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To Hell and Back

Omigod, I love to eat. And frankly, I'll pretty much eat anything—if the food has chocolate- or nacho-flavored dust on it, you can bet your sweet ass I'll be cramming it down my gullet. ON THE OTHER HAND, I'm no blithering idiot when it comes to fancy-pantsy haute cuisine. Why, I even have my own goose farm in my backyard so I can fatten those fowls up, surgically remove their engorged livers, and dine on rich, fatty foie gras whenever I goddamn please.

That's why I'm particularly pleased by the return of the competitive cooking show Hell's Kitchen (Fox, Mondays, 8 pm). It's like engorging the goose liver—OF YOUR MIND. In this awesome reality show, 12 cooks of varying abilities are brought under the tutelage of one of the world's most renowned (and dickish) chefs, Gordon Ramsay. For the weeks that follow, the cooks are put though a hellish kitchen boot camp, where they're forced to work 'round the clock to prepare meals for the snooty and demanding clientele of the Hell's Kitchen restaurant. However, due to their lack of experience, almost every dinner service is the culinary equivalent of Auschwitz—with Ramsay screaming and throwing food on the floor, and unfed diners stomping out the door in a hungry huff.

Then every week, the worst of the worst is kicked off the show until only the grand-prize winner remains—who will become the executive chef of an extremely fancy Las Vegas resort! Sounds great, right? Well, not if you're going to be eating at the fancy resort! That's because every contestant on this season's Hell's Kitchen lacks the mental wherewithal to prepare a cake in an Easy-Bake Oven.

Now, perhaps you've seen Top Chef on the Bravo network—which is kind of like Project Runway for foodies. The main difference between Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen is that all the Top Chef contestants are actual chefs at the top of their collective game. Hell's Kitchen, on the other hand, is like the Special Olympics of the food industry, where the contestants boast such impressive resumé builders as "cafeteria worker," "caterer," "deli manager," and "prison cook." In fact, only one of the contestants is a professional sous chef, and she ends up running her ass off around the kitchen, putting out fires caused by the wannabes.

On the other hand, that's what makes Hell's Kitchen such a humiliating joy. Chef Ramsay is obviously only used to working with seasoned pros, and when these knuckleheads start destroying his kitchen, the poop hits the fan. "MOVE YOUR FAT ASS!" he screams. "STOP SWEATING IN THE FOOD, YOU PIG!" he cries. Or as he famously said to a contestant in season one: "YOU COOK LIKE OLD PEOPLE FUCK!" Wow. That hurt a lot of people's feelings all at once.

And while it may be disheartening to watch all that food get tossed into garbage cans, at least Chef Ramsay has the good sense to smash the undercooked risotto into the contestants' chests first. Though I will always love me some foie gras, nothing goes down nicer than a steaming hot plate of humiliation (nacho-cheese flavored)!

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