Hell’s Kitchen S18E6 recap: Potatoes, steak and two chefs gone


In Hell’s Kitchen S18E6 recap, we deal with the very special episode promised last week. Truly, it is rather special in that Hell’s Kitchen deals with mental health in an open but sensitive way that surprises me.

Hell’s Kitchen S18E6 opens, as usual, after an elimination. Chris is sitting alone, and Kanae asks him how he is holding up. Chris asks her, “is it possible to have a good service?” He is clearly feeling pretty defeated. Chris reminds us that just nine months ago, he had a terrible accident. It sounds like the recovery made him depressed, but that he learned optimism to pull him through. He is worried that he is slipping back into his negative place here at Hell’s Kitchen.

Having planted that concern, we move on to the challenge for the day. Ramsay tells the chefs they will have the honor of meeting a culinary legend, a household name known across the entire world. A figure appears behind the frosted glass door, holding a covered dish. It is…Marino.

Marino lifts the cover to reveal a Mr. Potato Head. They place the Potato Head on a tiny throne and explain that he has inspired creativity and imagination for years. The chefs will now need to cook a creative dish with potato as the star. Jocky and Christina bring out a table of potatoes as well as Mr. Potato Heads fashioned after the contestants.

HELL’S KITCHEN: The “Hot Potato” episode of HELL’S KITCHEN airing Friday, Nov. 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

But there’s more! Marino has a bucketful of Mr. Potato Head parts, each with an ingredient written on it. The chefs will have to locate the ingredients they want in thirty seconds and affix them to their Potato Heads. He tosses the contents of the bucket but there are only a few pieces, clearly not enough for everyone. Cue the cascade of parts from the ceiling, a waterfall of plastic that pools on the floor.

The cooks fall to the floor to scramble for ingredients and in thirty seconds have some pretty odd looking Potato Heads. They then hurry to complete their dishes.

The women have one extra team member, so when time is called, they have to choose a dish to sit out. Immediately T’s dish gets nominated for the obviously grainy texture of her mash. She insists her mash should be that way and after further debate, the team decides to leave out Kanae’s dish. They tell Ramsay it is not visually appealing and is clunky.

HELL’S KITCHEN: Contestants in the “Hot Potato” episode of HELL’S KITCHEN airing Friday, Nov. 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

Ramsay introduces our guest judge- a James Beard nominated cookbook author with three restaurants- Richard Blais. Scotley and Gizzy are excited to have a fellow Atlantan in the house. I too am from Atlanta and have dined in his Flip Burger restaurant. I became a Blais fan when he competed on Top Chef and in fact went on a Top Chef cruise with him. I have a cookbook signed by him from the cruise.

First up is Jose with a sweet potato gratin. He has charred his broccoli to resemble bone marrow. Blais perks up when he hears about the broccoli and has an interesting reaction.

After tasting the dish, he tells Jose he would prefer to just have the gratin. He says, “sometimes, people are beautiful in jeans and a t-shirt. They don’t need to get dressed up and wear fancy suits, right? I wanted more jeans and a t-shirt in this dish.”

This is an interesting reaction as young Blais was all about the molecular gastronomy and all kinds of food sorcery. At Flip Burger years ago, I had a burger with blue cheese foam and a liquid nitrogen milkshake. To have him wish for less trickery and more comfort food was interesting. Like all good chefs, Richard has clearly evolved his style over time.

Jose earns just four points out of a total of ten possible. Next up is T. She has made a mash of red garnet sweet potato and butternut squash. The judges find her mash grainy, her bacon too crispy, her peas an unpleasant texture. She earns just three points.

Trevor’s potato fritter and Heather’s surf and turf both earn six points. Next up is Chris. He has made a lobster shepherd’s pie. Ramsay tells him it is the best thing he has made so far, and he earns a perfect ten.

Ariel’s Pommes Anna gives Richard goosebumps and earns her team nine points. Motto has the misfortune of bringing up another shepherd’s pie which leads to direct comparisons with Chris’s dish. Motto also does not learn from the comments Jose got about jeans and a t-shirt and he introduces his dish as shepherd’s pie but more like the private shepherd to the king. Blais hilariously tells him, “that’s not a thing that exists, by the way.” His meat is so rare that it is almost inedible and he gets just two points.

HELL’S KITCHEN: Contestant Motto in the “Hot Potato” episode of HELL’S KITCHEN airing Friday, Nov. 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

Mia presents a cold Peruvian dish that I would love to more know about and earns another perfect ten.

Scotley gets an eight, and his Atlanta rival Gizzy gets a three. This leaves the women just barely ahead with thirty-one points to the men’s thirty. Bret relies on his skills with Italian food and creates a perfect ten gnocchi, so the men are ahead forty to thirty-one.

Roe serves the last dish- a gratin with steak. She earns a respectable nine and, like countless challenges through the history of Hell’s Kitchen, we have a tie.

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  • The judges debate between the three perfect ten dishes- Chris, Mia, and Bret. Chris wins the day with the best dish!

    As is usual with Hell’s Kitchen, Ramsay still tastes the dish left out of the challenge, and as happens every time, he deems it better than dishes that were judged. When he tells Kanae that she deserves to have her dish tasted too, her obvious delight is charming. The judges deem her purple mashed potato, scallops, crispy prosciutto, and zucchini to be an eight. This of course beats T and Gizzy’s scores of three, and they were the biggest proponents of keeping her dish out.

    I expected fireworks but for the most part, the women get to work on their punishment of traditional KP- peeling lots and lots of potatoes for steak night. Meanwhile, the men enjoy a trip to an exotic animal park and eat food from the Nomad food truck.

    Once the men return, the teams begin dinner prep but Chris’s joy at his win is short lived. He pulls Christina aside and tells her that he is feeling like he is falling back into the dark place that he was in after his accident and that he needs to bow out of the competition. Christina is clearly concerned for him but tells him his health is paramount. She then informs Ramsay.

    Gordon comes to speak with Chris privately. Once Chris explains that his demons are back, Ramsay tells him, “if you’re uncomfortable and you’re feeling demons then you need to go get help. Quickly.” Ramsay promises to help him get to someone he can talk to right away.

    As Chris packs, he tells us, “It’s easier to lie and hide behind things but it’s harder to face the music.” Once he leaves, Ramsay calls the teams together to tell them Chris is dealing with personal issues and has left the competition. Everyone is sad to see him go, but they rally and Bret says, “let’s do this one for Chris!”

    HELL’S KITCHEN: Chef / host Gordon Ramsay (R) with contestants in the “Hot Potato” episode of HELL’S KITCHEN airing Friday, Nov. 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

    I am really impressed how this was handled. It wasn’t played up for drama. Chris was brave enough to speak up and ask for help. Christina and Gordon validated his concerns and made sure he got immediate support. His teammates were very sorry to see him leave but supportive as well. It was really refreshing to see mental health addressed in this way, and not what I expect on a high drama show like Hell’s Kitchen.

    After all that, dinner service was fairly typical. The men, true to their word, did this one for Chris and had a near perfect service. The women did get kicked out for bringing up too many raw steaks. T and Heather are on the meat station. T is pan-searing the steaks for color and then Heather puts them in the oven to bring them to temperature. Their communication breaks down completely when the raw steaks start going up, mostly because T feels like Heather is not pulling her weight and she simply stops speaking to her.

    What is more interesting to me in dinner service is not what happened but what didn’t happen. Ramsay rarely lost his cool. He certainly expressed disappointment, but he also instructed, praised, and encouraged. This was more MasterChef Ramsay than Hell’s Kitchen Ramsay.

    When Jose keeps moving his risotto off the fire, Ramsay doesn’t yell. He shows him how to keep it on the fire so it will cook. When Motto is overwhelmed and not communicating on garnish, Ramsay works with him and when he is back on his game, Ramsay is right there with praise and fist pumps.

    HELL’S KITCHEN: L-R: Contestants Bret and Jose in the “Hot Potato” episode of HELL’S KITCHEN airing Friday, Nov. 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

    After T and Heather have delivered yet another raw steak, Ramsay doesn’t yell or smash the steak or throw it. He sinks to the ground and rubs his eyes. Then he calls the whole team over. He passes the steak to Jocky, “cook that, will you please?” He then asks the team, “what’s happened? There’s no cohesiveness, no teamwork. I’ve never seen it like this and I’ve got a talented team here.” Sure, he kicks them out, but I have never heard Ramsay utter the word please when in a tantrum or praise a team even as he kicks them out.

    HELL’S KITCHEN: Chef / host Gordon Ramsay with contestants in the “Hot Potato” episode of HELL’S KITCHEN airing Friday, Nov. 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting.

    Thinking back on this season, I haven’t been seeing the sort of Ramsay explosions that I am used to. Are we getting a kind, gentler Gordon Ramsay? I like this Gordon; I just hope he is OK.

    Back to the competition, both T and Heather are nominated for their failures on the meat station and T is sent home for her failure to communicate and lead the station.

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    I started this season’s recaps with the idea of putting a best Ramsay insult and tantrum here, but now that I have this nicer Ramsay to deal with, I will change it to a best line.

    Best line goes to Chris at the exotic animal park: I love animals. When I was younger, I thought I was going to be a zoologist. I guess the second best thing is to cook them.

    Good luck to you, Chris.