Last night was the season finale of “Hell’s Kitchen” on FOX, and one of the stiffest competitions yet on the show between two low-key but talented Floridians, Danny and Paula. At the end of last week’s episode, they had just chosen their teams for their big dinner service, and Danny chose first since he won the challenge back at the Borgata in Atlantic City. His team was Ben, Giovanni and Carol; Paula had Andrea, L.A., and Lacey. Giovanni didn’t want to be there, and Carol admitted she had been pulling for Paula. But the biggest issue was that Paula got stuck with Lacey. Danny knew he had a decided edge already.

During prep, Lacey was at it already, just being Lacey…as she ruined an entire batch of creme brulee. Then Gordon Ramsay wanted to see the design of each restaurant. Paula went first, with her brightly themed “Sunergy” very impressive to the boss. Then Danny, who couldn’t resist
hanging fish on the wall and calling his restaurant “Velvet Hammer,” a reference to his sexual prowess in high school. I can’t believe he actually went through with that name!

During dinner service, the families were there, including Paula’s (ahem) dancer of a sister. Danny’s dad admitted that his son had never cooked for him until now, which is really kind of mind-blowing. Anyway, Paula’s team was lagging behind early, with both Lacey and Andrea screwing up as they usually do. Danny encountered similar problems with Ben and Giovanni, but overall it looked like they were a well-oiled machine, and they finished their service before Paula’s team.

Then, with about 15 minutes left, Ramsay announced that the winner of Hell’s Kitchen Season 5 “lives in Florida!” Nice one, Gordy. Finally, after about three more commercial breaks, it was the season’s climax…..both Paula and Danny stood behind a door and only one of them would open. Their families and a crowd of people waited and watched, including all four Hell’s Kitchen champs to date–Michael, Heather, Rock, and Christina. I had a feeling it would be Paula, but keep in mind that Ramsay’s decision would be weighted heavily based on customer comments from dinner. The winner is…….

Danny! He jumped up and down like a monkey, cried tears of joy for his victory and tears of sadness that his deceased mom couldn’t be on hand, at least not in person. It’s truly amazing that dude is only 23 and how he rose so quickly through the ranks this season. That, in the end, is what impressed Ramsay the most. So Danny has his own restaurant at the Borgata in Atlantic City, and becomes the latest Ramsay protege. Meanwhile, Paula was gracious in defeat, saying this will open doors for her and she was proud of getting this far. No doubt.
Congrats Danny, and may your real restaurant not be named Velvet Hammer!