Dave Levey beats Kevin Cottle, wins 'Hell's Kitchen's sixth-season title
By Christopher Rocchio, 10/14/2009
Dave Levey was able to claim the Hell's Kitchen crown with only one good arm.
The 32-year-old executive chef from Chester, NJ who currently resides in San Diego, CA became Hell's Kitchen's sixth-season winner during last night's two-hour finale broadcast of the Fox reality series despite the fact that he fractured his wrist earlier in the competition.
"I've been in so much pain for so many weeks and I had to fight so hard to stay in the competition," said Dave after his victory was revealed.
"But I wouldn't change anything. This is the most important thing that's ever happened to me in my life. I'm just so grateful to have earned Chef Ramsay's respect, that means more to me than anything else."
For winning Hell's Kitchen's sixth season, Dave was awarded the head chef position at Araxi Restaurant in British Columbia, Canada -- which was established in 1981 at the base of the Whistler ski resort. In addition, Dave will also join executive chef James Walt at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
"I can't believe I won. It's a dream come true. I'm totally in a state of shock," said Dave.
Kevin Cottle, a 35-year-old executive chef who currently resides in Middleton, CT, finished as the runner-up.
"There was a moment of defeat, and defeat tastes bad," said Kevin. "But I took a deep breath, put my head back up, and the first thing I thought about was, 'I'm going to show my kid it's okay. Never stop dreaming. Hold your head up high and know you did your best.'"
Hell's Kitchen's sixth-season finale began following the previous elimination of Tennille Middleton, as the Final 3 -- Dave, Kevin and Ariel Contreras, a 27-year-old sous chef who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA -- were excited to have made it so far in the competition.
The next morning the three finalists awoke and met Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen, where he had them each randomly select an international style of cuisine for their next individual challenge. Ariel chose a Chinese dish, Kevin chose Mexican and Dave chose Indian. Each would have 45 minutes to cook an ethnic dish in the style they chose.
"I've never made an Indian dish in my life," opined Dave.
Once the finalists were done preparing their dishes, they were judged by a panel of professional chefs -- world-renowned Indian chef Vikas Khanna, famous Mexican chef Thomas Ortega, and Beverly Hills Chinese cuisine legend Eddie Wong.
While Kevin's dish was enjoyed, he forgot to add the chocolate mole sauce -- and Dave was able to win the challenge by a 3-0 score.
"I'm psyched man. I can't believe I f--king pulled it off," said Dave. "It looks like I do know how to cook Indian food."
For his reward, Dave, his sister and his fiancee enjoyed lunch cooked by the three professional chefs. He also won a set of cookware. For their punishment, Ariel and Kevin had to polish the silverware and prepare for that night's dinner service.
That night the penultimate dinner service commenced, and Gordon told the three finalists that they would each have their first chance to run the pass. The service got off to a good start as appetizers were flying out of the kitchen.
Kevin was the first one to try his hand at the pass, and -- while he was able to pass both quality control tests thrown at him by Gordon -- he was slowed by Ariel, as her lamb did not meet his standard.
"Kevin kept sending it back and it was pissing me off," she said.
Dave was the next at the pass and he used an aggressive leadership strategy that surprised everyone but also allowed food to fly out of the kitchen. However he failed his first two quality control tests -- causing Gordon to implore him to pay better attention to what he was doing. He passed the next test and finished his turn at the pass, which was largely a success.
Ariel passed one of the quality control tests but failed another -- and she got into a problem with Kevin as he was having a tough time cooking the scallops correctly and she wasn't able to lead him.
"Kevin was trying to make me look like a jackass on the pass," she said. "Kevin was just dragging... just dragging."
Gordon criticized Ariel for not being a good leader.
"I've lost control of the kitchen," she lamented. "Kevin was dragging on purpose when I was on the pass. I swear to god."
The communication problem caused Gordon to intervene and Ariel attempted to follow his lead.
The service subsequently came to an end and Gordon told the three finalists to each come up with a nominee who they felt should not advance to the finals. Not surprisingly, Ariel nominated Kevin and he nominated her. Dave decided to nominate Ariel because he felt lost when she was at the pass.
"Each and everyone of your answers hasn't helped me," said Gordon. "This is a very tough call guys."
Each of the finalists then pleaded their case before Gordon gave Ariel the boot.
"The level of ambition and drive and passion you've shown in your time in Hell's Kitchen has been extraordinary," said Gordon. "Keep your jacket as a simple reminder of everything you've accomplished inside Hell's Kitchen."
Ariel then left in third place.
"I'm really disappointed," she said.
"I really wanted to win this. Learning from Chef Ramsay is such an amazing experience. He seems like he's just this crazy, mean guy when he's on the line, but all he wants to do is make you better. I feel that I did prove myself. I just want to blossom from here and I know I will be successful. I owe it all to Chef Ramsay."
While Kevin and Dave were both exhausted, Gordon instructed them to change quickly before hopping in a limousine outside. They were taken to a downtown Los Angeles hotel and presented with their final reward challenge. Each would have 45 minutes to cook their signature dish, which would be judged by a five-person panel of chefs and food critics in-front of a live audience.
Dave prepared a venison dish and Kevin cooked lobster. While both dishes were enjoyed by the judges, the reward victory was given to Dave by a 3-2 margin.
"I can't believe I f--king won," said Dave. "I'm super-stoked."
That night both Kevin and Dave slept while theHell's Kitchen restaurant was redesigned. Unlike past seasons -- when the two finalists each got to redesign half of the restaurant for the final dinner service -- the restaurant was simply split in half with each having a total of 13 tables and 50 patrons for the final service.
The next morning Kevin and Dave worked on their menus for the service and learned that they would be able to pick from a pool of previously eliminated contestants who would serve as their staffs in the kitchen for the final dinner service. Dave had first pick since he won the final reward challenge.
Davie picked Ariel, Robert Hesse and Suzanne Schlicht, while Kevin picked Van Hurd, Amanda Davenport and Sabrina Gressett. Both Kevin and Dave familiarized their teams with their menus, which were then presented to Gordon.
"Kevin's menu is very artistic, very beautiful. But my big worry right now is I think Kevin's food is a little bit too complicated. He's got to watch his attention to detail," commented Gordon.
"Dave may have a very simple approach to his cooking -- very humble, very rustic -- but he can't afford to be sloppy. Tonight, it's all down to the execution."
Kevin and Dave received their head chef jackets for the service, which subsequently commenced. The winner would be determined by the diners' comment cards and Gordon's observations.
While Kevin chose Amanda for her ability to cook seafood, she let him down with her inability to cook scallops -- immediately putting him behind Dave, who was cranking appetizers out of his kitchen. Gordon told Kevin to take control, and he did just that by switching Van onto Amanda's station and putting her on risotto.
Dave ran into a problem when his mushroom risotto lacked enough mushrooms, and -- while he previously told Robert to go easy on the mushrooms so there would be enough to fill all the orders -- he instead told Gordon it was Robert's fault.
Dave still had the lead and Kevin continued to struggle -- mostly due to Amanda, who had her risotto sent back for being undercooked. Van was brought to the rescue again.
While diners enjoyed entrees from both kitchens, Kevin's troubles continued as he was in charge of cooking the tenderloin for Araxi executive chef James Walt. He told Amanda that it was "medium well" and "medium rare," confusing an already flustered member of his staff.
"He kept calling out different temperatures," she opined. "I don't know what he wants."
When she sent medium well and he wanted medium rare, Kevin really began to lose his cool. However he was able to step back, assess the situation and calm down.
The new approach pulled him nearly even with Dave and it was a close race to see who would finish first. Kevin doubled up on his final tables for speed, and both he and Dave finished right around the same time.
"We started off rough but we f--king came and kicked ass at the end," said Kevin. "We finished strong."
"Tonight was like a hell of a battle and I was on top for a long time," said Dave. "No matter what the outcome is, I'm going to hold my head high."
Both Kevin and Dave were sent up to the dorm while Gordon went over the diners' comment cards and made his decision. He then called both down and revealed Dave was the winner.
"Dave has a very natural ability and a very sophisticated palette," said Gordon about his decision. "He fought through excruciating pain and excelled and went on to win Hell's Kitchen. He's gonna be an amazing asset to the Araxi Restaurant and Bar in Whistler and I'd like to wish him the best of luck, but honestly, I don't think he'll need it."