted some interesting differences on how gender affects the success the Season 5 teams. The women learn quicker as a group, Ramsay said, and as a whole are “phenomenal” chefs, but they are also quicker to get upset with each other when something goes wrong. The men, on the other hand, seem more aggressive and arrogant, but also more bonded as a team. There’s one aspect that doesn’t differ by gender, though: each chef’s drive to win.

But even this crop of top chefs has its share of big mistakes this season, and Ramsay will be there to tell them off in his signature manner. “I scream for perfection,” he said.

Hell’s Kitchen fans know that Ramsay’s favorite beginning test in the Grand Reopening challenge is Beef Wellington. Not only a personal favorite of the host, Wellington also requires perfect timing and trust on the part of the cook. Well, it sounds like the Season 5 chefs, who prepare the dish during tomorrow night’s premiere, may have butchered the job beyond repair: “I’m throwing the towel in,” Ramsay said in disappoint. “Hands down, no more Wellington!”

One thing every chef in Hell’s Kitchen can expect: “You’re always going to get confronted, you’re always going to get on-the-spot scenarios,” Ramsay says. “That stuff goes on in every kitchen.”

What Ramsay hopes all his chefs learn this season is that when the pressure hits, “you can’t just throw in the towel.” Even if he’s screaming in your face.

Can’t wait for Thursday night? Read our Hell’s Kitchen Season 5 Premiere: First Impressions and Spoilers!

-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
Image courtesy of FOX

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.