And then there were six. New York City chef and veteran of Season 8, Trevor McGrath, was put out of his misery last week on “Hell’s Kitchen” after his Red teammates Motto and Bret Hauser gave him the cold shoulder during another disastrous dinner service. Will we see if karma is on the menu for the last two male chefs still competing, especially this week when the coveted black jackets will be handed out? Below, check out our minute-by-minute recap of “Hells Kitchen” Season 18, Episode 12, titled “Break On Through.”
9:02 p.m. Mia Castro answers Gordon Ramsay’s call for a volunteer to lead the men. She explains to Ariel Contreras-Fox that she “wants to step up” since her current teammate is the unofficial leader for the Blue Team. Ariel welcomes the competition, noting that “it’s going to be my kitchen vs. your kitchen.”
9:04 p.m. Ramsay asks Bret which of the four ladies left would be his choice to join him and Motto as a team. He zeroes in on Ariel, since she is the strongest, but she dissuades him of that notion , saying that she would rather Mia switched because she wants a real challenge. What’s the phrase? Oh, snap.
9:05 p.m. Ramsay stands in front of large photos of past guest judges on reward challenges on Season 16, including Traci Des Jardins (soup), David LeFevre (halibut six ways), Shirley Chung (Chinese cuisine), Richard Blais (potato) and Valerie Gordon (dessert). After that reminder, he announces, “Now is the time to take it to the next level. My question is, which of you are going to break through?” Suddenly, the glass frames behind him shatter and expose five black jackets. Gordo really is a drama queen sometimes. He explains there will be three difficult individual challenges. Mia, however, is bummed that she does not get to boss the guys around.
9:09 p.m. For the first round, the chefs will break through part of four cases to determine what protein, vegetable, starch and wild card ingredient will be part of their dish. Bret is up first, and he gets a pork chop. Kanae Houston, lamb chop. Motto, salmon. Ariel, scallops. Mia, filet. Heather Williams, duck. News flash: Heather says she has never cooked duck EVER. Maybe this veteran chef who was a runner-up in Season 16 isn’t quite the whiz she is quacked up to be.
9:12 p.m. Next, one by one, they grab two veggies, then a starch. Bret is thrilled to get polenta, so much so that the caption below his name is “happy” and Ramsay snarkily tells him, “Merry Christmas.” The wild cards could be the key, since Ariel was lucky enough to get bacon and Mia has duck fat. Motto’s mascarpone? Not so much.
9:14 p.m. The chefs have 45 minutes to make an edible dish. Ariel says, “At this point in the game, we should all be able to do anything with anything we have. Nothing should be sub-par.” She smartly wraps her celery root with the bacon. Motto, however, has what sous chef Christina calls “a bit of a combination” and not in a good way. Heather opens some red wine — presumably for her dish and not herself — as she faces duck for the first time. Mia, who has been a challenge queen, says she feels strong. “I’ve gotten this far and why doubt myself now?”
9:16 p.m. Time is up. Heather is first. She has a pan-seared duck breast with purple sweet potato puree. Ramsay notices she did not let her duck rest long enough and her puree is gummy. She admits putting it in a Vitamix blender. Ramsay’s unhappy response: “Why?” He observes that, just like her wine-splattered jacket, her dish is “a bit of a mess.” Kanae is next with potato-crusted lamb. Ramsay praises her delicate, dainty flavors but he doesn’t appreciate the unwanted crunch of her raw green beans. Mascarpone Motto puts down his plate of citrus-glazed salmon with crispy skin. Ramsay’s only complaint? More seasoning is needed in his rice.
9:22 p.m. Ariel brings over her pan-seared scallops. She did a confit with her celery root before wrapping it in bacon. Ramsay says she has concocted something “magical,” although he could have done without her fried leaves. Mia brings over her filet mignon and Swiss chard couscous. Ramsay says she plates like “an absolute pro.” But the true test is her steak, which she says is medium rare. He declares it “perfect.” Bret plunks down his pork chop and risotto and describes it as “man-sexy.” Ramsay is puzzled. Explains Bret: “It looks like a man plate.” Kanae mock-retches to the camera. Ramsay pronounces his chop “delicious” but suggests he should rein in the garnish a bit.
9:24 p.m. Guess who are getting their black jackets? Ariel and Mia. They go to the Black Jacket Lounge that is stocked with adult beverages, a chocolate fountain and a pool table overseen by sous chef Jocky. While the others sweat it in the kitchen, they can kick back.
9:26 p.m. Meanwhile, challenge No. 2 arrives. Ramsay says, “It’s always interesting to see what different chefs will do with the same ingredient.” The four chef-testants each take a spin of a wheel to see what will be on the menu. The results? Quail, eggplant, baby leeks, cauliflower. Guess who has never cooked quail? Heather, of course. Ramsay declares that combo “a nightmare.”
9:30 p.m. Bret is hoping his quail speaks to him and gives him a clue on how to serve it. Kanae’s use of a ricer for her cauliflower is not working out. Heather cruelly cuts the wings and legs off her bird and only cooks the breast. Mere minutes are left. Kanae is first, and Ariel and Mia just discover they can watch the action in the lounge. Ramsay asks why her cauliflower looks “gloopy. ” Luckily, he says it tastes better than it looks and calls her charred quail “the hero.” Motto finds his sense of humor as he describes his dish as country quail come to town. “It took a dip in the brine and snacked on stuffed thyme and bay leaf.” Ramsay questions his underdone cauliflower, but gives a thumbs up overall.
9:35 p.m. Here comes Heather. She unfortunately shoved lemon inside the breast, which turns it bitter. Ariel, watching from the lounge, say, “If you put a lemon in there, you take it out.” Adds Mia, “A rookie mistake.” He does like her eggplant and everything else but he is sour on the citrus. Bret serves an herbs de Provence char-broiled quail, a cauliflower puree and char-grilled eggplant topped with lemon zest. Ramsay dings the eggplant but calls the dish “a bloody good effort.”
9:40 p.m. The TV feed cuts out before Mia and Ariel learn which two chefs will join them in the lounge. They place their bets on Bret and Motto. When Bret walks in, Mia gives him a hug: “He’s not my favorite in the competition, but I am happy for him.” Actually, it is rather touching he has gotten so far, given that Bret had to leave Season 16 early because of an injury. No. 4 is rookie Motto. That means Heather and Kanae will face-off for the final jacket.
9:45 p.m. “Heather, I’ve seen better from you, young lady,” says Ramsay to the Season 16 runner-up. To rookie Kanae, he says, “You being so close to the mark, twice – continue pushing.” The final test will be surf and turf. Kanae chooses a pork chop and prawns for an Asian surf and turf while Heather goes more traditional with filet mignon and lobster tail, but she vows she will step it up a notch.
9:45 p.m. Kanae calls Heather “plain Jane when it comes to cooking.” Heather, however, is feeling confident because, she says, “I’m doing me.” Then, oops, Heather burns her hand and runs out of the room.
9:50 p.m. A medic tends to her and she returns, more eager than ever to prove herself. Heather goes first with a classic surf and turf with sauted broccoli rabe and Yukon gold potatoes. Kanae questions her opponent’s strategy when she tells Ramsay that she wanted to stay in her comfort zone. Hearing that, Mia and Ariel use the B word – boring. At least she nails the cooking of her steak and lobster.
9:53 p.m. Kanae has a single-bone pork chop with a soy marinade, coconut poached shrimp, a slaw on top and coconut and cilantro rice. Ramsay asks if she has ever cooked a dish like this before and she says no. He likes that Mia isn’t scared and cooks with no boundaries. Oh, oh. It seems her prawns might not have been cleaned.
9:55 p.m. Phew. They are clean but a bit too sweet and her rice is under-seasoned. But the pork? “Delicious!” Ramsay adds, “Strong effort, Kanae.”
9:56 p.m. So who will it be? WOW! It’s Heather, someone on the verge of elimination twice, who earns the last jacket. Poor Kanae, who has never been in danger of being cut, won’t be going on. Consider that Heather in our latest Gold Derby poll had zero backers picking her as most deserving to be one of the final five.
9:58 p.m. Ramsay gives Kanae a special good-bye.”You might not be ready yet to be my executive chef at Caesar’s Palace, but you are going on to great things. And you will become an amazing executive chef.” Kanae leaves with one of her trademark smiles on her face. As for those in the lounge, they are about to be shaken. In bounces Heather, proclaiming, “You thought it was the end of me!” Ramsay toasts their success in the lounge and declares them, “The Famous Five.”
Next time: The two rookies and three veterans will cook in the same kitchen for the first time. Considering Bret is shown getting reamed out by you-know-who, Heather is bashed for once again not properly running her station and Mia is making a mess with the garnish, things are pretty much back to normal. Tune into Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” next Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.