Hell's Kitchen or Heaven's Table?

by The Rev. Rich Heinz

Yes, I watched it. Should I have viewed it? The jury’s still out on that one. What was the controversial television show? Hell’s Kitchen.

Chef Gordon Ramsay, as potty-mouthed as they comewhose potty mouth makes Simon Cowell look like a cuddly teddy bear, hosts this reality show in which someone is eliminated each week. Would-be chefs of varying talent and training are contending to be the champion, thus becoming who will be made the head chef of the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Las Vegas.

Entertaining? Yes. Disturbing? That too! Chef Ramsay yells obscenities from the opening shot to the closing credits. And even though they are “bleeped” out, it is rather obvious what he is screaming. Sure, some of it is just “for show” to draw in the ratings, but that does not excuse this behavior. The chef seems to be swearing like a Marine drill sergeant at boot camp, not like the preparer of gourmet cuisine. Yet somehow, I am drawn into the program, and find myself sifting through the bad behavior to see the and actually seeing good things that develops.

You are drawn into the competition as you begin thinking, “She deserved to be fired,” “He had a real attitude, and needed to be put in his place,” “She was too sweet to be yelled at like that!”

However, if you watched the program, you would also see a caring side of the Chef Ramsay, under that horrid exterior. There were some competitors that who deserved to be cast out of the kitchen, but were shown grace and mercy, remaining in the competition. There were times when the yelling was really to urge an increase of passion for their work, and to inspire the chefsation to show the Chef Ramsay that they really could do better. Julia, a cook from a pancake house, truly experienced this. The third-last contestant, she so impressed Chef Ramsay to the point that he offered to pay her way through culinary school. Unlike hell, there are some glimpses of grace in the midst of bleeped-out profanity.

Hell’s Kitchen seems to preview its namesake in the intense serving situations, the put-downs, and the dashing of all but one person’s hopes. A number of contestants appear to break under the pressure. Yet from this hell, there is a reprieve and those who hear, “GET OUT OF MY KITCHEN!” get to go home.

I found myself thinking, “Infinitely more blessed are we that we do not experience Hell’s Kitchen, but rather Heaven’s Table! Week after week, we are blessed by our dear Lord. He prepares food for body and soul that is superior to any risotto, crab cakes, or beef Wellington that we will ever eat on this earth! He prepares a table that will have a greater impact on us than any exquisite restaurant on us.

At Heaven’s Table you are fed the Bread of Life in , the Body of Christ. You drink the “finest of wines” (Isaiah 25) in , the Blood of Our Savior. And while it would be amazing and fulfilling to have that happen even once in our lifetimes, we have the extreme joy of receiving Jesus every Lord’s Day! We feast at Heaven’s Table every time we gather before Christ’s altar!

Here, there is no chef yelling at you to get out of the kitchen. On the contrary, our Lord sends His server, your pastor, to gently bid you to come and dine on the best meal you will ever taste! Here you are not cursed by the foul-mouthed chef, but blessed by the divine mouth that speaks through His server: “Take eat, this is My Body. Take drink, this is My Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Hell’s Kitchen is not a show for just anyone. The viewer has to sift the good out of the nasty language and bad attitudes. On the other hand, Heaven’s Table is for all baptized and catechized Christians in communion with one another, gathered in their congregations around His Holy Gifts. Chef Ramsay may offend many with good reason. Jesus Christ may offend many, due to the scandal of His suffering and dying FOR YOU! In the end, it doesn’t matter if you watch Hell’s Kitchen. But it is vital that you gather for the great feast of Heaven’s Table. Here is the ultimate in fine dining that will delight you for eternity!


The Rev. Rich Heinz is senior pastor of St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church & School in Lanesville, IN, and editor of myHT. He and his wife Kristi have been slowly drawn into watching more reality TV this year.

Created: August 13th, 2007