'Hell's Kitchen' recap: The season finale

hells-kitchen_lAt that pivotal moment when Dave and Kevin placed their hands on those doorknobs, I found myself a conflicted mess. Throughout the season, Kevin consistently had been the more dependable chef of the two, and his confidence and leadership skills dwarfed Dave’s ability (or lack thereof) to communicate clearly. So, the logical part of my brain deduced that Gordon Ramsay should pick Kevin, who’d have no trouble becoming part of the fine-dining culture at Araxi Restaurant in Whistler, British Columbia.

Yet, despite those reasons to pull for Kevin, my heart still leaped for joy when Dave’s door opened and he was declared the champion of Hell’s Kitchen. How could you not root for Dave? It was a minor miracle every time the guy completed a sentence, and he still managed to deliver some of the season’s best quotes (my favorite: “You’re not supposed to drink duck!”). He was unbelievably mellow and unassuming — the exact opposite of Kevin — and as a few of you pointed out last night, Dave evolved throughout the season while Kevin remained stagnant. Of course, there was also Dave’s fractured wrist, which made all of his cooking accomplishments seem even more impressive. Just wait until next season — every contestant is going to show up with an ailment of some kind! I’m putting my money on the chef with no sense of taste or smell.

In all seriousness, Dave won because he slightly outperformed Kevin during the two-hour season finale. Dave was the victor in both of the individual challenges, and his decision to construct a simpler menu during the final service resulted in a kitchen that ran a bit smoother. Let’s rewind to the beginning of last night’s finale and retrace everyone’s steps.

First half — individual challenge: Each of the three remaining chefs (Ariel, Dave, and Kevin) had to cook a single dish using the ingredients of a selected country. Ariel got China, Dave received India, and Kevin lucked out with Mexico. Ramsay brought in three celebrity chefs — Vikas Khanna, Thomas Ortega, and Eddie Wong — to judge the dishes. Even though Dave had no experience with Indian cuisine, and he made the mistake of including pork in his dish (which would have been rejected by Muslim diners), all three judges voted for him anyway.

First half — dinner service: Each chef received the opportunity to take a turn at the pass (or “run the hotplate” depending on the lingo you prefer). Kevin was up first, and he aced the quality-control test by spotting the halibut Sous Chef Scott mischievously substituted for sea bass. Dave didn’t fare as well, failing to notice that spinach puree had been swapped for asparagus puree in the risotto dish, and also neglecting to stop a sabotaged tuna dish. We also witnessed Dave’s attempt to imitate Ramsay’s intense energy by kicking a trash can and whipping the counter with a towel. Finally, Ariel’s turn at the hotplate was mediocre. She approved a dish that contained parsnip puree instead of mashed potatoes, but successfully caught Scott’s attempt to switch salmon for sea bass. Ariel feuded with Kevin, who lagged on the scallops station. When it came time for each chef to nominate someone for elimination, Ariel and Scott picked each other while Dave selected Ariel. Ramsay ultimately agreed, sending Ariel on her way but letting her keep her jacket.

Second half — individual challenge: Got to love Dave’s response to making it to the final episode: “This ranks up there on insane parts of Dave’s life.” One day we will learn about the rest of Dave’s life, and we will be stunned by how totally, like, insane it was, you know. Yeah. For the final challenge, Ramsay brought Dave and Kevin to the roof of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel (if you’re ever in Downtown Los Angeles, take a ride on the Bonaventure’s elevators). There, a crowd cheered the two chefs on as they raced back to the kitchen to create “a dish worthy of Araxi Restaurant.” Kevin made a poached lobster dish while Dave settled for a rack of venison, and a panel of five judges picked Dave as the winner by a margin of 3-2. Naturally, it came down to the last vote.

Second half — dinner service: Six previous contestants returned to assist Dave and Kevin in the kitchen. Dave selected Ariel, Robert, and Suzanne for his team, while Kevin picked Van, Amanda, and Sabrina. But where was Tennille? She finished in the top four and had, without a doubt, the most dynamic personality of any chef this season. Instead, we had to settle for Robert and his tired shenanigans. Moving on, Dave and Kevin designed their own menus for the evening, with Dave keeping it straightforward while Kevin preferred gorgeously elaborate but time-consuming dishes. Here’s a quick rundown of each kitchen’s performance:

Kevin: His team started poorly as Amanda undercooked and then overcooked her scallops. As a result, Kevin decided to have Amanda and Van switch stations. Moments later, a risotto dish was returned to the kitchen for containing hard, crunchy rice, and Amanda was the culprit once again. There was also some confusion as to whether Kevin asked for a meat dish to be cooked medium-well or medium-rare, but his team finished strong thanks in part to Van’s ability to compensate for Amanda’s blunders.

Dave: His appetizers were flying out of the kitchen, but when Robert pointed out that the kitchen was running low on mushrooms, Dave instructed him to use less of the ingredient. The result was discolored risotto that contained barely any mushrooms at all. Ariel also overcooked a venison dish and sent out raw salmon, but for the most part, Dave’s kitchen seemed to complete orders at a more consistent rate than Kevin’s kitchen.

The moment of truth: And we’re back to Dave stepping through that silhouetted door and discovering that he had won. “I’m totally in a state of shock,” he said while tearing up. Ramsay’s reasoning for choosing Dave was this: “Dave has a very natural ability and a very sophisticated palate. He fought through excruciating pain and excelled.” Kevin was a gracious loser, and he’ll certainly benefit from all the exposure he received on Hell’s Kitchen. But the night belonged to the “one-armed bandit,” who’ll inevitably regain the use of his left arm only to injure it again while skiing the slopes of Whistler.

PopWatchers, feel free to continue the discussion you started last night: Were you celebrating with Dave when he won, or outraged at Ramsay for not picking Kevin? And was anyone else here missing Tennille?

Comments (234 total) Add your comment
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  • JenR

    Hahaha! It never even occurred to me that Tennille wasn’t there! I’m so glad Dave won. I am sure Kevin is a great chef, but it’s nice to see the nice guy finish first.

    • Quirky

      Was he nice? I was surprised how he treated the other chefs (including Scott and Heather) when he was running the pass.

      • Strepsi

        YEah he was overcompensating at the pass test. But *really* running the kitchen in the final, he was much nicer than Kevin, working with his team in comraderie instead of continuously yelling at them. Plus, I’ve been to Whistler BC – it is totally FULL of mumbling toque-wearing stoners, so Dave is a natural fit. Way to go Dave!

  • D.Dinner

    I am a chef,licensed, for over 20 years in Canada (10 years in Los Angeles). Come on, a 27 year old running a destination resort’s ack of the house? It takes years to develop the experience neccessary to manage a resort with this scope. DO NOT believe that Dave has anywhere near the ability to do this.Well I am sure that he has natural talent to progress to a lofty position, it would be years before he would be considered a candidate in the real world.

    • Laura K.

      Chances are he won’t wind up running the place, anyway. If I remember correctly, most of the past winners have wound up as sous chefs at their respective restaurants.

      • Jack

        Yup. That is correct. All of the past season winners are SOUS Chefs at the restaurants. The commercials/show intro has it wrong when they say, “…and a chance to be Executive Chef at ____.”

      • Seamus

        Jack, the commercials/show intro doesn’t have it wrong, they do have a CHANCE to be Executive chef…granted that could be several years down the line, but the chance is still there. I’d think you’d know by now that the media loves to play with wording.

      • hhhfhf

        jack you are WRONG! wiki it!

      • Billy

        He difinitely won’t be. They even had the executive chef of Araxi there last night and said he would be the winner’s employer.

      • Rachel

        We recorded it so I’m going to watch it again because I could have sworn I heard Chef Ramsey say that Dave would be the head chef, not a Sous chef.

      • laini

        Actually the first winner was so well liked by Ramsey that Ramsey offered him a deal, either run whichever restaurant was up that time or spend a year in London apprenticing under Ramsey. The winner took a while & talked to his wife & decided to take Ramsey up on his apprenticeship offer.

      • tonisha

        Really? I was wondering how Heather had so much time to be there – and where is the winner from last year? I looked him up at the Bogota in AC, and didn’t see his name anywhere

      • jean

        Wow! This is my first blog.
        I never noticed this major fact!!
        I am an avid fan since season one but I think this has been the worst group yet. Why WAS Tennile left out – I was so over Robert he needs stomach banding to save his life. Isn’t Kevin already in a position above sous chef? I felt Chef Ransey had a soft spot for Robert and Dave .. what’s up with that? Kevin got sabotaged with that dodo bird Amanda.. What a shame – don’t think I will be back next year to watch.

      • Mike

        Last year’s winner is the sous chef at the Borgota restarant. they have a well established head chef at the Italian restaurant.

    • Sara

      Assuming you were referring to Dave, he’s 32.

    • Scott Dietrich

      Dave is also not 27. He is 32 and has 10 years of experience. And I think I would take Gordon Ramsay’s opinion over yours.

      • susan

        No kidding. Methinks somebody is jealous.

    • Lynn

      Jealous………party of 1, lol

      • D.Dinner

        jealous? hell yes, when I started there was no celebrity chefs, you had too go and work,usually at min wage under chefs worse than Ramsey,for 4 years, work overtime that you never get paid for, starting out doing every dirty job in the back of house…..and for the people who read like they eat,(fast food) I gave Dave his Props, he is talented, but anybody with an educated opinion, that is in the trade, and is informed, would believe that Dave is Exec or Head chef material.

    • uuu

      D. Diner is jealous because he’s been licensed for 20 years, yet has only mananged to be the head “chef” at Denny’s.
      Three Grand Slams D. Diner!!

      • D.Dinner

        actually have never worked at “fast foods” nor “dennys”…I dont even eat at these type of places,I respect food, that is why you have never seen me there when you slide your huge backside into your regular booth…as far as Dave being 32, I was mislead by an inaccurate report, even though at 32 and 10 years, he is a good “cook”, that is a far reach from an Executive Chef, which he could or not achieve in the future, but some good advice to him is, lay off the bud, bud.

      • Elizabeth

        Hey D.Dinner! Do you know where Dave works? Have you been to his restaurant? Has he cooked you a meal? Wait…what did you say…No? Then shut up.

      • allie

        Slam D.Dinner all you want but it is true that the winner does not automatically become the head chef. You actually think Ramsey would ever let one of these people waltz right into his restaurants and take over the exec chef position? Have you seen the quality of the people that really work for him? The winner of the show gets a great opportunity to prove themselves and a nice chunck of change. But it really would be more accurate to call the winner executive Sous Chef.

      • cookie

        I’ve eaten at his “restaraunt” and one time was enough. WAAAY too pretentious for me. The flavor was NOT there. It was all about presentation. AND I had lobster that was, well…disgusting. I sent it back, and got another plate, exactly the same. Mushy, tasteless, and for the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ a rip off. Ramsey needs to watch his chefs.

      • Mattie

        Cookie I don’t believe you. Ramsey would not pick a Chef who had no experience or had bad food. I think you are a hypocrite, shut the hell up.

    • foodlover

      Isn’t the point that this isn’t the “real world”? Contestants go on American Idol to save themselves years of pounding the pavement for a free ride to the top. So maybe Dave doesn’t “deserve” the job, but that’s why winning is special!

      • mary

        Exactly. Jeez. Hell’s Kitchen isn’t a job interview. It’s a contest to win a fabulous prize – something you probably wouldn’t be able to get at this point otherwise. That’s like – the whole idea.

      • Athena

        Thanks, “foodlover.” Your comment puts in perspective why *all of these reality Contest shows get such a huge following.
        It also helps explain why I continue the (sometimes) self-torture of watching them.lol
        foodlover said:
        “Wed 10/14/09 11:13 AMIsn’t the point that this isn’t the “real world”? Contestants go on American Idol to save themselves years of pounding the pavement for a free ride to the top. So maybe Dave doesn’t “deserve” the job, but that’s why winning is special!”

    • Quirky

      James Walt, the guy that was seen eating in Kevin’s dining room, will still be executive chef at the Araxi. Dave will be working under him. That’s what is being reported up here in the Vancouver newspapers.

    • linda

      I’m pretty sure that one of the five judges judging the last showdown was introduced as head chef at Araxi and future boss of the winner.

    • Gigit

      Hey gang, according to an article on Dave Levey, he’s 38 and “has been cooking for 25 years, worked for a number of Top Chefs and has manned every station in the kitchen.” It appears he has a *little* more experience than you people are giving him credit. Bottom line, Dave was the most consistent, consistently beat Kevin in the single dish cook-offs, and was consistently great in the kitchen all season. Great Choice Chef Ramsey!

    • Canadian Flower

      I quote from the Vancouver Sun, “(Dave)Levey, 38, has been cooking for 25 years, worked for a number of top chefs and has manned every station in the kitchen.”. That is a lot more experience than you are presuming he has, D.Dinner.

      This is a contest that offers an opportunity that is very hard to come by in the real world. That is the whole point.

    • Mattie

      Um Dave is not 27 that was Ariel, Dave is 32 where Kevin was 35. That is what they said on Hell’s Kitchen anyways. Dave is not 38. The sun got that wrong. Kevin is older than all of them.

  • sandy88

    dave was the best ramsay never yelled at him he kept going pain and all do good out there and wear warm clothes good luck enjoy it

  • tdunf

    anyone else hear ariel exclaim that she burned her nuts? and how funny that the 2 final picks, the ones you get stuck with, were not mentioned at all during service as they obviously performed well…even the eyebrow chick!!

  • tdunf

    no way dave re-injures his arm skiing whistler…he’s definitely a snowboarder!!

  • tickles

    I missed Tennille. She was my favorite this season. Congrats Dave!

    Robert really pissed me off. I liked him last season but not so much this time. He was given a second chance by Ramsey. He should have been more grateful and instead of getting pissy with Dave he should have worked extra hard. It almost seemed like he wanted to hurt Dave’s wrist even more at one point when he handed him a dish the wrong way.

  • Amy

    Though I liked Kevin, Dave deserved this one. It’s one thing to cook well despite a sprained ankle, but it’s a whole different league to cook well despite having a fractured wrist.

    • Debbie

      I completely agree. I am so happy he one. Last years winner I was happy about to. I had him picked from day one. Gordon. Dave is a hard worker, and a no nonsense type of guy.. He has an exceptional pallete like Gordan says.. just a natural.

      • Mattie

        Me too DEbbie. I love Danny. Everyone thought this year they would have male against female since that is what there usually is at the end, but I knew from day one that standing at the end would be Dave and Kevin. I am happy Dave won, and for those out there that THINK they know food, by your response I would say NOT!

  • Sara

    Kevin, Kevin, Kevin. Picking Van was a natural choice – you like having seafood on the menu, he’s a fish cook. Picking Amanda because she can cook fish was… odd. You know there’s other stuff on the menu besides fish, right? You don’t need two fish cooks. Putting the ninth-place chef on the fish station over the fifth-place fish cook was just dumb.

  • Jason

    Did everyone miss it??????????? An hour into the finale they did a rundown of the season and one of the final clips was Dave tearing up saying “I’m totally in a state a shock” FOX GAVE AWAY THE ENDING!!! I knew at that moment Dave won and it ruined the last hour. Kevin by far was the better chef, he never once went up to the chopping block and was near perfect throughout the competition. Great season but the finale could have been edited better…

    • John Mitchell

      I totally agree. Why did they have to play that stupid shocked Dave segment before the show???!!!

      • Andrew Kubli

        i didnt catch that! oh that sucks dude

    • Fran V

      Dave could have been shocked at any number of things. He could have been shocked because he lost. But I’m really glad he didn’t.

    • Robin

      I saw that too! That totally gave it away.

    • tdunf

      i saw it too and spent the whole show hoping that he was going to tear up over his new jacket, or a prize or something. everytime he spoke to the camera i hoped for tears so that the ending wasn’t blown. btw – i lived in banff for a year and a half. it’s a mountain resort similar to whistler, and believe me, dave will do much better there than a guy with a young family.

    • jenny

      Third reality show in the last week to give away an important piece of the show’s ending with a promo during the show: HK, Biggest Loser and Amazing Race.

    • lyn2

      UM…I don’t think Dave was on the chopping block once this season either. And, Kevin should have been for his whole “overcooked” rice for the risotto last week or maybe it was the week before. Kevin was also overbearingly conceited. Confidence in your ability is necessary, bragging constantly about yourself is not necessary. Also, I think the recapper really liked Kevin better because and is bitter that he didn’t win because he says Dave slightly outperformed Kevin in the finale…Kevin messed up the first challenge too by forgetting his mole sauce. My family thought Dave outperformed Kevin during the whole two hour finale!

      • cookie

        Not only did Dave out perform in his ability to cook (as was attested to by the 3 judging chefs) but he out performed in his ability to connect with his people. If only Gordon would pay attention, and learn some social skills, he would have a better show, but apparently a lot of people love watching him have hourly meltdowns, and throwing non-stop tantrums. The one person that I respected most was the person who refused to be treated like garbage. Remember him? Also remember that Dave performed with a burned hand, and didn’t let it stop him. OOOOH, if it had been Kevin, he wouldn’t have been there until the end. I’m glad that the right person won.

      • cookie

        Oops, I meant Dave performed with sprained wrist. I’m not sure what I was thinking there.

      • Mattie

        Dave did. He deserved to win and I am happy he did, all the rest of you with the sour grapes, go suck on one! It doesn’t matter what you think it won’t change the ending……….DAVE WON, GET OVER IT!


    • I saw it too

      I saw him say that and the door handle open for him. The SAME thing happened last year. The door opened in the preview.

    • John

      I noticed that,too. The exact phrase was copied from Dave’s winning moment and inserted earlier in the show to reference something else (less shocking). It was a giveaway!

    • Mary

      Yeah, I saw that too. It tipped me off to the winner as well. Stupid Fox.

    • Khristina

      I’m SO glad I wasn’t the only one who thought that!!! As the show went on I thought that might have been a reaction to the final cooking challenge. Alas, it never showed that clip so I thought- yeah, douchebag won. Ugh…then at the last commercial break I could see that Dave’s door handle turned a tiny bit more than Kevin’s. epic editing FAIL! lol

    • Mattie

      Jason I got that one. But you could have took it as he is in shock he lost. It showed Kevin saying I can’t believe it. So you could have took them as either one winning.

    • Athena


  • Ashley

    @D.Dinner: Perhaps if you did a bit of research you would find that Dave is NOT 27, he is 32. And he has 10 years of experience in the industry.

    Gordon Ramsey is a world-renowned chef, he did not make this decision lightly. He obviously sees Dave is experienced and has a ton of potential, otherwise he would not have chosen Dave.

  • Jeanne

    Fox gave away the ending first during the recap of the season and right before they openened their doors. Did anyone notice that the screen was blue in the dining room and Dave worked in the blue kitchen? Also, right before they cut to commercial when both men had their hands on their doorknobs, the camera did a close-up of Dave’s hand. It was so obvious. Shame on you Fox for not giving us a little suspense! Also, both men are very talented chefs, each in their own ways, and I’m happy for them.

    • The Dude

      While I can’t recall the other things the close up of Dave’s hand wasn’t because they were focusing on Dave, it was because that’s where there was room for the cameraman to get an angle on the two grasping the door knobs. In past seasons they had a similar shot and it was the other door that opened.

  • Ben

    I disagree with this blindness with Dave’s big flaws. He was likable, but his negatives were his constant angry whining about Tennille, his inability to describe the dishes to the guest judges and his constant talking. Just shut up and cook, dude. I also thought his simplified menu wasn’t such a good idea when he just barely beat Kevin’s complicated menu at the last second. Seems like he should have beaten Kevin by a mile and didn’t.

    • tdunf

      i find it truly hard to believe that they were that close in service….the scallop fiasco had to put that kitchen at least half an hour behind.

    • cookie

      Ben, Tennille was hard to work with. Her attitude would get her fired quickly. And while Dave wasn’t a “speaker” you have to remember, he wasn’t competing for a part in a play. It’s the ability to cook that wins this challenge. He obviously has a true knack for cooking food that tastes good.

  • schmakt

    Definitely glad that Dave won. Kevin was too… just too much. I hope Dave does a great job up in BC. And no, I definitely wasn’t missing Tennille. I didn’t like her one bit and was glad to not have to listen to her stupid commentary.

  • oldrockchick

    Hypothetical here: Take Amanda out of Kevin’s kitchen. Insert Tenille (who respected Kevin and showed the most improvement during the season)Would that have changed the outcome?

    • The Dude

      Definitely. As with past seasons it wasn’t really the way the two led the kitchen, it was just the ability of their team. If you have a cook who sucks then you’re screwed unless you can work around them. See last season with Paula being stuck with Matt the head-case.

    • suzanna

      The thing is, I have to believe that Ramsay picks the winner based on all sorts of things he’s been observing all season. He’s perfectly capable of realizing whether one contestant has a weaker staff in the finale – he’s going on their overall game, all season long.

    • Mark


    • Mattie

      NO. Kevi choose Amanda. He could have took Robert, Susanne, but he choose Amanda Second. Stop the whinning, he choose her, he picked a menu that was to hard to cook, he should have left that menu for his resturant, but he didn’t win so WHO THE FREAK CARES……….DAVE WON AND YIPPEE FOR HIM!

  • katsky

    I hate that dave won, much as I hate that the long-haired slacker won last season. In both cases, the other chef in the finale deserved it (or last year it might have been the chef who came in 3rd who deserved it). Ramsey seems to have a thing for skinny young men. That’s all I’m sayin’. In previous years, I agreed more with the outcomes.

    • raingods

      wow-how ignorant can one person be?

      • cookie

        raingods, apparently you should know.

    • John

      Rock (3-4 seasons ago) definitely wasn’t a skinny, slacker-looking guy. He also has been my favorite winner so far. This season I predicted to myself immediately that the face-off would be between Dave and Kevin, and of the two it would come down to things Ramsey observed throughout. I have a feeling he could have sent all the rest home by the end of week two, knowing he wouldn’t have chosen any of them. I wish Dave had better communications skills, but as a sous, he won’t be describing everything to customers / magazine writers anyway.

    • Teresa

      It seems to me you are the one judging on appearance. Ramsay is there and tasting the food. Just because someone has long hair doesn’t make them a slacker??

    • Mary

      I watched the show last season and the chef who came in third (Andrea) was terrible and did not deserve to win. Come on now!

    • cookie

      Katsky, if that was true, he wouldn’t have given worthless, mouthy Robert a second chance. That guy needs to look in the mirror, and get down to business taking care of his health.

    • Mattie

      Your stupid. Danny deserved to win last year and Dave deserved to win this year. Get over it already. They both did great, and during the season, they took over stations when some chef couldn’t get out that food from that station, Dave did it more than once and that is with ONE HAND BENCHES!

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