Abuse and Violence in “Hell’s Kitchen”: Not All for the Audience


Abuse and violence in “Hell’s Kitchen”: Not everything for the audience

Stanisic’s shouts and insults are “good television”. But is that the image we want to convey in a workplace?

“Quiet back there,” shouts Ljubomir with his usual withering look. The angry grimace is aimed at Gonçalo, a 20-year-old with the beardless face of a high school kid who is being whipped with another of the cook’s many (small) didactic sermons. The area looks familiar to us because we’ve all walked past school desks. It turns out that decades have passed and neither we nor our competitors are irresponsible little children.

The second season of Hell’s Kitchen kicked off this Sunday, January 2nd, at normal prime time of “SIC”. With him he brought the formula for international success and the appropriate Portuguese adaptations that worked so well in 2021. Unfortunately, the formula is still based on trivializing humiliation as a guarantee for the audience.

Worst. The new season just seems to want to retune the figure of the chef, who continues to reveal himself in three already reused and worn facets: the fluffy Stanisic; the Stanisic, who rules in a regime of fear; and Stanisic, who insists on the absurd analogy of the kitchen as a war trench.

There were 17 candidates who had to fight unfairly for airtime with two characters: Stanisic and Rosa Branca, the lazy candidate who didn’t survive the first episode. It was the perfect narrative to justify the cook’s ire.

Rosa, 47, came on suspicion that the dishes served hid problems that might be useful for the forehead. Without much manners, he confronted the chef, broke kitchen etiquette, and failed miserably on his first test. Another perfect excuse to justify the whirlwind of the host’s screams.

It is not easy to pinpoint the right moment when the humiliations shown in prime time became an appetizing dish for the audience. Everything is done “for the audience” with a shrug that sees the constant abuse scenes as something completely normal. “It’s just entertainment,” they’ll say. Unfortunately, it’s much more than that.

The previous season also started off with controversy when one of the contestants admitted – to the delight, let’s imagine the producers rubbing hands with another life story – a drug-related past. He had the support of the chef, but it only took a small smile in one of the scenes for the good ljubomir to turn into the bad ljubomir. “You’re a guy with ups and downs. You laugh and cry. I had less complicated girlfriends. “

The comment not only worried some viewers. The feminist organization Women’s Alternative and Response Union (UMAR) accused the cook of making “discriminatory” comments and perpetuating “gender stereotypes”.

It’s not just entertainment. For many competitors and those who are at home, it is a first window into the kitchen, into industry, into a working world in which they want and want to be. And the example given is that screaming, verbal abuse, insults, and an environment of fear are not only expected but also useful.

It is the creation of the figure of the chef as an omnipotent figure, a judge of defects and virtues who is himself invulnerable. And who dares to ask the cook?

I won’t be the one to say it A study by sociologist Ellen T. Meiser published in 2021 links the verbal and behavioral violence we see on reality shows for apprentice chefs with what happens in real kitchens. They are not kitchens: they are workplaces that have to follow the same work rules.

“Chefs’ media representations are often the first interactions individuals have with the concept of working in a kitchen,” he explains. “The food media and their personalities are often cited as a justification for why violence is acceptable – or because such behavior is actually viewed as non-violent, but rather as a necessary tool of cohesion and functionality in work.”

One of the respondents in the study also found that when she entered the market and became a victim of violence herself, she “accepted it as if it were a work norm like thousands of others do”. A disturbing echo of the impact such innocent “entertainment shows” can have.

I don’t know, I’ve never spoken to Ljubomir Stanisic before. I don’t know if he will be a radically different cook in his kitchens – if, like many, he decides to create a character with caricature and exaggerated features in order to make “good television”. But the viewers, and above all the producers of the show, have to take this into account: To what extent does “Hell’s Kitchen” not contribute to making life difficult for so many workers?