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Gordon Ramsay dishes about 'Hell's Kitchen's upcoming sixth edition


By Christopher Rocchio, 07/17/2009 

Gordon Ramsay promises Hell's Kitchen's upcoming sixth season will include all the "tantrums and rollercoasters" viewers are accustomed to, but added the talent of the culinary contestants has "raised the bar."

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"It's possibly the most demanding in terms of frustration level, but I think we've got some exceptional chefs, which may turn out to be a bit of a surprise I think," Ramsay told reporters during a Wednesday conference call.

"I think the standard of chefs across the board is far greater... We've been a lot more creative in terms of the challenges and there have been a few twists."

Hell's Kitchen's sixth season will premiere with a special two-hour episode on Tuesday, July 21 at 8PM ET/PT, and Ramsay confirmed recent Fox promos that show him having some heated confrontations with the contestants.

"I suppose they've watched the show before and they want to come in with a bravado," he told reporters.  "But I always say if you let your food do the talking, you'd be surprised how far you go in a short period of time."

Ramsay said dealing with the contestants can be "frustrating" because "a lot of it feels like dealing with teenagers."  Still, Ramsay added it's a delicate balance when he attempts to douse the contestants' fiery passion.

"I encourage that level of confidence.  That's great," he said.  "But when you've got the arrogance, the confidence and you can't cook, then you look stupid.  So it's only a matter of time before they get exposed.  However never, never knockout that kind of confidence from a young chef to begin with because you need that... I want to inspire them and push them to the limits."

Not surprisingly, Ramsay said tears will flow this season and even admitted his own eyes welled-up sometimes.

"I come close to tears sometimes because of the excruciating pain. I can't quite believe that they've made the basic errors," he explained.  "Cooking a dish is fine.  Cooking under pressure is a completely different ballgame.  I always try to tell them from Day 1 that pressure's healthy.  It becomes stressful when you can't handle that.  If you don't want to become pressurized in this environment than don't be a chef."

The eventual sixth-season winner will receive the head chef position at Araxi Restaurant in British Columbia, Canada -- which was established in 1981 at the base of the Whistler Mountain ski resort area. In addition, the winner will also join executive chef James Walt at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

Ramsay said Hell's Kitchen had "several offers on the table" from various establishments interested in welcoming the sixth-season winner, however Araxi was chosen because it's simply "phenomenal."

"Whistler is hosting the 2010 Olympics.  The actual restaurant is amazing.  The place is just beautiful," he told reporters.  "Very few restaurants anywhere in the world get a chance to survive the way they do it in terms of everything's sourced -- 95% of their produce is sourced within 100 miles of their front door, which is absolutely a dream come true for any chef."

Ramsay claims Hell's Kitchen received "just over 13,500" applicants last year, which was "fantastic" because it produced the higher level of talent.

"I suppose more than anything the chefs have gotten better, which makes my life a lot easier," he explained.  "I can be a lot more creative in terms of the menu.  There are challenges.  Everything has to be done for a reason.  Everything has to be done to make sense in terms of running a proper business today -- it's not just about the food."

While Ramsay said fifth-season winner Danny Veltri was "very, very good" at understanding what Hell's Kitchen is all about, he also heaped praise upon third-season winner Rock Harper.

"I thought Rock was an amazing winner.  There's no two ways about that.  Very, very talented," he said.  "But I'd say Rock has the greatest potential so far in terms of what he's capable of doing. "

Ramsay said it's difficult determining which of the previous contestants has the greatest potential because a chef should never rest on his or her laurels.

"It's hard really because you want them to use the position as a platform to continue thriving and learning," he explained. 

"Just to get the money and the fame and adulation and to enjoy the year, but then get yourself into something really serious and climb the ladder as opposed to trying to think that you've gotten to the top of the ladder.  This is a serious game out there and it's a tough, tough industry to survive.  So you can't depend on the exposure of a TV series to keep your feet on the ground and your food tasting delicious.  You've got to push yourself."

In addition to Hell's Kitchen's sixth season airing this summer, Kitchen Nightmares' new season is also scheduled to debut September 11 on Fox -- and Ramsay is excited for viewers to see the work he did with the American eating establishments.

"This year, Kitchen Nightmares is almost on par with the U.K. version," he told reporters.

"I think you'll see a different side this year.  When the chefs confront [me], I'm going to get straight to the point.  The minute when they start understanding why I'm there -- let's not forget, they asked me in there -- and I want to get on with the cooking and helping the business restructure itself.  Arguing is not a thing of the past, but getting straight to the point is something I can never stop doing.  So they get very insecure too quickly... But the truth hurts."

With Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares already having their own stateside versions, Ramsay said his F Word U.K. reality series has also been discussed as possibly crossing the Atlantic.

"We've thought about that," he said when asked about bring the F Word to the U.S..  "The new F Word starts in September across in the U.K., and it's a really exciting one."

(Photo credit Fox)


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