There’s something so fascinating about Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a simple formula that can be boiled down to The Apprentice but it’s about cooking. A large group of both professional and amateur chefs battle it out week-by-week completing cooking challenges and desperately try to be the winning team to avoid the possibility of being eliminated from the competition. The reward at the end? Glory, money (lot’s of money) – and you get to run one of Ramsay’s restaurants with a big salary (a very big salary). There’s intense, over-the-top drama, there are tears, and there’s a hell of a lot of arrogance and bitching. The show is both American and a reality TV show, so it is unbelievably over-dramatic, to the point where it is quite impossible to put on and ignore, and even harder to not watch just one more episode. The drama is so intense it becomes funny to watch. Shamefully, I once watched an entire season in one sitting. I didn’t sleep that night. It’s trash TV. I love it.
The selling point of the show is not only that it is a competition, but a chance to grow as a chef – to be tutored by the great and almighty god of cooking, Gordon Ramsay. It’s quite funny, sometimes, to see how much these chefs look up to and fear Ramsay – especially when I’ve seen him on UK shows and can see how much of an act he is putting on in America as an aggressive, sweary, British chef. He’s not like that on UK TV – probably because people wouldn’t put up with it so much. People in Hell’s Kitchen are terrified of him and also idolise him – if he gives one of them a compliment they’ll almost collapse with the pride. It doesn’t even have to be anything big – they might have cooked some spaghetti properly. They’ll record interviews Big Brother style so that sound bites can be played over the top of challenges. Some have been so overwhelmed by Ramsay’s presence that they have started crying.
I’ve always felt while watching the show that it is well executed; by the end of a season, you feel as though the right person won and the right people lost – yet the show can still often surprise you unexpectedly, which is all in how it’s edited but that’s a topic for another blog. The show is so completely ridiculous and it’s one of my favourite shows on TV – so you can imagine my disgust when I realised that it has been removed from UK Netflix. What’s even the point of Netflix anymore? It has since been restored, but I have found a new love.
In my dark days of not having access to Hell’s Kitchen, I have discovered a new light to lead me further down the path of cheesy, melodramatic cooking shows. “Shokugeki no Soma” doesn’t really translate into English as anything useful, so it has been renamed to “Food Wars!” in English speaking countries and that is what is translated into other languages – so in French, it is “Guerres Alimentaires!” I thought that was interesting so I’m sorry if you don’t care. The exclamation mark cannot be removed – it is part of the title. Personally, I prefer the title Shokugeki no Soma – but only because I’ve watched a season so I know what a Shokugeki is and I know who Soma is.
Soma Yukihira works in a popular diner run by his father, Joichiro Yukihira. Because of their god-like cooking abilities, Restaurant Yukihira is incredibly popular. One day, Soma’s father tells him that he must go to a cooking school, but not just any cooking school – the best cooking school in the entire world! Totsuki Culinary Acadamy is the size of a city behind its closed walls and has a pass rate of less than 1%. Not because it’s actually a terrible academy which fails to properly teach it’s students, but because so many students get in at the first year and the standards are unbelievably high, leading to many expulsions. So you could say that the graduates are the best in the world because of a process of elimination rather than any particular training – in this way it reminds me of getting a Hunter License in Hunter X Hunter (very recommended).
In that, we have the drama aspect of this show. Soma is already better than most of his year at the academy because his father taught him so well while they worked at their small diner in Tokyo. During his three years at the academy, he must complete many varieties of challenges – all of which involve cooking in some capacity. One might wonder when the actual teaching happens because every day seems to involve a new challenge to test the students, and not a lot of actual lessons. Fairly reminiscent of the challenges in Hell’s Kitchen, but much more dramatic and often quite a lot more dangerous. Students battle it out in Cook-Offs called Shokugeki – which is the only way disputes can be formally resolved while at Totsuki. Any student can challenge any other student or teacher to Shokugeki – often by shouting ‘SHOKUGEKI!’ at them. While it is admittedly not exactly the same in Hell’s Kitchen, competitors are often challenged to battle each other in the cullanry arts by Ramsay.
Shokugeki No Soma is unbelievably melodramatic, which is the primary source of comedy in this show – and this show is very funny. Not an episode goes by that I won’t laugh out loud, rather than just quietly chuckle as I normally do. Students have ridiculous feuds between them which involve them shouting about how they are so much better than the other and that they will destroy them. A little bit similar to Hell’s Kitchen when competitors take a dislike to each other and have stupid arguments. My favourite was when one man started shouting at the other, “I will cook circles around you! You couldn’t cook my cock!” What makes Shokugeki No Soma so funny is how self-aware the show it to how stupid the drama is. Either when it comes to how the animation is done, or the sound design, or the acting. It all comes together beautifully to create a great show. It’s all excellent in execution and makes the show extremely enjoyable to watch. I love it. I want an anime Gordon Ramsay to show up for one episode to reveal that he was trained there as well – that would be my make-a-wish if I was a terminally ill child.
In conclusion, I recommend you watch Hell’s Kitchen and Shokugeki No Soma. I’m not sure where any of this was going to be brutally honest. Happy Easter?