What Hell's Kitchen's Black Jackets Really Mean

Shouty celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and his "Hell's Kitchen" crew are back on our television screens, and season 21 is shaping up to be just as dramatic as any other. The first episode premiered with a fresh group of 18 chefs who were split into two age groups — the 20-somethings, and the 40-somethings — instead of by gender, pitching what was branded as a battle of the ages. The premise seemed to be short-lived because episode 3 saw the return of a gender-split group (via Fox). There has been no shortage of shouting, raw lobster, overcooked beef Wellington, and undercooked chicken sliders this season. One chef even decided the kitchen was too much pressure and volunteered to leave (via SK Pop).

We're only four episodes into the season — not quite at the black jacket stage. The hopefuls must stick it out and hope that they don't make a blip on Ramsay's radar for the wrong reasons, although with producers meddling with ingredients, the chefs might struggle to do that.

Black jackets are coveted symbols of survival

Working the line in a busy kitchen isn't easy, but working Chef Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen" line is grueling (via Reddit). The black chef's jackets of Hell's Kitchen are coveted for a reason: it means you're getting down to the nitty-gritty — you've survived. It's a symbol of achievement, but also teamwork because to get that far in the competition, teams must be cohesive and get their dishes out in a timely and consistent manner.

Black jackets are usually handed out when the competition has been whittled down to the last five or six chefs (via Distractify). When the black jackets are awarded, the competition becomes more about personal achievements than team challenges. While the chefs are still expected to work as a team and to pull off a successful dinner service, it's also about individual achievements. Fans of the show take the black jackets so seriously that they have ranked lists of black jacket winners and strong opinions about who should (or shouldn't) have been awarded jackets.