On this week’s episode of “Hell’s Kitchen,” Gordon Ramsay gave out the coveted black jackets to the aspiring chefs he thought deserved to be in the Final 5 of Season 19. Mary Lou Davis and Declan Horgan received the first two thanks to their success in the “taste it now make it” challenge. Cody Candelario and Kori Sutton then earned their tickets to the black jacket lounge when they prevailed in the “briefcase ingredients” challenge. That left only Amber Lancaster and Nicole “Nikki” Hanna still in the kitchen to cook a dish resembling their childhood, with Chef Ramsay ultimately giving the final jacket to Amber. Did the host make the right decision, or did he eliminate the wrong person? Vote in our poll below.
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“I have come so far since day one,” Nikki pleaded to Chef Ramsay before he made his final decision. “I am ready to just continue getting further and further and I am certainly not done yet.” Nikki’s childhood-inspired dish was a baked pork chop with scalloped potatoes and green beans. Amber decided on a filet with mashed potatoes and pearl onions.
Gordon said he could “taste” the story of both of their lives in their two entrees. “Two exceptional dishes,” he noted proudly. “Dishes that were cooked with heart, soul. But more importantly, the passion was evidence.” He dragged out the reveal over a commercial break (of course) before announcing, “The person earning the final black jacket — congratulations, Amber. Well done.”
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After Amber headed to the lounge to join Mary Lou, Declan, Cody and Kori, Chef Ramsay turned to Nikki to give her one final pep talk. “Nikki, you may not have earned a black jacket, young lady, but you have earned my respect,” he told the 25-year-old line cook from New Hampshire. “You are the most improved chef that I’ve ever witnessed in the history of this competition. And so I will personally fly you to any of my restaurants around the world for as long as you like. The world, young lady, is your oyster.”
Nikki may not have won the title of head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Lake Tahoe Restaurant, but she left with her head held high, telling Gordon she’s “happy for this opportunity.” In her exit interview, she declared, “Every day that I woke up here in Hell’s Kitchen, I had to pinch myself. My very first dinner service was less than desirable. Every single person here had at least 10 years of experience on me, so I was constantly having to prove myself. I grew exponentially in my time here. This is the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. I have built up this amazing resilience that I didn’t even know that I was developing. I accomplished something here, regardless of the outcome tonight. It was just really validating to know that he sees something in me.”