Good evening, my little carnitas, and welcome to the continuation of Hell’s Kitchen. It’s everyone’s favorite episode: the penultimate show, in which everything gets arduously set up before blowing through next week’s Most! Intense! And! Eye-Burning! Finale! Ever! In the History! Of Ever! Kicking off with a seemingly endless recap of the whole season — I wonder how poor Vanessa’s fried hand is doing these days? — the episode was mostly an hour of exclamations from our two finalists about how they can’t believe they made it/are relatively convinced that they will win. Thankfully, both remaining cheflings — culinary-student-with-moxie Christina and P-is-for-pig-and-also-paternal-goodness Petrozza — are likable figures behind whom it is not hard to get, and from the minute those big Blade Runner-style banners with their heads on them dropped from the sky, I’ve been along for the ride.
There’s ever so much to be done before anyone can open a fake restaurant at the end of a reality show, so let’s not waste time. After Corey’s elimination, Christina and Petrozza retired to the dorms to plan their menus, and Christina — who, at the wee little age of 25, has somehow been working in restaurants since 1998 — got right to work. Petrozza, on the other hand, seemed overwhelmed by the momentous occasion and got right to sleeping. At 5 a.m., he awoke with the birds to finish his list, while Christina had hers locked. Then it was off to meet with the designer to talk about the physical space, which both wanted to be ”warm” and ”rich.” Suddenly, Petrozza started talking in this voice that fell somewhere between Santa Claus and a drunk massage therapist who’s read too many Tolkien novels, nattering on about sweetbreads and forest mushrooms, and I half expected a bunny to come hopping out of his mouth. Then he declared he wanted his dining room festooned in flowers and candles, and I realized he’d somehow become the physical embodiment of a late-era Tori Amos album. Christina, meanwhile, was all about ”simple elegance” (aren’t we all) and hating on the green booths; she also hated all of Jean-Pierre’s sample waiter outfits, opting instead for black suits and black T-shirts. Petrozza, of course, could not have been more agreeable when it came to clothes, so J.-P., of course, now loves Petrozza way more. I can’t help thinking it may be the long-suffering maître d’s allegiance that puts Petrozza over the top.
Menu time, and Petrozza’s still all about the sweetbreads. Also Chilean sea bass, which is ”one of” his favorite things to put in his mouth, and a roast duck with soy, ginger, and sesame. (Chef Scott, wisely, stayed out of the Faerie Prince’s way during all this lip-smacking rapture.) On the other side of the kitchen, Christina was talking ”comfortable” foods that wouldn’t frighten the guests: strip steak, monkfish. This process — which I always want to see more of, actually — was soon interrupted by an urgent call from Ramsay. He was up in his office and needed to speak with them desperately. He was nervous. He didn’t know if he’d made the right decision w/r/t the finalists. He ominously cut to commercial… only to come right back and say, of course, that he knows he made the right decision, oh hardy har har. The cheflings breathed a deep sigh of relief. Christina giggled, ”Petrozza’s old! His heart can’t take it!” Oh hardy har har.
NEXT: Unrecognizable signatures