Vocational bootcamp

What a good show was the premiere of the new season of “Hell’s Kitchen”! Gordon Ramsey this time takes a whole crew of incompetents. How can he pick any of them to run one of his restaurants at a salary of a quarter of a million dollars? The contestants had to prepare their “signature dishes,” one of which was a scallop and venison tartare (a.k.a. raw shellfish chopped up with raw deer) mixed up with white chocolate! An awful-sounding concoction that actually made Chef Ramsey throw up! And when they had to do the restaurant, no one took leadership, everybody kept botching the recipes, and the service was so slow that the customers all left before any of the entrees were served!

And yet the contestants were SO full of themselves, so prideful and diva-like. They were full of self-esteem. This show has the virtues of the early episodes of “American Idol,” to show the world that there ARE standards of excellence and that a narcissistic ego is no substitute for a work ethic. The wretched singers and cooks are all full of themselves, rather than concerned to love and serve their neighbors outside of themselves.

Now we’ll see if Gordon Ramsey–who throws rubber-cooked chicken against the wall and squeezes the grease out of the noodles with his hands and rubs the noses of his charges into their own incompetence–can make something out of these characters.

Notice that this is not just about cooking or singing or these TV shows. It has to do with the consequences of relativism, weakness of character as encouraged by our culture of self-affirmation, and the loss of the doctrine of vocation.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Kirk

    The true beauty of this show is that, for all of Ramsey’s crassness and anger, the contestants deserve to be yelled at, and there is little more gratifying that watching it happen.

  • Kirk

    The true beauty of this show is that, for all of Ramsey’s crassness and anger, the contestants deserve to be yelled at, and there is little more gratifying that watching it happen.

  • Richard

    Man, Dr. Veith, you see vocation all over the place. When I see promos for the show, all I see is an ill-mannered guy screaming at a bunch of incompetents. I guess I should give the show a watch.

  • Richard

    Man, Dr. Veith, you see vocation all over the place. When I see promos for the show, all I see is an ill-mannered guy screaming at a bunch of incompetents. I guess I should give the show a watch.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I was watching but it became a little too intense for me.
    Also, I wonder if it’s not orchestrated, that this master chef be given these incompetents as simply fodder for his own ego, and for the potential histrionics.
    It’s one thing to be accomplished, but it’s another thing to rave at your inferiors so, and it’s one thing to require people’s best, but it’s quite another to expect, demand, and bully mediocre talent beyond its capability.
    Where is the great talent who is also humble and helpful, while still honest and challenging? But I guess that wouldn’t make for good TV.
    I’ve had bosses who intimidated the best out of me. So be it. But what I came away appreciating was my own ability to suck it up and get the job done well, not so much those bosses’ tactics.
    I’ve also had instructors who didn’t coddle me, but didn’t bully either. They also got better out of me, and I learned additionally from them that you don’t have to be a bully to inspire people’s best efforts.
    Though, I have to admit, I liked having those egos of those incompetent wannabes taken down a notch or two. But, in the end, our vocation is not merely circumscribed by our workplace, and we’re not just vocational to produce results, but for our neighbors.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I was watching but it became a little too intense for me.
    Also, I wonder if it’s not orchestrated, that this master chef be given these incompetents as simply fodder for his own ego, and for the potential histrionics.
    It’s one thing to be accomplished, but it’s another thing to rave at your inferiors so, and it’s one thing to require people’s best, but it’s quite another to expect, demand, and bully mediocre talent beyond its capability.
    Where is the great talent who is also humble and helpful, while still honest and challenging? But I guess that wouldn’t make for good TV.
    I’ve had bosses who intimidated the best out of me. So be it. But what I came away appreciating was my own ability to suck it up and get the job done well, not so much those bosses’ tactics.
    I’ve also had instructors who didn’t coddle me, but didn’t bully either. They also got better out of me, and I learned additionally from them that you don’t have to be a bully to inspire people’s best efforts.
    Though, I have to admit, I liked having those egos of those incompetent wannabes taken down a notch or two. But, in the end, our vocation is not merely circumscribed by our workplace, and we’re not just vocational to produce results, but for our neighbors.

  • http://www.sarcasmagorical.com Brant

    I’ve long maintained that a huge part of the attraction of American Idol is the first few episodes of watching people hearing that they are no good for the first time. In our culture of endless “you can do anything if you just believe in yourself” its so refreshing to us to see someone told that they don’t have talent (especially in something like music, where our culture also doesn’t allow for the idea that there IS any objective standard).

    As for Hell’s Kitchen, I haven’t seen any of it yet, but my hunch is I’d be more inline with Susan’s take. I’ve had obnoxious bosses before, and it just doesn’t sound like something I’d like to watch.

    As I mentioned on the previous thread, though, do give Top Chef a try if you like this stuff. There’s a lot of really talented chefs on there, without the obnoxious screaming. In fact, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio is much more of the firm, but pleasant, boss who gets the best out of people – he doesn’t hesitate to tell people they’re dishes were awful, but its always objective and fair.

  • http://www.sarcasmagorical.com Brant

    I’ve long maintained that a huge part of the attraction of American Idol is the first few episodes of watching people hearing that they are no good for the first time. In our culture of endless “you can do anything if you just believe in yourself” its so refreshing to us to see someone told that they don’t have talent (especially in something like music, where our culture also doesn’t allow for the idea that there IS any objective standard).

    As for Hell’s Kitchen, I haven’t seen any of it yet, but my hunch is I’d be more inline with Susan’s take. I’ve had obnoxious bosses before, and it just doesn’t sound like something I’d like to watch.

    As I mentioned on the previous thread, though, do give Top Chef a try if you like this stuff. There’s a lot of really talented chefs on there, without the obnoxious screaming. In fact, Top Chef’s Tom Colicchio is much more of the firm, but pleasant, boss who gets the best out of people – he doesn’t hesitate to tell people they’re dishes were awful, but its always objective and fair.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I’m thinking specifically of Kevin Hildebrand, associate Kantor at concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
    He led a bunch of us mediocre and worse (and a few really talented) organists in a workshop at the sem, and he was so effective without once berating anyone.
    Granted, the vocation of organist is not the same as that of chef in a major upscale restaurant, and we’re not always there by choice, but by attrition or necessity. We’re not making any claims about ourselves by being on the organ bench.
    But he dealt with so many levels of ability, each accordingly, with such tact and grace, and always with the best of instruction. Everyone prospered.
    Same with Kantor Richard Resch some years prior.
    It’s amazing how such giants of talent, intellect, and accomplishment can stoop without bending, so to speak, without condescension or lowering their standards or expectations, and still meet and instruct and influence, to such long-lasting effect.
    They are true master of their vocations: not just as musicians, but as gentlemen and Gentle Men. They never seemed to forget who they are.
    In that way, they set a great and indelible example for their pupils, in our dealings with those whom we have to instruct or influence.
    It’s almost like a form of art, to be so solidly grounded in Christ’s love and His forgiving nature, that you do not grow out of it, no matter what station you attain.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I’m thinking specifically of Kevin Hildebrand, associate Kantor at concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
    He led a bunch of us mediocre and worse (and a few really talented) organists in a workshop at the sem, and he was so effective without once berating anyone.
    Granted, the vocation of organist is not the same as that of chef in a major upscale restaurant, and we’re not always there by choice, but by attrition or necessity. We’re not making any claims about ourselves by being on the organ bench.
    But he dealt with so many levels of ability, each accordingly, with such tact and grace, and always with the best of instruction. Everyone prospered.
    Same with Kantor Richard Resch some years prior.
    It’s amazing how such giants of talent, intellect, and accomplishment can stoop without bending, so to speak, without condescension or lowering their standards or expectations, and still meet and instruct and influence, to such long-lasting effect.
    They are true master of their vocations: not just as musicians, but as gentlemen and Gentle Men. They never seemed to forget who they are.
    In that way, they set a great and indelible example for their pupils, in our dealings with those whom we have to instruct or influence.
    It’s almost like a form of art, to be so solidly grounded in Christ’s love and His forgiving nature, that you do not grow out of it, no matter what station you attain.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I know what you all are saying and agree, but Gordon Ramsey is not ONLY the way he is portrayed on the commercials. I caught the series in reruns at the very end of the contest, when there were only five or so chefs to eliminate. Those were all pretty good. Gordon DID show some gentleness and tender instruction at that point.

    Still, when one of them ran out of the homemade fettucini and had to use box spaghetti, and then ran out of prawns because of her mismanagement, she did hear about it!

    I’m also sure that the show has its pre-arranged elements, such as the customers all leaving (though I’ve wanted to do that at some restaurants I’ve been in!). But the winner of this contest really is going to get the job as the executive chef in new L.A. restaurant, and it’s hard to see so far how any of this crew could handle that.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I know what you all are saying and agree, but Gordon Ramsey is not ONLY the way he is portrayed on the commercials. I caught the series in reruns at the very end of the contest, when there were only five or so chefs to eliminate. Those were all pretty good. Gordon DID show some gentleness and tender instruction at that point.

    Still, when one of them ran out of the homemade fettucini and had to use box spaghetti, and then ran out of prawns because of her mismanagement, she did hear about it!

    I’m also sure that the show has its pre-arranged elements, such as the customers all leaving (though I’ve wanted to do that at some restaurants I’ve been in!). But the winner of this contest really is going to get the job as the executive chef in new L.A. restaurant, and it’s hard to see so far how any of this crew could handle that.

  • Anon

    Our Lutheran colleges of education continue to follow the NEA belief system, including teaching our future teachers that the biggest problem today’s students have, is low self-esteem.

  • Anon

    Our Lutheran colleges of education continue to follow the NEA belief system, including teaching our future teachers that the biggest problem today’s students have, is low self-esteem.

  • Jill from Western Australia

    I can’t wait until the show is aired “down under” {for some reason the West Australians are always the last in the TV “pecking order”} currently we are enduring re-runs on Foxtel {our pay TV} …Gordon just served up his {NOT} lambs…sad about Charlotte..but happy that Gavin survived…however…I admire Gordon’s raising of all his animals…it not only taught his children…but the rest of us that what we buy in packages once was living! I enjoy ALL of his shows and thankyou for the preview.

  • Jill from Western Australia

    I can’t wait until the show is aired “down under” {for some reason the West Australians are always the last in the TV “pecking order”} currently we are enduring re-runs on Foxtel {our pay TV} …Gordon just served up his {NOT} lambs…sad about Charlotte..but happy that Gavin survived…however…I admire Gordon’s raising of all his animals…it not only taught his children…but the rest of us that what we buy in packages once was living! I enjoy ALL of his shows and thankyou for the preview.

  • LW

    I have to say that as a parent I find it important to stay strong and have solid structure for the children as being something of utmost importance. I have seen to many parents thinking that children are incapable of dealing with reasonable expectations (behavior/manners, chores, understanding their vocation, learning consequences etc).

    I have been told that these expectations are more then a child can handle.

    I must say, it might be wise to point such people to this show in order to prevent them from raising children who think to high of themselves.

    Perfection/quality/a job well done, are things that few people are teaching these days.

  • LW

    I have to say that as a parent I find it important to stay strong and have solid structure for the children as being something of utmost importance. I have seen to many parents thinking that children are incapable of dealing with reasonable expectations (behavior/manners, chores, understanding their vocation, learning consequences etc).

    I have been told that these expectations are more then a child can handle.

    I must say, it might be wise to point such people to this show in order to prevent them from raising children who think to high of themselves.

    Perfection/quality/a job well done, are things that few people are teaching these days.


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