Hell’s Kitchen episode review S18E12: Break on Through


In this Hell’s Kitchen episode review, we finally see the top five chefs earn black jackets. Who will be the unlucky one to get so close, only to be sent home?

Now that the women outnumber the men four to two, Ramsay has asked for a woman to volunteer to move to the men’s side. This is a chance for someone to attempt to lead the men to success, and both Ariel and Mia are eager to prove themselves. This episode opens with perhaps the most reasonable and adult conversation I have ever seen on a reality TV show as Mia and Ariel discuss who will volunteer.

Ariel speaks up first, but Mia makes it clear she too wants to make the move. Mia explains that she feels Ariel is already the leader of the women’s team, and she wants her chance with the men’s team. Ariel tells her that, if that is what she really wants, she will respect that. In interview, she tells us, “if it was anyone else, the answer would be no but it feels the best when you beat the best.” Coming to an agreement that Mia will move to the men’s team, they laugh as Ariel says, “now it’s going to be your kitchen versus my kitchen.”

It’s so refreshing to see two supportive women who respect each other but also want to win. It just goes to show that you can be competitive without being petty or underhanded. It also brings us back to the original subtitle of the show as we once again will have a rookie (Mia) versus a veteran (Ariel).

All the chefs head down to the dining room for their daily challenge. Ramsay reminds the teams that he needs a volunteer from the blue kitchen and asks Bret who he wants to see move over. Without hesitation, Bret selects Ariel as the best of the women’s team. Ariel admits that she was the first to volunteer, at which Bret smiles, but then explains that she and Mia agreed Mia would move over. Bret’s smile slips and he tells us, “Mia did not come to the red team to lead. She may think that, but not with me standing next to her.”

HELLÕS KITCHEN: Veteran Bret in the ÒBreak On ThroughÒ episode of HELLÕS KITCHEN airing Friday, Jan. 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX

Before I have time to worry about that comment, Ramsay introduces the challenge. He points out the oversized headshots of the five guest judges behind him. He reminds the chefs that they have had the opportunity to learn, not just from him, but from these amazing chefs- Traci Des Jardins, David Lefevre, Shirley Chung, Richard Blais, and Valerie Gordon.

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He tells our contestants that they have proven they can learn and improve, but who will break through? At this moment, the headshots shatter behind him. Ramsay doesn’t even flinch as we hear glass burst from the frames. Behind the headshots are five black jackets.

Only the best chefs earn black jackets in Hell’s Kitchen. It is a symbol of being in an elite fraternity of cooks and of being much closer to the finale. It also means that the remaining chefs will unify into one kitchen. Now remember, Mia just volunteered to move over to lead the men. Given that there will be just one kitchen, I don’t know if that has any meaning anymore.

In any case, they will have to survive three challenges to earn their jacket. After the first challenge, two of the six will earn their jacket and exit the challenges. After the second challenge, two of the remaining four will earn jackets. In the final challenge, the final two will battle head-to-head. One will earn the last jacket and one will go home.

For the first challenge, the chefs are presented with what looks like a rolling bookcase with cubby holes covered in paper. They must punch through the paper to blindly select a protein, two vegetables, a starch, and a wild card ingredient. They then need to create a dish with those five items in forty-five minutes.

Most of the chefs are happy with their selections except for Heather. She gets duck and tells us she has never cooked duck before, which I find shocking. It seems like a fairly standard protein at many fine dining restaurants.

Heather’s ingredients are duck, peas, carrots, purple sweet potatoes, and dried porcini. She doesn’t let her duck rest long enough so it bleeds on the plate, and for some reason, she has put her potatoes in the Vitamix. Blended potatoes get gummy.

Kanae received lamb, asparagus, green beans, red potatoes, and black truffle. Her potato crusted lamb and asparagus puree go over well, but her glazed string beans are too raw.

Motto has made citrus glazed salmon with crispy skin and brown mascarpone gremolata from his salmon, mushrooms, broccoli, rice and mascarpone. He removed the skin of the salmon and made it into an extra crispy chip which looks delicious. Ramsay loves the chip but wishes for more seasoning in the rice.

Ariel received scallops, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, celery root, and bacon. She presents pan-seared scallops and bacon-wrapped celery root. I love her celery root, which she has cut into medallions or cubes. Once wrapped in bacon, they mimic the look of the seared scallops, which I really like. Gordon likes her dish too, calling it “pretty magical.”

Mia has turned her filet, chard, onions, couscous, and duck fat into filet mignon with swiss chard couscous. Ramsay loves her plating and the cook on her beef.

HELLÕS KITCHEN: Rookie Gizzy in the ÒBreak On ThroughÒ episode of HELLÕS KITCHEN airing Friday, Jan. 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX

Last up is Bret who worked with pork chop, sunchokes, leeks, polenta, and whiskey. He tells Ramsay, “I wanted to go kinda man sexy with whiskey and double bone-in pork chop.” Gordon stops him and demands that he explains “man sexy,” which Bret redefines as a man plate. Ramsay corrects him to explain the plate isn’t sexy but rather anemic. The colors are all beige. However, it tastes good.

Having tasted all six dishes, the first two jackets go to the two women who want to emerge as leaders- Ariel and Mia. They are overjoyed and get to celebrate in the Black Jacket Lounge- a room with a bar, a pool table, a chocolate fountain, and a large TV. I am in love with the drinks on the menu. We have The Bounce Back- a classic mojito with a reinvigorating raspberry kick. There is also the Tableside Terror to “add a little spice to your service” with vodka, bloody Mary mix, and sriracha. My favorite is the Walk to the Pass which is smooth gin with a hopeful lemon zest.

The second challenge is all about creativity. Ramsay wants to see what they can do when all of them have the same ingredients. To select ingredients, they will each take a turn with what looks like a Wheel of Fortune wheel. They must cook with quail, eggplant, baby leeks, and cauliflower. Heather, who never cooked duck before today, has never cooked quail.

When it is time to present their dishes, the TV turns on in the Black Jacket Lounge to allow Ariel and Mia to watch the action. Kanae presents her char-grilled quail with riced cauliflower and creamy leeks. Earlier we saw her struggling to rice the cauliflower, something she has never done before. The rest of her dish is good, but the cauliflower lets her down.

Motto has made what he calls “country quail come to town.” He explains that his quail took a dip in some brine, got stuffed with thyme and bay leaf, and then got its stripes on (was grilled). While he has nailed the cook on the quail, his cauliflower has let him down as well, being too raw.

HELLÕS KITCHEN: Rookie Chris in the ÒBreak On ThroughÒ episode of HELLÕS KITCHEN airing Friday, Jan. 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX

Heather has decided to remove the legs and wings of her quail and to stuff the tiny breast with parsley, lemon and leeks. Her cauliflower is delicious, but she left the lemon in the quail for service and it is bitter and unpleasant to eat.

Bret presents last with his herbs de Provence char-grilled quail, cauliflower puree, and eggplant topped with lemon and herb gremolata. Compared to his “man plate” from earlier, this plate is dainty and well-received.

Before announcing the black jacket winners, the TV reverts to the HK logo in the Black Jacket Lounge so Ariel and Mia have no idea who to expect. Bret and Motto earn the next two jackets and join them in the lounge, leaving Heather and Kanae to sudden death.

Kanae is unfazed and excited for the next challenge. Ramsay remarks that she has been very close to getting through in both previous rounds. Heather, on the other hand, is near tears. She is frustrated that both proteins were things she had never cooked before and she is feeling a little defeated.

They will have forty-five minutes to make a surf and turf dish. Heather decides that the way forward is to go back… to her comfort zone. She will make a classic filet and lobster dish. Kanae wants to be creative so she will make a pork chop and spot prawn combo.

With fifteen minutes left, Heather’s bad luck strikes again. She grabs the handle of a pan and badly burns herself. She loses time with the medic, but she still plates before Kanae.

HELLÕS KITCHEN: Veteran Heather in the ÒBreak On ThroughÒ episode of HELLÕS KITCHEN airing Friday, Jan. 18 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2018 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX

Heather is able to present her filet, lobster tail and claw, broccoli rabe, and Yukon gold potatoes. She admits that this is her comfort zone. Kanae and the chefs in the Lounge are all disappointed with her lack of creativity. All the same, her cooking is perfect, though the plating is nothing special.

Kanae proudly presents her pork chop with soy marinade, coconut poached shrimp, slaw, and coconut and cilantro rice. She has never cooked this dish before, which is appalling to Heather. How can she dare to cook something she has never done when in a competition that is sudden death?

I can see both of their points. Kanae wants to show her creativity and fearlessness. Heather wants to pick a dish she knows she can execute perfectly. Ramsay praises Kanae’s ability to cook without boundaries. There is a scary moment when it isn’t clear if she cleaned her shrimp (she did) but other then some under seasoned rice, Ramsay enjoys her dish.

All the chefs in the lounge are sure Kanae will win the jacket and they are all genuinely excited to see her come through the door. When Heather walks through instead, all their words of congratulations die on their lips. Bret’s shout of excitement turns into a prolonged, disconcerted yell. Heather notices the change in atmosphere immediately and bitterly tells them, “don’t  make me feel wanted or anything” She tells us Ariel looks like her dog died.

Meanwhile, Ramsay has a talk with Kanae. He asks if she has enjoyed herself and she really has. While he doesn’t think she is ready to be his executive chef right now, he sees great things for Kanae. She interviews that she had a great time and is really proud of herself. Her sunny attitude is amazing and I have no doubt she will be an executive chef in short order.

As Ramsay, the sous chefs and Marino go to the lounge to celebrate, I wonder if he made the right choice. Kanae is young but she is passionate, has a great attitude, and I respect her creativity. Also, it seems she did better in the previous two rounds than Heather did. I find it interesting that all the other chefs were sure Kanae had won too.

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Could Heather really go all the way? She was runner up in her season and is an executive chef at home. We will just have to see what happens next time when the five black jackets (two rookies and three vets) work in one kitchen.