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The Final Course – Hell's Kitchen 2, Season Finale

My very first recap ever, Dear Reader, was for Season Three of “Celebrity Fit Club.” My first recap was also the first time I’d ever watched that show, and at the time, I wasn’t impressed with how that show was put together. I believe I described it as “low-rent” and “ham-handed.” I peered with disdain over the top of my half-glasses and curled my lip in distaste.

Then I started recapping this season of “Hell’s Kitchen.” Now “Celebrity Fit Club” seems like “Masterpiece Theater” and ANT seems like Alistair Cooke.

So let’s just say I settle into this last, TWO-FRICKIN-HOUR episode of “Hell’s Kitchen” with something shy of giddy enthusiasm. I still like Chef Ramsay, I just don’t understand how a man so committed to quality in the kitchen can be involved with something so… um… low-rent and ham-handed as this show.

But when life hands you ham, you make ham-ade, right?

Heather and Fluffy Bunny (Virginia) are enjoying a beverage, namely champagne, as they both absorb the fact that they are finalists. Of course, a celebration with your competition isn’t the best kind of party, so Fox shows some kindness, and allows Heather’s parents, and Fluffy’s mom and husband to briefly join them for some hugs, tears and congrats.

The next day, it’s back to the competition. The girls are called to the restaurant where they are “surprised” by a press conference. “Surprised,” but in full make-up that we haven’t seen them wear before. They are asked some relatively softball questions by the reporters, and cop to the fact that they spent part of their downtime creating some kind of Hell’s Kitchen dance. They are then somehow persuaded to do the dance.

Reader, I can’t convey to you the horror. I was so embarrassed for them, I nearly had to change the channel. Really, I’m having a sympathy cringe just recalling it, let’s hurriedly move along.

There’s another surprise in store. At the end of the conference, a curtain drops down the middle of the restaurant, dividing the room in two. Ramsay informs Heather and Fluff that they will each have one half of the restaurant to run. They will create the design, plan the menu, and run the kitchen.

They’re both thrilled. Fluff conveys her emotions in her own, Malaprop-ette fashion: “If I were any happier,” she beams, “I’d need a personal assistant.”

(If anyone understands what that means, please feel free to explain it to me. Seriously. Trying to understand how she arrived at this particular phrase has become my Sphinx’s riddle, my Zen koan. I can be reached via the envelope at the top of the page. For reals. I’m losing sleep.)

Each of the chefs sits down with the designers and plans out their ambience. Heather wants her restaurant to center on the theme of “family.” Fluffy wants her restaurant to be upscale and refined, and for her servers to “be like ghosts.”

In order to get production out of the restaurant for a little while as the renovations occur, Heather, Virginia and Ramsay all head to Vegas. Here, there is another challenge. They each will create their signature dish, and hand it out to passersby at the casino, who then vote on their favorite. Things are pretty close all the way through, but the final taster chooses Virginia’s chicken over Heather’s sea bass, and Virginia wins.

But at this stage, they’re BOTH winners, and so Ramsay presents them each with a ticket to London so they can come visit him in his natural habitat and see how he screams at his people when he doesn’t have to talk slow for these damn yanks with their drawls.

Back to L.A.! They arrive at 2:15 AM to various and sundry renovation issues, which they work to resolve with the designers.

The next morning, it’s time for that staple of reality television finales: The Return of the Voted Off! “K-Grease” Keith, sweaty Tom, prison chef Garrett, tough chick Rachel, unlikable Sara and Farbrizio Moretti of The Strokes… sorry, I meant Giacomo, all return to clench their teeth while saying, “Congratulations! You deserve it!” Actually, I think most of them are okay with the idea of Heather being there, but Virginia’s place in the final two can’t warm the cockles of anyone’s heart after her non-stop crappy performance during service.

They each get to pick three chefs to support them for the final service. Virginia, as winner of the Vegas challenge, gets to pick first. She selects Keith. He is not happy. Heather selects Rachel, Sara and Garrett, while Virginia rounds out her team with Giacomo and Tom.

Her thought process, she says, was to pick the people others thought were weak. And she does not, Dear Reader, say this in interview. She says this TO THEM. Needless to say, her team building skills need some work, and she winds up only getting them to agree to support her by giving in to Keith’s demand for a bribe.

After some last-minute scrambling with décor and critiques from Ramsay, the two chefs are finally ready to go head to head. What they don’t know is that they both will have the same very special customer, the president of the Red Rock Resort.

And at last! The service. It goes exactly, precisely, how one would expect. Heather demonstrates strong leadership with her team but sometimes runs a little roughshod. Nevertheless, her food gets out quickly, and although there are some quality control issues, all in all, it’s a solid night.

For Fluffy… well, she does all right this service, mainly because she’s not in charge of a station. Her team seems unconvinced of her authority, Tom continues to be bit of a work-avoidant nutjob, and Giacomo is earnest but somewhat hapless. Keith is solid but apparently he should have asked for more money, because he doesn’t seem like the $1000 he demanded really lit his fire. Nevertheless, Virgina’s food is tasty and she completes the service.

Ramsay brings the two chefs together, where they hear a preliminary verdict from the Red Rocks President. And the verdict is: hung jury. They’re ALL winners in his book! No clues there.

Ramsay sends the chefs back to the house where they revert to traditional female patterns of reassuring each other: “No I think YOU won!” Ramsay, meanwhile, returns to his office, to stare thoughtfully into middle distance as he reflects on who should win.

He brings the two back to the restaurant, to stand each in front of a separate door. He says that the customer comment cards were very close and his decision was tough and yada yada yada.

The gimmick: he gives them each a key and tells them to try it in the lock to the door they are standing in front of. The chef with the key that opens the door wins.

And it’s Heather. I refuse to drag it out shamelessly. It’s Heather. Confetti, tears, congratulations. Virginia is gracious, Heather’s overwhelmed, she never expected to have a restaurant so young, and so on and so forth. Well, I liked Heather and it’s always nice to see someone who is a hard worker succeed, but honestly, I’m just glad this whole thing has finally been brought to an end. I’m going to go pour myself a sparkling glass of ham-ade and settle in for something a little more intellectual, a little more enlightening. Like Celebrity Fit Club. See you at the scales!