'Hell's Kitchen' crowns Ja'Nel Witt its eleventh-season champion
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 07/26/2013
Hell's Kitchen crowned Ja'Nel Witt, a 31-year-old executive chef from Houston, TX, the Fox culinary competition's eleventh-season winner during Thursday night's finale broadcast.
"From the very first day in Hell's Kitchen, I knew this competition would be unlike anything I had ever experienced," Ja'Nel said after discovering she had won the show. "This has been a life-changing journey, winning Hell's Kitchen is even more proof that I made the right decision to follow my heart and turn my passion into my career."
As the show's eleventh-season winner, Ja'Nel won a $250,000 head chef position under executive chef Jeremy Berlin at Hell's Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay's Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
Gordon said Ja'Nel deserved to win the competition because she has excellent leadership skills in the kitchen and her final dinner service menu was inspired and creative.
"Ja'Nel is an incredibly passionate chef and a strong leader, and I am thrilled that she will join our team at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill," said Gordon. "From the very beginning, she was determined to succeed, and I look forward to seeing her grow even more as a chef."
Ja'Nel defeated Mary Poehnelt, a 26-year-old butcher and cook from Belchertown, MA, during last night's Hell's Kitchen finale broadcast.
The eleventh-season finale broadcast began with Gordon eliminating chef Jon Scallion, a 27-year-old chef de cuisine from York, PA -- ultimately setting up a Ja'Nel versus Mary showdown.
Ja'Nel and Mary got to travel to Las Vegas and meet with the tenth-season winner of Hell's Kitchen, Christina Wilson, who works at Gordon Ramsay Steak and gave the women advice and some tips regarding their final dinner service.
Ja'Nel and Mary then competed in their last challenge of the season. They had one hour to cook and execute five "stunning" dishes such as an appetizer, entree and dessert that would be compared to one another by a variety of special guest judges. Ja'Nel won the challenge 3-2, meaning three of her dishes were preferred over what Mary had created.
As a prize for winning the challenge, Ja'Nel got to have first pick amongst previously-eliminated Hell's Kitchen eleventh-season chefs to join her brigade for the final dinner service. She decided to select Cyndi Stanimirov, who happened to be Mary's top pick as well.
Gordon told both ladies they had managed to lead a "really incredible" dinner service.
- Fried Green Tomatoes with Prosciutto, Arugula, Gorgonzola and Baby Heirloom Tomatoes - Duo of Oysters with Parmesan Cream, Herbs, Chipotle and Smoked Bacon - Grilled Prawns with Asian Pesto, Jalapeno, Peanut, Cilantro and Capellini - Steamed Mussels with Coconut, Madras Curry, Garlic, Shallot, Micro Cilantro and Grilled Naan
- Seared Rainbow Trout with Cauliflower Puree, French Green Beans, Brown Butter Pine Nut Vinaigrette, Sun-Dried Tomato and Parsley - Mediterranean Black Cod with Lemon Couscous Pilaf, Tomato Relish and Basil - Roasted Chicken Breast with Root Vegetable Hash, Creamy Polenta, Salsa Verde and Cipollini Onion Jus - Slow-Braised Veal Cheek with Shamed Red Bliss Potato, Creme Fraiche, Baby Carrot, Garlic Confit and Fresh Chives
- Chai Creme Brulee with Cinnamon, Star Anise, Cardamom, All Spice, Fresh Berries and Mint - Petit Strawberry Shortcakes with Vanilla Whipped Cream, Macerated Strawberries and Lavender Mint