Hell’s Kitchen Season 21 episode 1: Signature dishes set the tone

HELL’S KITCHEN: L-R: Contestants Abe, Billy, Mindy and Tara in the season 21 premiere episode of HELL’S KITCHEN airing Thursday, Sep. 29 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX.
HELL’S KITCHEN: L-R: Contestants Abe, Billy, Mindy and Tara in the season 21 premiere episode of HELL’S KITCHEN airing Thursday, Sep. 29 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2022 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX. /

As Hell’s Kitchen Season 21 episode 1 opens, it is clear that the Battle of the Ages is ready to crush previous seasons expectations. Even though the chefs might have hoped that the gender divided teams would return, this competition ponders if skill can be measured by years’ experience. Based on the signature dishes, that answer is yet to be determined.

Hell’s Kitchen Season 21 episode 1 set the tone with the introduction to the new set of competing chefs and set up the personalities that might come to light. From Billy’s “be true” mantra to the twenty-somethings Vlad, aka “truffle boy,” the nicknames, descriptors, and other adjectives seem to give a glimpse of what could be coming.

Overall, the signature dishes were well executed. Although only one dish seemed to push the creativity level. Sakari on the Red Team, younger chefs, impressed with his cod stew. Gordon Ramsay gushed over the flavor of the cod and the nuanced layers in the dish.

For the Blue Team, older chefs, Alex had the top dish. The self-taught chef, who lost his restaurant during the COVID shutdown, had a perfectly cooked protein and layered flavors. It was visually vibrant and was well executed.

But, like any good Hell’s Kitchen episode, the poor choices are often a standout more than the impressive ones. From Nicole’s curious choice in using boxed pasta to Llena’s ill-fated butternut squash risotto, these dishes failed before they were plated. If these recipes are signature dishes, the two chefs might need to go back to the drawing board.

Those examples prove that the chefs need to think about that signature dish and what it says about their culinary point of view. Sure, Billy, a big boy plated a big dish, but the flavors worked. It was clear that he had perfected that dish over the years.

That sentiment was clear in the final head-to-head battle where Billy’s dish went against Sommer’s dish. Sommer’s choice to make a coconut rice that she had not made before was not just a risk, it was a silly mistake. Sugar rice does not make an appetizing entrée.

The poor execution caused the signature dish challenge to end in a tie. With the top two dishes used to break the tie, the Red Team, on the strength of Sakara’s cod, earned the win and the dinner cruise with Chef Ramsay.

Unfortunately, the Blue Team received the losing punishment. In addition to cleaning up the kitchen, they had to stock all the deliveries. It was definitely hard work, but the team got the job done.

Listening to the commentary during the punishment, the Blue Team was willing to put in the hard work. They were not happy, but they understood the assignment, stopped the complaining and completed the task. It would be interesting to know if the Red Team would have handled the situation as smoothly.

That punishment set up the next challenge. Since no one likes the punishments for losing, the punishment pass has made a return. But, there is a twist.

While everyone seemed excited to take on the chicken wing challenge, the episode ended on a cliffhanger. Hell’s Kitchen Season 21 episode 1 ended with a to be continued. No one was eliminated, no one received a punishment pass, and everyone will have to wait another week to see which chef had the best chicken wings.

So many questions were raised in the first episode of the season. Which chefs will be the instigator this season, why do they not offer ear plugs for the chefs at night, and is age just a number?

Be sure to watch Hell’s Kitchen Season 21 episode 2 on Thursday, October 6 to see which chicken wing earns the crown, which chef gets sent home and if the Blue team’s service can get a guest to break out into “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.”