(Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas) Members of Fair Oaks Golf and Country Club, near San Antonio, Texas, gathered around the large screens televising Benjamin Knack in the Oak Leaf Tavern to cheer their chef as he competed on Hell’s Kitchen All-Stars program Friday night.
Internationally known Chef Gordon Ramsay’s competition series on FOX aired season 17, episode 2, called “Raising the Bar,” featuring Fair Oaks Chef Benjamin Knack and 15 other chefs in a Bar Menu Challenge. The 16 chefs were given 40 minutes to prepare a new menu and present two plates each to host Chef Tables with special VIP guests including singer Jordin Sparks, Joe Montegna, French Stewart, Keith Sweat, and Kirstin Maldonado from Pentatonix.
“I had fun,” Chef Knack said. “Whatever they threw at us I knew I was going to approach it as fun. One particular challenge and strategy was to make sure I didn’t make the same things, same style, each time. He (Ramsay) saw and judged our dishes every night, so I wanted to mix it up and in some cases even be somewhat experimental. It was important not to play it too safe or stay in our comfort zones.”
Fair Oaks Golf and Country Club General Manager Paul Bimler noted it was enjoyable “to see how everyone is so supportive. Our members and guests come together each Friday night as the program airs in our upbeat environment to cheer Chef on.”
“Each time he appeared on the screen everyone applauded,” Bimler smiled. “I was particularly proud of how professional he was throughout the program as he represented himself exactly as you would expect an executive chef should. While there is entertainment and a certain amount on drama captured under those demanding circumstances, Chef maintained his professionalism and composure. The results were energizing. He was an executive chef!”
In the final round of episode 1 last week, Knack scored a 5 out of a perfect 5 as judged by Ramsay for his salmon dish. This brought the men’s Blue Team ahead at 28-27 against women’s Red Team.
The chefs are competing for a chance to win a head chef position at Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurant opening at Caesars Palace Las Vegas this winter. Not only will this be a momentous location on the Vegas strip, but the salary is quite the jackpot, also. “A quarter of a million dollars,” beamed Ramsay.
Knack said he is primed for his second helping of Ramsey’s fiery competition program. When he won third place seven years ago for Season 7, Ramsey praised him for his strong leadership skills and encouraged him to “never give up.”
“The first time I appeared I had never seen or heard of the show before,” Knack recalls. “There was real drama, with obstacles and curves thrown in throughout the filming.”
“I’m healthy and ready to go,” Knack said about this competition. “Obviously, I’m quicker and smarter than I was seven years ago. My experience has helped me. For two years I worked as chef of one of the top 50 restaurants in the country. This time I know what to expect and am looking forward to it because I think I can win.”
Sous chefs for the women’s team (Red Team) is Christina Wilson and (Blue Team) men’s sous chef is James “Jocky” Petrie. Both look after 19 of Chef Ramsay’s restaurants in three continents.
After sampling each competitor’s dish, Christina designated Dana beer battered lobster tempura taco as the first place pick for the Red Team. Jocky picked Milly hand-cut French fries, topped with lobster cheese sauce. Ramsay proclaimed it as the “most elegant pot of poutine” he has ever tasted, confirming it won over the lobster taco.
Christina chose Ashley polenta cake with tequila, lime, cilantro marinated shrimp as her second choice. Jocky selected Jared pork and smoked halibut stuffed dumpling for second place. Third picks were (Christina) Elise s Tuscan bar wings and (Jocky) Van steak tacos. Final picks were Michelle lober-shrimp sausage roll and Nick crab fritters with lemon chive mayo.
From his top four, Chef Ramsay selected Milly as the most outstanding bar menu item. Michelle thinks Milly relies too much on dishes he has “done a thousand times already.”
Some of the drama and highlights included:
Ben becoming ill and having to see a medic.
The first order up for the Red Team’s Chef Table served to Jordin Sparks is carbonara but looks like scrambled eggs, according to Ramsay. Elise, Robyn and the entire Red Team are called over by Ramsay and starts swearing, “Can you get your act together” as their steak is still white, raw and cannot be resting the way they are preparing it. When they start to serve their New York strip steaks, Ramsay rejects it for being overcooked and sends the entire Red Team over to the table to apologize. When they return to the kitchen Ramsay calls in Blue Team’s Giovanni to cook the Red Team’s steak.
Giovanni attempts to keep his composure as some of the Red Team ladies try to tell him how to cook their steaks. He orders Elise to be quiet before she gets them in trouble. His steak comes out perfect.
When Manda begins to deliver her salmon and pork roll, Ramsay throws the salmon in the trash because it is raw. He resorts to apologizing to Jordin about the food the Red Team prepared. Meanwhile, the Blue Team, serving Joe Mantenga of TV’s Criminal Minds, turn out service that is proclaimed the best opening night in Hell’s Kitchen history.
In the end, Chef Ramsay eliminated Ben from the competition. “Big Ben,” he said. “More like Big Liability. He clearly wasn’t going to be able to keep up, so I had to let him down!”