Mixing Old Fashioneds
Hell’s Kitchen 7/8 Recap: The Final Trial By Fire
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Greetings, Ramsay and expletive fans! Nothing says good cooking to me more than a bleep-filled kitchen. Seriously! If you can’t toss off a few colorful expressions up while cooking (or, for that matter, driving) what’s the point of living? I am filling in tonight for Critical and/or Iguanachocolate, who have been recapping their fingers off in other forums. So it is with great pleasure that I bring you the rundown of tonight’s finale.
When we last left off, the two finalists—Petrozza and Christina—were forced to make the difficult decision of picking their brigade members. Petrozza already picked Bobby and Ben, and he had the next pick to choose between two pieces of work, Jen and Matt. Petrozza opted for Jen, despite the fact he (and everyone else) thinks she is a bitch. Christina is thus saddled with Matt, who is as sharp as a wet box of Kleenex; he joins her team of Corey and Louross. There’s a lot on the line for these final two contestants: $250,000 for working as the only executive chef at Ramsay’s new Los Angeles eatery.
But before anyone can cash a check, there is still ten hours of work ahead before service is over. Petrozza takes his team outside for some smokes and planning. Well, “planning” in the loosest sense possible—he has a list of stuff and kind of meanders through his plans, which causes Jen some consternation. Of course, according to her she should be in the final two and can’t seem to let go of the fact that she is just not in the running anymore. Despite her caustic personality, she is right that Petrozza is not organized at all.
Christina also holds a confab with her group; she’s is more organized and assigns Louross the appetizer station and Corey the meat station. She knows Matt doesn’t want to work and has been paid to be there for the drama (or so I suspect), but she sweet talks him into making his risotto. Apparently, the way to get through Matt’s thick skull is to lay on the flattery with a trawl; Christina is wise to this and plays him like a cheap fiddle.
Getting ready to rumble.
Both finalists not only have to come up with their final service menus but also have to design and oversee the installation of their restaurant spaces. The head designer guy consults with Christina over the wallpaper look and she is not happy; the stripes are apparently too stripe-y, so she asks him to install solid chocolate brown wallpaper instead. Things aren’t much better in Petrozza’s space; he wants booths and the booth upholsterer is nowhere to be found. Oh no! Not scripted drama! Chances are these spaces will be done by show time.
Speaking of forced drama, Jen and Matt are causing problems on their respective teams. First Jen has the audacity to ask Ramsay for a letter of recommendation; the rest of the team laughs themselves silly at the prospect of Ramsay’s letter. Matt doesn’t have his crap together, causing Christina to have to jump on him from the get-go. This goes on all night.
With one hour left to go before the big show, Ramsay comes in to sample some dishes. Christina serves up an appetizer of three beef sliders, a New York strip steak entree, and a tropical sundae dessert. Ramsay likes the flavors of all three dishes but would have preferred that the three sliders be made each of a different protein, that the steak be sliced up on the plate, and that the dessert be a bit more garnished.
He then tries out three of Petrozza’s dishes: a lobster strudel, a filet mignon with risotto, and a vanilla soufflé with whiskey crème anglaise. Ramsay thought the strudel was over-cooked, the beef good but the risotto too stiff, and the dessert very good. He also suggests that the beef be garnished with a fried onion ring; yeah, that’s serious Michelin rating cuisine, right up there with the typical Ruby Tuesdays steak dishes. I thank the kitchen gods that Ramsay generally liked all the dishes and spat none of them out.
Stealing some of the script pages from Tom Colicchio’s last gig on Top Chef, Ramsay says that Petrozza’s dishes are more imaginative so if he pulls them off, he will greatly succeed. Christina’s, on the other hand, was playing it safe with a less ambitious menu but if she puts some flourishes on her plates, she could take the win. In other words, it’s anyone’s game right now.
Ramsay then gets a tour of the now-completed restaurant spaces. Christina’s walls are now all warm chocolate brown and her tables are set with crisp linens, tons of candles, and big comfy chairs. Ramsay thinks it is an elegant space. Petrozza’s upholsterer apparently showed up and the booths are done; the tables are accessorized with fresh flowers and look quite pretty. Ramsay likes the rustic-slash-Hamptons feel of the space. Man, Ramsay is super-agreeable tonight; maybe someone slipped him a Xanax. He gives Petrozza and Christina a final word of advice: it doesn’t get any bigger than this! Huh? The final two are stoked; Petrozza says this it the most important service of his life by 250,000 and Christina says that she only has to work really hard one more day. So, I guess Christina is going to forfeit or something—if she won, I’d bet she’d be doing some hard work. Unless, of course, the whole thing is a sham.
Bring on the food!
Petrozza and Christina go back to their teams and give the final pep talks, but they’ll be cheerleading all night to get the dishes out correctly and on time. They’ll be serving 13 tables of 50 diners for three hours. The winner will be chosen based on the customers’ comments and Ramsay’s opinion of how they each do. Soon enough, Ramsay calls for the doors to Hell’s Kitchen open and the orders start coming in. Ramsay sagely notes that both teams have to keep their energy levels high for the entire service.
Christina’s team gets off to a good start, but Petrozza’s hits some snags as Bobby sends out some appetizers that are too cold. Petrozza catches the error before the plates get to the diners and makes Bobby redo them. Then, on Team Christina, Louross gets backed up at the appetizer station and Christina tells Matt to help him out making the salads. Matt is about helpless making a salad—how he can’t master such a simple task is beyond me and everyone else on the planet. The drama doesn’t stop there, my friends—oh no!
A bit more than half way through the appetizer service, Petrozza finds that the cheese for his frisee salads is about to run out and there are only a few more portions of the strudel left. Petrozza is flustered for a few minutes and can’t decide what to do, despite Ramsay shouting at him to make a decision. Seconds before Ramsay shuts down Petrozza’s service, Bobby steps up and makes a lobster risotto appetizer that turns out to be a success with the diners. So far, the day is saved.
Tension still is high as Christina’s team gets the first few entrees out. But before you can say “get the *bleep* out of my kitchen,” they are sent back because the diners thought the meat was too cold. Christina makes Matt redo the meat and help out but he is getting hot under the collar and can’t handle the stress. She starts paying even closer attention to the temperature of the food, touching each dish with her bare hands. Blech. While cold food sent back seems bad enough, Petrozza’s diners are stuck waiting and waiting…and waiting for their entrees. Finally, some start trickling out and then service is in full swing.
The probably paid saboteurs then get to work. Matt can’t cook a monk fish filet properly to save his more than ample ass, and Christina is forced to shout at him repeatedly to get the fish cooked through. Ramsay joins in the shouting, which causes Matt to keep muttering, sotto voce, “Shut up! Just shut up and let me cook!” This does not go over well with everyone’s favorite soccer hooligan/chef; Ramsay looks like he’s about bust a vein at Matt’s antics. This goes on for some time—the undercooked fish and Matt’s recalcitrance—and while Christina gets on him for it, she doesn’t do it enough for Ramsay’s liking. He threatens to take control of the kitchen from her so she jumps on Matt even harder and finally the last portions of fish are cooked correctly.
Not to be outdone by the big ole lump that Matt is, Jen sets about taking Petrozza down. Her sole responsibility for the entrée service is to make fried onion rings. This is a job mastered by such great chefs as the pimply 16 year old at your local Burger King, so it proves to be quite the task for “should have won the whole thing” Jen. Petrozza has to shout at her about as many times as Christina yelled at Matt just to get a single onion ring to garnish one of the steak entrees.
After the entrée service is done, Ramsay comments that both finalists are neck-and-neck for the win. With all of the entrees out, it is time for the dessert service. It goes by quickly and without a hitch. The desserts did look yummy; someone served profiteroles, and they are a favorite of mine.
The finalists and their teams assemble one last time in the kitchen and Ramsay congratulates them both on a job well done. Christina and Petrozza then bid their farewells to their support staff and go off to the dorms to wait for Ramsay to make his decision. Both think they have a good chance of winning, but Petrozza is particularly excited and worried; he doesn’t want to lose to a kid—a talented kid, but a kid nonetheless.
The stupidest method of winner reveal ever.
Ramsay has acted agonized enough for the cameras and calls Christina and Petrozza back into his office. He says that it has been great watching them both grow as chefs and it is now time to make the decision who will be running his LA restaurant. Petrozza and Christina each stand before a closed door; only the winner’s door will open and the loser will be stuck in the office. This is a pretty dumb reveal, but upon further reflection, it isn’t half as bad as having to lift up a chicken and look for an egg like on Farmer Wants a Wife.
Just about as Christina and Petrozza are about to open the doors, Fox cuts to commercial and we have to wait around for even longer to find out who wins. Finally, after repeating exactly what happened before the commercial break, the door opening commences and the door opens for…Christina! She wins! Confetti and balloons fall from the ceiling onto the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant floor below. Christina’s parents—especially her mother—are overjoyed and are crying. Back up in the office, Petrozza is a bit teary as well, but out comes the softer side of Ramsay and he comforts him. Petrozza goes down to the crowd and is comforted further by his girlfriend and father. Champers for everyone as the party goes on but the episode does not. It’s been a pretty fun season and memorable as well—I don’t think anyone is going to look at pumpkins and hens quite the same way again.
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