District on Manhattan Island in New York City, arguably defined as the blocks between 34th Street, 52nd Street, Eighth Avenue and the Hudson River (some sources say it extends down to 14th Street). Hell's Kitchen is also known as Clinton, but is never referred to as Midtown (except by real estate agents). A rather nasty multiple murder in the area in 1881 prompted New York Times to give Hell's Kitchen its name.

Since the end of the American Civil War the area had a well deserved reputation for vice, corruption and crime. Colourful characters like Dutch Heinrichs, Mallet Murphy, 'Mad Dog' Coll, 'Spitting Williams', Battle Annie Walsh, Owney Madden and Bully Morrison ruled different parts of Hell's Kitchen at various times. The district also produced Father Francis Patrick Duffy and the 'Fighting 69th' Regiment, and inspired Thomas Wolfe, William Sydney Porter ("O Henry") and most famously, the West Side Story

Less dramatically, Hell's Kitchen was where a large underclass of immigrants found their first homes and jobs in America. The area is considerably tamer than it was earlier; perhaps too gentrified for some people's liking.

Take ten celebrities and place them in a kitchen. Add Gordon Ramsay and two butt-kissing protégées. Sprinkle liberally with an overly ambitious menu, colour co-ordinated outfits and other celebrities hungry for free food and publicity. Watch Gordon simmer.

Hell's Kitchen, a recent addition to the collection of Celebrity Reality television shows, was broadcast on ITV and ITV2 between 23rd May 2004 and 6th June 2004. The format was straightforward: Ten (minor) celebs were given an intensive course in cooking, and after only a few days' training were unleashed on a brand new kitchen, catering for other minor celebrities who were hankering after free food and getting their faces back on national television.

Viewers got to vote, via phone and text, for which celebrities they wanted to eject from the kitchen, and the elimination continued every few days over the course of the two weeks until only one celebrity remained.

Gordon Ramsay was assisted in his cooking endeavours by Angela Hartnett, Head Chef at The Connaught, London and Mark Sargeant, Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay at Claridges, also in London. The front of house was deftly handled by the unflappable and enigmatic Maitre D' Jean Philippe who stayed calm and smiling throughout, even as he received wave after wave of abuse from Gordon and had to inform hungry guests that their food was not coming.

The ITV coverage was presented by Angus Deayton, who mingled with the diners seeking opinions and soundbites. ITV2 coverage was presented by the ever enthusiastic Mark Durden-Smith who was generally seated at the bar and Jordan a.k.a. Katie Price who did the 'meet-and-greet' as hungry and optimistic diners arrived in the hope of some free food.

The Celebrity Chefs - and how you (may) have heard of them

Amanda Barrie - Actress who plays Alma Sedgwick in Coronation Street
Belinda Carlisle - Singer
Dwain Chambers - Athlete
Roger Cook - Investigative reporter, most famous for TV's The Cook Report
Edwina Currie - Writer & Presenter, previously a Tory MP
James Dreyfus - Actor, most well known for his role in Gimme, Gimme, Gimme with Kathy Burke
Jennifer Ellison - Actress & Singer, used to play Emily Shadwick in Brookside
Matt Goss - Musician, part of the 80s boy band BROS
Al Murray - The Pub Landlord stand-up comedian
Abi Titmuss - John Leslie's ex-girlfriend

Following an accident involving a deck chair on the very first evening, Roger Cook had to retire from the programme. The fall had aggravated an old knee injury and he chose to bow out. He was replaced by:

Tommy Vance - Rock DJ

As well as working together from 8am each morning until the small hours of the following night, the celebrities shared a house. The group's stress levels were very high from the start. They were in each others' company 24/7 and being away from their loved ones, combined with a common feeling that they didn't really know what they were doing or had let themselves in for upset many of them. Always in their minds was fear of ridicule from Gordon's sharp tongue.

There was a great deal of drama from the kitchen, and a selection of the best and worst moments were:
  • Dwain Chambers and Tommy Vance (the latter having only been in the show for 24 hours) walked out. Tommy's reason was that "He left to save his own finger and somebody's else's"1. Dwain's exit was more low-key, just appearing on the second morning dressed in casual clothes and stating that he was going home.
  • In the restaurant as a diner, Vic Reeves ordered two fried eggs rather than choosing a dish from the menu. Claiming initially that he was just trying to be helpful as it was a simple dish, when told he couldn't have them he became petulant. Ramsay declared Reeves to be "a professional pleb" and refused to fulfill the order.
  • Amanda Barrie attempted to slap Gordon while rowing with him and subsequently left the show saying: "I would like to go home now and watch this show in bed at home with a bottle of champagne and fish and chips. It has been quite an experience chef but I think I should get out of the way chef before I screw up anything else".2
  • Edwina Currie simultaneously sharpening knives and eyeing Gordon
  • Peter André's parents meeting Jordan for the first time. The moment that the phrase "bunny in the headlights" was created for.
The celebrities were whittled down through the combination of an unsympathetic voting public and the proclivity of a few to walk at the first challenge. The three finalists were James Dreyfus, Jennifer Ellison and Matt Goss, with Jennfier Ellison being the eventual winner.

Critics of the show slated Gordon Ramsay's behaviour as not being representative of working in the catering industry. A restaurant guide editor commented:
"The programme bears as much relation to a real kitchen as Wacky Races does to Formula One. It seems all Gordon Ramsay is dishing out is humiliation of celebrities and confrontation."

Peter Harden, editor of Harden's UK Restaurant Guide http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/celebrity/hells-kitchen-hell.php

Keith Floyd also attacked the show:
"I think it was a shocking programme - it did nothing to help teach those who want to know about fine cooking and good manners"

from The Independent 6th August 2004

There is reportedly a new series in the pipeline, but at present it is apparently unlikely that Gordon Ramsay will be involved in the project, as he is too busy3. There have also been talks with the Fox network about making a US version.
1. Quoting Jon Roseman, Tommy's agent from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3750529.stm
2. from http://www.femalefirst.co.uk/celebrity/hells-kitchen-hell.php
3. from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/3913835.stm

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