Hell's Kitchen makes a strong return to ITV with 6.8m audience

LONDON – The opening night of ITV's 'Hell's Kitchen', starring celebrity chefs Gary Rhodes and Jean-Christophe Novelli, was a ratings winner for ITV with a peak of 6.8m viewers, or 30% audience share.

The debut episode averaged 5.7m or a 26% audience share between 9pm and 10.30pm -- on a par with last year's series average of 5.8m or 27%.

The opening episode of the first series of 'Hell's Kitchen', which featured Gordon Ramsay and celebrities including former 'Brookside' actress Jennifer Ellison, garnered 7m or a 31% audience share on its opening night. The series peaked at 8m during the final episode.

ITV failed to sign foul-mouthed Ramsay for the second series but is hoping the new version, which is similar to the US 'Hell's Kitchen' format featuring members of the public, will cut the mustard.

Last night, the amateur chefs were put into two teams headed by Novelli in the blue kitchen and Rhodes in the red, as they went head to head to see which team produced the best food.

Despite his reputation as an all-round nice-guy, Rhodes is already appearing to be the chef with a temper to match Ramsay's after he shut his kitchen before 10pm, leaving some of his guests without food.

"That's it. Cut cut. Stop. I'm not giving you another starter or main course. I can work on any desserts I can. It's just not up to standard. I'm not putting my name to it. It's not good enough," he said.

Meanwhile, Frenchman Novelli's four-letter rants look set to land him in hot water with TV watchdogs as Ramsay's did last year. As well as swearing at his trainees he blasted the maitre d', shouting at her for not serving food in time.

"No because it's your fucking fault my dear. The souffle's been waiting here on the pass before you did fucking anything with it my dear. Next time make sure the service is on," he said. 

As in the original 'Hell's Kitchen', viewers will be able to phone or text to vote for the most deserving chef. Those with the least votes will leave the restaurant.

The overall winner of the series will be given £250,000 to start their own restaurant.

Although the celebrity element is missing from the latest series, the show focuses a lot more on the celebrities eating at the restaurant.

Last night saw former 'EastEnders' actress Daniella Westbrook, singer Carol Decker, athlete Roger Black, PR guru Max Clifford and former Westlife singer and 'The Games' star Shane Lynch sample the team's culinary delights.

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