Gordon Ramsay dishes about 'Hell's Kitchen' fifth-season finale
By Christopher Rocchio, 05/11/2009
Gordon Ramsay believes that Paula DaSilva and Danny Veltri are the two best culinary contestants to ever appear on a season of Hell's Kitchen.
"These two individuals, I told them both straight, as far as I'm concerned, the best two we've had. But equally good enough to have won any other season hands down individually," Ramsay told reporters during a Thursday conference call.
"In terms of their creativity, two different styles. But more importantly, what you're going to have for lunch or dinner is sort of the flavor that holds the memory, and so they're not blown away by pictures; they're blown away by flavor, content, and creativity. So pretty unique. There's only one that has the edge, but it's very, very tough to separate them."
DaSilva and Veltri are the two remaining finalists competing on Hell's Kitchen's fifth season, the finale of which will air Thursday at 9PM ET/PT on Fox.
"On a personal front, it's very hard to separate them. They are uniquely different; they have total respect for themselves and for their competitors," explained Ramsay. "And more importantly, they have a, I suppose a unique individual style. Danny is talented, young, ambitious, and Paula is a little bit more sedate in terms of she thinks a lot deeper."
Ramsay described Veltri, a 23-year-old executive chef from Edgewater, FL, as a "young, ambitious, very tenacious young guy."
"When you have an individual like that that is just keen to get it right he learns by his mistakes," said Ramsay. "I think the bold, exciting move about Danny in terms of what he stands for is he didn't hold back, he's happy to make mistakes, but more importantly, the only way you progress in this industry is by making mistakes and learning. He doesn't take it in a defensive manner."
While Ramsay admitted he had "a bit of a tough time" with Veltri at the beginning of the competition, he added that the finalist eventually focused on the task at hand and proved to be a "very quick learner."
"All of a sudden this guy focused. And when he focused he left everyone standing," explained Ramsay. "So that level of vibrance with someone so young, it's hard to become that disciplined in your 30s. If you start like that with your 20s and you have that kind of attitude with that pure focusness, then the sky is the limit. So no, I am very impressed with Danny."
Ramsay characterized DaSilva, a 28-year-old executive sous chef from Coconut Creek, FL, as "very strong-minded" and likened her focus to that of a "long-distance swimmer."
"She's durable; her mind is set, she is incredibly creative, and more importantly, she has this really nice, sort of charming influence about her, a very sort of demure sort of attractive personality, because it's just so controlled," added Ramsay. "But yet when she's in the kitchen and she is on fire, you know, she cooks brilliantly. Highly creative, and a woman that definitely knows what she wants, and not scared to be bold."
"It's a constant question I'm always faced with, why aren't there more female chefs?" Ramsay told reporters. "Last year we had an amazing winner, and this year we've got two of the most talented chefs that have ever graced the kitchens of Hell's Kitchen."
In addition to ordering sixth and seventh seasons of Hell's Kitchen and a second season of Kitchen Nightmares, the agreement also included the ordering of a yet-to-be-announced third series and an additional unspecified special.
Despite the fact that he's busy with his culinary television shows for Fox, Ramsay said he hasn't gotten tired of it yet.
"I mean I don't want to sound facetious or incredibly arrogant, but we have an amazing team, and my kitchens are amazing places to work in. I love that challenge, to be honest," explained Ramsay.
"Having that noose around my neck and being in situations to get these guys up to speed, admittedly, you know, there's 30% that are never going to make it, but I don't participate in any of the casting; that's not how I perceive Hell's Kitchen to be, in terms of I don't want preconceived ideas about them before they walk in; I take everyone at face value."
In addition, Ramsay said viewers "definitely" might see a Hell's Kitchen/Kitchen Nightmares crossover in the future.
"Every time we go out to do Kitchen Nightmares -- we just started filming now, and I'm in Queens -- and every time I go to the restaurant the chef says, 'I want to get better. Can I come onto Hell's Kitchen?'" Ramsay told reporters.
"You know, we had 33,000 applicants this year in terms of Kitchen Nightmares. So you try your best, but they invite me in. And the sad thing is, you know, they were going to close if I didn't come anyway. So it's frustrating, because it's not difficult if they only could see the woods for the trees. So maybe one day you'll see a crossover."
Ramsay also entertained the suggestion of having an all-stars version of Hell's Kitchen featuring former contestants.
"I would love to see them in a real-life situation, doing one of the Kitchen Nightmares," he said. "Put them all into a restaurant that needs help, and to see what kind of expertise they've gained and bought, and to whether they've understood the industry and what they've picked up and continue to learn with. I'd be interested to dump them into a restaurant that's struggling and just see how they decide on the way forward with that restaurant."
Ramsay even joked that he would consider replacing Simon Cowell, who has recently hinted that he has no problems walking away from American Idol once his current contract expires following the show's ninth season next spring.
"Stepping in those pair of shoes; right now I've got so much going on," said Ramsay. "It's pretty amazing, and we're just really seriously focusing on this new season of Kitchen Nightmares. And Simon is great. If he's going to retire, Christ, I would consider stepping in; definitely, of course I would."