Chef Gordon Ramsay Dishes On Season 11 Of 'Hell's Kitchen'
March 19th, 2013 6:30am EDT
Chef Gordon Ramsay is an imposing figure on FOX's Hell's Kitchen, putting chefs to the test - and putting the incompetent and arrogant in their place. But to see him on Hell's Kitchen is to know only one side of Chef Ramsay, who has four TV shows on FOX alone, more Michelin stars than most chefs can even dream of, and a much warmer personality than commercials would have you believe. BFTV recently checked in with Chef Ramsay to get the inside dish on Season 11 of Hell's Kitchen.
"I’m in love with it now," he said of starting up the competition for an eleventh cycle. "I’m in love with the restaurant. I’m in love with the competitive edge. It’s like launching a brand new restaurant every time."
Part of Hell's Kitchen's longevity comes from the fact that Ramsay and his team are constantly evolving the series to keep up with the ever-changing culinary world, and Season 11 has seen numerous changes, beginning with last week's season premiere that featured a live signature-dish tasting for the first time in the show's history. "This year we did something completely different where I said, 'Look, just respond to cooking live better than ever before,' and if you don’t, you shouldn’t be a chef," Ramsay explained, "because forget the cameras. Forget the show. Behind the scenes when you’re in a restaurant, you are live and when you kick off, you can’t just stop and say 'I’m not quite ready.'"
"We’ve been so much more adventurous with their challenges as well," he continued. "We try to make it relevant in terms of the multi-cultural world. We’ve gone out on some extraordinary field trips. We’ve done some amazing charity events that have put the pressure on unlike never before.
"Then I introduced the chef's tables quite early on, because that put [the chefs] under scrutiny. [We] tried to find out who their sort of mentors were and their heroes and try to incorporate those guests, so they weren’t just sort of cooking on a show. All of a sudden they’re now cooking for some big mentors."
Even the chef's support staff has changed this season. As noted in our Season 11 preview, longtime sous chef Scott Leibfried is absent for the first time, but original maitre'd Jean-Phillippe Susilovic has returned. "Scott has gone on and opened up his own restaurant up in Santa Barbara, and obviously I can understand why he wants to have focus on that," Chef Ramsay said. Liebfried's replacement is James Avery, whom the chef described as "a young, dynamic [chef who] first started working with me on Kitchen Nightmares four years ago."
Ramsay expressed how happy he is to have Susilovic return to the dining room after a prolonged absence. "I feel so much more relaxed that we can deliver that level of service this year better than ever before, because we have Jean-Philippe back," he continued. "He opened up his amazing restaurant back in Belgium two years ago and I said to him, 'Look, I don’t mind helping you out if you want to do an undercover Kitchen Nightmares.' He got upset, he said, 'Whoa, you can’t do Hell’s Kitchen without me and I want to come back,' so he’s back this year and that has just lifted the team’s spirits and the dining room beyond belief."
One of the things Chef Ramsay isn't concerned with is the drama that goes on outside of his kitchen. "I purposely [made] a decision eight years ago not to get engaged with what happens off set," he explained. "I’ve always maintained, I run a restaurant and Fox runs a show, so it’d be very unprofessional of me to start delving into what goes on in terms of the characters and the personalities. I judge everyone from an equal playing field.
"It’s too easy to get obsessed with what goes on in the dorm, but that doesn’t interest me because that doesn’t make any difference to me. When I open that restaurant, when we do the challenges, when we set the menu, which I’m totally involved in far much more this year than ever before, it’s always done as a professional chef."
The chief compromise between the professional cooking and the creation of the TV show is that the emphasis is on competition, more than the hands-on Chef Ramsay familiar to viewers of Kitchen Nightmares, MasterChef and even Hotel Hell. The chef let us know that's going to change in Season 11. "I insisted this year that we have a little bit more mentoring, and you’ll see [that in] sort of week six or seven, when we sort of start focusing on the real talent," he said. "I’m always sort of defensive when [the chefs] get criticized [that] they’re not real chefs. They are real chefs. They just want an amazing break.
"[We] had that mentoring aspect that went on more than ever before, cooking classes in downtime, little insights. I’m far more involved this year cooking, because that’s what I miss," he said. "I missed that buzz, because I also like the little things of The Voice, where the actual judges physically get off their chairs and stand up on the stage and perform in front of their contestants. That’s exactly what I started doing in Hell’s Kitchen. I thought, 'You just see me now as this guy that is fronting a program, but you’ve got no idea I’ve made more mistakes than all of you put together.' I continue pushing myself to the full extent, and more importantly I can cook and here’s why. I like that vulnerability."
Ramsay also reported that Season 10 winner Christina Wilson - who won a job at Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas - is still employed there and will also make an appearance in Season 11. "This is an amazing opportunity and I just look at what Christina has done in Vegas and how she’s handled the pressure of running the kitchen, still there this length of time after that program and the success of that," he said. "It’s the success of the business in the real world. I introduced Christina early on in the competition to say to these guys, look, this is not a fly-by-night twenty-four hour success. This is the real deal."
How does he think this year's brigade stacks up? "We have some phenomenal chefs," Ramsay said. "They’re competitive and really ready to win this thing." To achieve that goal, they'll have to impress one of the world's best chefs, who is determined to find someone who can stand real heat in the kitchen.
Hell's Kitchen continues tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX. You can keep up with Chef Ramsay by visiting his official website and following him on Twitter (@GordonRamsay01).
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.
Photo Credits: FOX