Ninja Cool in the Flames of Hell's Kitchen
Have you seen my niece Sabrina on the Tuesday night Fox network Hell’s Kitchen television reality competition hosted by London super chef Gordon Ramsey?
Three episodes into the intensely high-pressure series, and Sabrina is holding her own. None of us – not even close family members like this loving uncle who blessed her vows in wedding nephew Kyle – know how she will place by the end of the shows.
I am enjoying (OK, “intrigued by” is a more appropriate word than “enjoying”) the responses and reactions of the young contestants in this pitched competition. Winner gets a quarter-million dollar stint as manager at a super restaurant near the Winter Olympics, not to mention priceless career-building publicity around the globe, along with protege status on the Gordon Ramsey team. That’s a lot to shoot for and one winner takes all.
Watch the show and watch the fierce force directed at the flaws of the contestants by the king of the cookery. Kitchen of Hell indeed. I was the sole non-Japanese training in the home dojo of the grandmaster of the ninja, and I was the ninja forced upon the United States Department of State Dignitary Security Service protection team at the insistence of the Dalai Lama’s chief of staff, and my treatment by those few who resented my joining their crew from out of left field was nowhere near as searing and violent as the atmosphere in which my chef niece now finds herself preparing dinner.
Watch the show and see how the contestants respond to their treatment based on their performance. Did contestants know how brutal the competition would be? Did they know how roughly spoken their mentor would be? Did they know how flighty, unreliable, and abjectly unbalanced some of their competitor co-chefs would be? Since the show is now in season 6, one would have to surmise “Yes” to all those questions.
Watch for signs of those chef competitors who “get it” as to what chef Gordon Ramsey is up to with his fierce high standards and scathing rebukes to those who fail to operate effectively and efficiently. Lots of beeeep overlays blotting out the way-overused “f—-” describing each moment of anguish. Pans of slightly imperfect food, potential life-sustaining nutrition to the starving all over the world, flipped disdainfully into the trash bin. Roaring insults hurled at the inept and confused as they struggle to cover up or make up for time-killing team-killing blunders.
In the private off-camera observations of one contestant, it is clear that she does indeed get it. It’s a show. Shows thrive on increasing audiences. Audiences increase in response to what emotionally engages people. Nothing engages like controversy. Super chef roaring at nervous shrimp peelers or monster mauler flipping middle finger to a UFC audience from a cage, it makes no difference. The audience is enraged. The audience is engaged.
And you know for the real performer pros, there is nothing personal about it at all. It’s their job.
Some important lessons in there for anyone deep enough to presume to claim to understand the nin of ninja.
Watching Hell’s Kitchen you can learn a lot about the secrets for keeping your cool in the midsts of the flames.