Hell’s Kitchen Season 18 winner announced in “The Grand Finale”


At last we will have a new Hell’s Kitchen Season 18 winner. Who will be the lucky (and deserving) chef to take the position at Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Las Vegas? Ariel and Mia battle it out in the final “veteran versus rookie” showdown.

Having spent what must have been an exhausting, emotional day of seeing their family, going to an amusement park, and cooking for incredible chef judges, Ariel and Mia meet with their new brigades to go over their menus. Mia’s brigade consists of Roe, Trev, Jose, and Heather. Ariel has Kanae, Bret, Motto, and Scotley. Had Mia really wanted to mess with Ariel, she could have forced her to take Trev and Scotley. Those two are like oil and water. Luckily, they are on separate teams.

Right away, it seems that Ariel’s team is very supportive and excited to help her win. I am proud of Bret, who can come off as sexist, when he says of Ariel, “I am more than happy to be on her team to help her win this competition, which she deserves.” Meanwhile, on Mia’s side, the help seems a bit more begrudging. Roe is willing to support her as the underdog who has surprised everyone in getting this far. Heather tells us, “as much as I don’t like her, I know what it’s like to not have people 110% behind you so I’m going to give her my heart and soul at my station and that’s that.”

I don’t think anyone on her team will sabotage her, but I also don’t sense the spirit of camaraderie and enthusiasm that I get from Ariel’s team. Also, though they are both doing some unfamiliar dishes, Ariel seems to be explaining things a bit better for her team while Mia’s team looks a little lost at first. Another thing concerning to me are things like Heather needing to ask Mia who will work which station. It seems Mia has not considered this crucial component, something an executive chef would not have overlooked. On the other hand, they did just get this brigade, so perhaps she just hasn’t had a moment to think it through.

HELLÕS KITCHEN: L-R: Veteran Ariel, host/chef Gordon Ramsay and rookie Mia in the special two-hour ÒA Rollercoaster Ride / The Grand FinaleÓ Season 18 finale episode of HELLÕS KITCHEN airing Friday, Feb. 8 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX

As the teams head into prep for final service, I see a few more concerning issues. Mia does not seem to be clicking with her team with Heather calling her a “little dictator” and Trev giving her the finger. Mia also seems to be frazzled and a little unsure where everyone is with prep, asking people to do things that have already been done. Even Jocky asks, “what the (beep) is going on?”

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On Ariel’s side, she is taking time to show her team how to perform tasks to her standards, but not in a condescending way. She asks for their opinion on the dishes to use for service. Scotley admires that she is vocal and detailed. He tells us, “even though she’s leading the team, we’re really in this together.” As they prep, they shout encouragement to each other and even make jokes. She seems to have found the perfect balance between someone you want to work for out of respect and someone you want to work for because you like them.

Two hours before service, Ramsay wants to do a final check of the menu items. Mia passes with flying colors. It seems she has reworked her menu quite a bit, and perhaps her micromanagement of her team has paid off. She will serve a sweet pea risotto with basil, lemon zest and pancetta. She also has a Peruvian Hamachi ceviche with avocado cream and potatoes, her mofongo, a soy ginger glazed churrasco with mango sauce, and grilled pork medallions with chorizo chimichurri.

Ariel, on the other hand, does not fare so well. Perhaps she has been too friendly with her brigade as every dish gets negative notes. Her shrimp ceviche roja includes overly salty plantain chips and an unnecessary puree. Her albodinga dumpling sopa has a filling that Ramsay calls “dense, underseasoned pork.” He also mentions something I have heard before about plating and find fascinating. He tells her that he never works with even numbers in plating and recommends that she use three dumplings instead of two.

Her rib cap mole with yellow beet puree, roasted carrots, and chocolate red wine demi is mealy, pasty, and lacks seasoning. For her fish dish, she has swapped out the mackerel she planned after hearing from Christina and the guest judge that mackerel is a risky, unfamiliar choice. Ramsay is disappointed in the swap and tells her to “stop running from success. Your mackerel was a hit.” Ariel vows to fix her dishes, starting with a return to the mackerel.

Given that it is their night and the kitchen is theirs, Mia and Ariel get to tell Marino to open Hell’s Kitchen. Each lady has a guest at their chef’s table. Ariel has prosecutor Marcia Clark while Ariel has comedian and actor JB Smooth. Their parents are also in the dining room.

HELLÕS KITCHEN: Veteran Ariel in the special two-hour ÒA Rollercoaster Ride / The Grand FinaleÓ Season 18 finale episode of HELLÕS KITCHEN airing Friday, Feb. 8 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2019 FOX Broadcasting. CR: FOX

For the most part, service goes well. On Ariel’s team, Kanae burns an order of dumplings but quickly recovers. Scotley delivers overly charred steaks. Bret brings up cold wagyu, burned chicken, and raw chicken. On Mia’s team, Roe delivers raw pork and sea bass that is falling apart. Other than these few hiccups, the kitchens run smoothly and both women do a good job keeping things running while maintaining high standards.

The diners for both kitchens have completed comment cards, and Ramsay reads these while carefully considering Mia and Ariel’s performance tonight and throughout the competition. He finally calls them to his office, having them pass through the dining room which is full of cheering family and friends. As is traditional, the women each approach a door and rest their hand on the handle. Simultaneously, they turn their handles, and Ariel’s door opens!

Ramsay praises Mia for being amazingly strong in the challenges (she only ever lost two) and for being incredibly creative. He praises Ariel for her consistency. She was never once considered for elimination throughout the competition. In the end, her consistency, confidence, maturity, experience, and leadership have won the day for Ariel. I hope to be able to visit the Las Vegas restaurant with her at the helm! Meanwhile, Mia’s creativity and unique Peruvian perspective will surely serve her well.

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Congrats to our new Hell’s Kitchen Season 18 winner, Ariel Contreras-Fox!