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'Hell's Kitchen': It's Christina

July 8, 2008 | 10:44 pm

Christinahellskitchen Looks like a woman's place is in the kitchen -- "Hell's Kitchen."

Christina, the wide-eyed 25-year-old culinary student from Missouri, has bested the competition to become Chef Gordon Ramsay's newest protege. Not only did she survive the boot camp that is the "Hell's Kitchen" but she thrived -- blossoming during the course of the competiton from a mousy, insecure cook to a creative, authoritative chef. Her prize: A job as executive chef in Ramsay's newest restaurant, London West Hollywood, and a $250,000 paycheck to show for her troubles.

"Christina had the least amount of experience coming into 'Hell's Kitchen' but I saw something in her that was quite special," Ramsay said in explaining his decision. "She had the best potential across any of the chefs. . . . And in my business, I think long-term. I definitely, definitely made the right choice."

That choice pitted Christina against Petrozza, the humanist catering director from North Carolina. But it was a tight race -- it wouldn't have been a shock had Petrozza won. He too came into his own over the course of the show, and proved to have a motivational touch with his "staff" made up of his former competitors. But in the end, Christina's creative approach to food won her the job.

It was a fitting finale -- but frankly too short on the fireworks. C'mon. I was totally waiting for either Matt or Jen to get thrown out one last and final time. No such luck. By turns, Christina and Petrozza suffered ups and down during dinner service, and to their credit found ways to turn it around. When Petrozza ran out of the key ingredients for two of his menu's three appetizers, he improvized and came up with a tasty risotto backup. When Matt kept serving up raw monkfish -- and sushi was nowhere to be seen on the menu -- Christina kept kicking it back to the kitchen.

Jen thought she was coming back to "Hell's Kitchen" for the finale to prove that Chef Ramsay was wrong to boot her off the show. But, as she was picked to join Petrozza's team, she only proved herself to still have the bad attitude, coming across as sloppy and slow, and pissy to boot. Chef Ramsay wondered whether her larger game was "sabotage." At one point, she failed to deliver a single crispy onion ring, leading Petrozza to wail: "C'mon, put up a decent onion ring! . . . Onion rings! You're frying onion rings! With one arm I could have done a better job. . . ."

Meanwhile, Matt once again came across like he was in need of mental health care as he joined Christina's team. Perhaps he would claim it was all in the editing. But he talked to himself, sang a song about his herbs, imitated an Indian accent when he should have been prepping and made repeated inappropriate comments. (When Christina asked for a pea puree he asked whether she wanted him to "pee in the puree.") And then there was the muttering at Chef Ramsay under his breath.

But, alas, none of that ever came to a head.

I'm scheduled to interview Christina by telephone Wednesday morning before she hops on a plane to do publicity in New York. Any lingering questions out there you'd like me to ask? And what do you think? Did the best chef win?

-- Rene Lynch

(Photo courtesy Fox)