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'Hell's Kitchen' recap: A winner, with a little help from above

September 20, 2011 | 11:00 am

Paul Niedermann of Davie, Fla Paul Niedermann, who got his start in the restaurant business flipping burgers at Burger King, has a new job: He'll be chef at Manhattan's BLT Steak after winning "Hell's Kitchen's" Season 9 competition.

And while the good-natured sous-chef from Davie, Fla., beat out Will Lustberg of Jersey City, N.J., for the gig, it could be argued that the second-place victory went to the smack-talking Elise Wims.

Her scorched-earth approach didn't win her any friends. In fact, pretty much everyone hated her. But it won her begrudging admirers, among them Will and Paul, who considered her fierce competition, and "Hell's Kitchen" overlord, chef Gordon Ramsay.

Ramsay let her keep that most cherished of mementos, her chef's jacket, when he eliminated her. "You're Teflon. Well done," he told her, even as she was on the verge of tears. "Keep your jacket. You deserve it."

Thankfully, the cameras also caught him later telling Elise what everyone wanted to tell the woman who is clearly a talented cook, but also her own worst enemy, "Just stop being such a bitch!"
 
By contrast, Paul and Will were sweethearts, and from that vantage point it was hard to choose between the two. Will, however, may have served victory to Paul on a silver platter. He turned the final dinner service into one last piece of gamesmanship, manipulating the team-making so that Elise and Carrie would clash and create problems for Paul. The move left him with Krupa, who proved herself yet again to be a disaster in the kitchen, and turned Elise into the night's MVP because she was determined to shine.

Paul also gave stirring marching orders to his troops and kept them focused on the prize: The last dinner service was intended to honor Paul's late mother. And did it ever. "We didn't do it for me, we did it for my mom," he said as he toasted the former rivals who helped him to victory.

Ramsay said his admiration for Paul went beyond the plate: "He won tonight because he is probably the most passionate, determined chef to ever enter 'Hell's kitchen,'" he said, adding that Paul's "enthusiasm is contagious" and will serve him well on the job.

What did you think? Did Paul deserve to win? And do you think Elise will ever change?

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— Rene Lynch
Twitter /renelynch

Photo: "Hell's Kitchen" Season 9 winner Paul Niedermann. Photo credit: Fox.

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