Monday, February 09, 2009


It's time for Season 5 of Hell's Kitchen, and not having a cable connection I watch it on

I watched the first two episodes the other night, and it struck me how Chef Ramsay and Colleen, the 41-year-old cooking school instructor from Nebraska, started butting heads from the very start.

It reached an early low in Episode 2, when he accused her of stealing from her students, he considered her to be such a bad cook.

On first exposure, this seemed over the top and unfair. And possibly dangerous, as I seriously doubt she's going to last on the show much longer, and after talk like this from Gordon Ramsay, who will want to take cooking lessons from her? What if she sues for deprivation of livelihood?

But thinking about it, maybe she's asking for it. Her attitude seems to be that she's what's needed to be a chef in the new restaurant in Atlantic City, right now, just as she is. That her appearance on Hell's Kitchen is all and only about revealing that marvellous reality to Chef Ramsay and the world. She doesn't seem interested in learning anything; in fact, she feels she can teach him a thing or two. Like, his spaghetti sauce recipe can really be improved by adding mascarpone cheese, oh, yeah, and if she mis-cooks a simple salmon filet or uses a dirty pan because she's overlooked five clean ones not three feet away from her, that's not her fault. She has an excuse for everything and her failure in basic kitchen practice shouldn't matter.

I have to contrast her with last year's winner, Christina from St. Louis. What stood out to me about Christina was the way she was always observing and learning. Even during the rewards and the day-off trips, she was always looking, listening, questioning, analyzing, and gathering new information about fine food and its preparation.

This post really isn't about Colleen of Nebraska or Christina of St. Louis. It's about job seekers like me who have to consider whether we're holding ourselves back by a perceived or real lack of teachability. It's about anybody who makes a job opportunity all about themselves instead of what they can offer to the organization. It's also about the difficult balance between the need to be recognized for one's years of experience and the humility required when starting over in a new field or on a different level.

I haven't figured out yet what the precise application of the story is for me. But I can't help thinking about it. Maybe I'm feeling uncomfortable because I've sometimes come off like a know-it-all like Colleen. Maybe I'm afraid, on the other hand, that seeming too teachable will mean denying my true abilities and confine me to the lowest rung of any given ladder.

But maybe this is an object lesson in knowing myself and my own capabilities, in distinguishing between self-confidence that's justified and the kind that's just a hollow shell. Being teachable doesn't exclude being competent. And high pressure and heat will sort out true competence from sham posturing-- even if you're not competing in Hell's Kitchen.

1 comment:

Sandy said...

I like I watch Chuck on hulu.