This reality show has several chefs competing to create gourmet dishes while at the mercy of Gordon Ramsay.
The format of the program is similar to the UK version, with a red team and a blue team competing in various cooking challenges for most of the season; once the number of remaining contestants is reduced to five (or six in seasons 4 and 5), the two teams combine to become a single black team and compete individually.
After the players are split into teams, the series begins with each chef preparing a signature dish and presenting it to Gordon Ramsay to taste. After that, each chef is presented with a set of utensils (theirs to keep), a menu and/or book to study (also theirs to keep), and a chef's jacket of their team color (which they must earn the right to keep). In later seasons, the signature dish has now been presented as the first team challenge.
Each remaining episode begins with a team or individual challenge; the winning chef or team may get a reward, while the losing team or players are required to perform some form of manual labor, usually consisting of kitchen duty in preparation for the dinner service. Often the losing team or chef(s) will have to prepare a meal for the winning team or chef(s) to enjoy during their reward.
During dinner service, teams are responsible for preparing food to Gordon Ramsay's very demanding taste and appearance requirements as well as within a limited time frame. Ramsay may throw away an entire plate of food due to one element being off, requiring the team to re-prepare the dish or the entire table if necessary, and usually sends a barrage of insults and obscenities to the responsible player or team. If Ramsay sees failure in the kitchen, he may force one player to take over for another. If the entire kitchen is in a debacle, Ramsay may end the dinner service prematurely, often using his catchphrase "Shut it down!" or "Switch it off!"
After the dinner service, Ramsay will select the winning team who may get an additional reward, and then will select the best player on the losing team to make a decision about which two fellow teammates to nominate for elimination. Alternatively, if the service is exceptionally bad (or good), Ramsay may declare no team the winner, or no specific player on the losing team as the best, requiring the team(s) to nominate someone for elimination. When the game is down to a single team but still more than three people, the winning player will select the two to be nominated. Each nominated player has a chance to plead their case to Ramsay, but he makes the final decision, at which point the eliminated player hands over their chef's jacket, which he forcefully hangs up on a sharp hook until the hook pokes a hole in the jacket and also sends an above photo of the player up in flames to symbolize their elimination. On rare occasions, if one player's performance is especially bad, Ramsay may even eliminate them in the middle of the service. An additional elimination may also occur at the end of the episode as normal; usually this occurs if the already-eliminated chef's team was still able to win despite losing a member. Often players will voluntarily exit the competition either due to medical conditions or their own free will. Depending on how well they've done in the competition overall, Ramsay may or may not let the eliminated chef(s) keep their jacket(s) upon exiting.
When the competition is down to the final two players, Ramsay splits the Hell's Kitchen dining area into two sections, and each of the two final contestants runs their own restaurant; each contestant is allowed to choose the decoration, style, and menu for his or her restaurant. Six previously eliminated contestants return to help the two finalists to prepare the meals. Ramsay will use his observations of how the finalists work in the kitchen and with their teams, as well as feedback from the patrons of each restaurant, to select the ultimate winner of the show.
Hell's Kitchen is somewhat rare among elimination-style reality shows in that all of the responsibilities of judging and eliminating fall to a single person, Ramsay, instead of a full panel of judges, or a majority vote by the contestants. Additionally, Ramsay has the power to override the basic format of the competition, such as ignoring team nominations, eliminating contestants in the middle of dinner service, or changing team members.
- Season 1 - Michael Wray
- Season 2 - Heather West
- Season 3 - Rahman "Rock" Harper
- Season 4 - Christina Machamer
- Season 5 - Daniel "Danny" Veltri
- Season 6 - David "Dave" Levey
- Season 7 - Holli Ugalde
- Season 8 - Nona Sivley
- Season 9 - Paul Niedermann
- Season 10 - Christina Wilson
- Season 11 - Ja'Nel Witt
- Season 12 - Scott Commings
- Season 13 - La Tasha McCutchen
- Season 14 - Meghan Gill
- Season 15 - TBA
"Take off your jacket and leave Hell's Kitchen!"
"Now f**k off with ya, yeah?"
Main 2009 - "Fire" by Ohio Players
Based on the British show of the same name.