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'Hell's Kitchen 3' finalists prepare for their final cooking challenge


By Christopher Rocchio, 08/07/2007 

Bonnie Muirhead and Rock Harper competed in their final reward challenge and took a trip to Las Vegas during last night's penultimate third season broadcast of Fox's Hell's Kitchen.

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Bonnie, a 26-year-old nanny and personal chef from Los Angeles, CA, and Rock, a 30-year-old executive chef from Spotsylvania, VA, will now try to prove to foul-mouthed culinary king Gordon Ramsay they have what it takes to win Hell's Kitchen 3's grand prize --  the position of head chef at a new Italian restaurant at Vegas' Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa and Casino.

Hell's Kitchen 3's tenth and penultimate episode began after the previous dinner service challenge that saw Gordon eliminate Bonnie's buddy Jen Yemola.  For being Hell's Kitchen 3's Top 2 finalists, Gordon surprised Bonnie by brining in her mom and dad, while Rock was given some time with his wife and two children.

Once their family time was over, Gordon informed the finalists that for their final dinner service challenge, each would be redesigning a section of the restaurant and creating their own menus. Bonnie and Rock were sent back up to the dorms to begin planning, however they instead took the time to celebrate how far they've made it in the culinary competition.  Rock told Bonnie he was surprised she was his fellow finalist.

"People don't take me seriously, and it's enabled me to kind of slide beneath the radar," she told him.  "Then when they realize I'm a force to be reckoned with, its too late."  Rock then asked if it was too late for him, and she said yes.

"Homegirl's smart," said Rock.  "I didn't think she'd make it this far.  I think she's dangerous, and I could lose to her."

The next morning, Rock and Bonnie met with Hell's Kitchen restaurant's interior designer and conveyed what they each wanted to do with their section of the restaurant.  Bonnie said she wanted it to be "simple," "fun" and "eclectic" while Rock was looking more for "conformity" and a "contemporary feel."  The finalists then picked-out uniforms for their waitstaff, with Rock wondering if it would be okay for his to wear jeans (it wasn't).

Next was the important decision, designing their menus for the final dinner service challenge.  Bonnie had a billion ideas as she discussed her options with sous chef MaryAnn Salcedo, filling her menu with her favorite foods.  Rock worked with sous chef Scott Leibfried, but had far fewer ideas than Bonnie and felt "unprepared," which he said was "nervewracking." 

Gordon then told Bonnie and Rock they'd be accompanying him to Las Vegas and the Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa and Casino.  While the finalists thought they'd be enjoying a quiet dinner with Gordon, that wasn't the case, and instead they were met by Hell's Kitchen 3's final reward challenge -- preparing their signature dishes for a judging panel comprised of Vegas' most well-known chefs.  With only 30 minutes, Bonnie quickly got to work preparing her shrimp and lobster pasta, while Rock whipped up his surf and turn crab cake and fried chicken combo.

As the judging commenced, the majority of the first several chefs to taste the dishes favored Bonnie, and she took an early 3 to 1 lead and needed only one more vote to win.  However original Hell's Kitchen winner Michael Wray and second-season champ Heather West both enjoyed Rock's dish, tying the challenge and brining it down to the final vote, which was cast by Green Valley Ranch Resort general manager Bob Finch and executive chef Chris Fearnow.  It was a tough call, but they awarded the victory to Bonnie.

"Going into this I felt like I was the underdog," said Bonnie after her victory.  "I won the challenge tonight.  It definitely gave me a confidence boost and I think it may have hurt Rock's confidence just a little bit."  However Rock decided to take the high road.  "It's over, but it's not over," he said.  "All along I've always said I'd rather win a service than I would a challenge."

Gordon then delivered on his promise to spend some quiet time with the two finalists before they returned to the Hell's Kitchen dorms, where they shared their final meal together before the next day's dinner service challenge. 

The next day, the six previously eliminated Hell's Kitchen 3 finalists -- Vinnie Fama, Melissa Firpo, Brad Miller, Josh Wahler, Julia Williams, and Jen -- were all revealed to be participating in the final dinner service challenge, serving as kitchen helpers.

While the mood was generally jovial among the group, Julia was visibly upset and couldn't help but cry somewhat uncontrollably.  Rock didn't think Julia was "sulking," rather "disappointed" in herself for not being one of the Top 2.

"I'm came here to win.  I don't know what everybody else's motive was, but mine was to win," said Julia. 

For winning the final reward challenge, Bonnie had the opportunity to pick first from the group of former finalists.  Not surprisingly, Bonnie selected Jen with the first pick, and Rock used his first selection to choose Brad.  Bonnie then picked Melissa while Rock grabbed Vinnie -- both moves that Gordon described as "very interesting."  Bonnie rounded out her selections by picking Julia, meaning Josh went to Rock's team.  The teams then went back to the dorm to look through the menus.

"Battle of the sexes continues, and you know what, the girls kicked ass so I think I have an extra added advantage now and I don't know if Rock's realized it," said Bonnie.  But before preparation with the teams ever began, Julia made it clear she wasn't a fan of the finalist she'd be helping.

"On a personal level, I'm rooting for Rock," she said.

Hell's Kitchen 3's finale will air Monday, August 13 at 9PM ET/PT on Fox, with both Bonnie and Rock competing in their final dinner service challenge to determine who will with the grand prize.

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