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Tennille Middleton eliminated from 'Hell's Kitchen's sixth season


By Christopher Rocchio, 10/07/2009 

Tennille Middleton's Hell's Kitchen comeback has come to an end.

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The 28-year-old executive chef from Hampton Roads, VA who currently resides in Fairfax, VA was eliminated from Hell's Kitchen during last night's sixth-season broadcast of the Fox reality competition series.

"When I first came to Hell's Kitchen, I knew absolutely nothing about fine dining.  It's hard not to let your nerves get to you," said Tennille after her ouster.

"I got into it with Chef Ramsay, but I fought back. When somebody kicks you, stomps you, throws you down and says you're not good enough, never give up.  Never give up. Chef Ramsay comes across people left and right, for him to take time to say, 'You're a great chef.  Keep going.' That's all he needed to say."

Hell's Kitchen's thirteenth sixth-season episode began following the previous elimination of Suzanne Schlicht, as the four remaining contestants were greeted in the kitchen by a child version of Gordon Ramsay.

Once the real Gordon arrived, he explained their next challenge.  Each contestant would have one hour to cook 80 portions of a vegetarian dish for 80 "special guests."

Kevin Cottle, a 35-year-old executive chef who currently resides in Middleton, CT, prepared an Asian style crepe with beet capriccio; Tennille prepared a vegetable stuffed eggplant with rice; Ariel Contreras, a 27-year-old sous chef who currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, prepared a vegetarian lasagna; and Dave Levey, a 32-year-old executive chef from Chester, NJ who currently resides in San Diego, CA, prepared a polenta tower with roasted peppers.

All four contestants had problems cranking out 80 portions in the allotted time, and once it expired, Gordon revealed that the dishes would be judged by people who "don't like vegetables" -- a group of 80 young children.

The children tasted each of the dishes -- some of them very briefly -- before deciding which was the yummiest and which was the yuckiest.  Gordon then revealed Dave's dish was deemed the yuckiest before announcing Tennille's was the yummiest with 55% of the vote.

"I finally won a damn challenge!" exclaimed Tennille. 

For her reward, Tennille was treated to a Beverly Hills makeover and accompanied Gordon to L.A.'s Nobu restaurant  -- where she had a sushi meal personally prepared by world renowned sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa. She also received a brand-new set of sushi knives made by L.A. Henckels.

For their punishment, Dave, Kevin and Ariel had to clean up the mess left behind by the 80 children, which included scraping gum off the bottom of the tables.

Tennille returned from her reward just in time for the upcoming dinner service, which subsequently commenced.

Things got off to a great start, as Kevin did a fantastic job on the appetizer station cranking out risotto.  Tennille ran into a brief problem when her scallops did not meet Gordon's standards, however she recovered and continued to press on.  The contestants were on record pace, as all the appetizers were pushed out in 30 minutes.

Dave -- who has been competing with a broken left wrist -- ran into a problem when he lifted a heavy pan of lamb.

"The nerve in my wrist just shot up to my elbow, then it shot up to my ear," he said.  "The light started going away, it got dark.  I thought I was going to faint."

Gordon noticed Dave's problem and had him checked by medics, but he was cleared to continue in the competition and would fight through pain for the remainder of the serviced.

Tennille continued to have a tough time on the fish station, as her sea bass was criticized by Gordon for containing "burnt bits."

"Gordon Ramsay wants absolute perfection," opined Tennille.  "But people don't realize that bass can be the death of you."

Gordon said she was cooking "too fast with no control" and wanted it "evenly cooked all the way through."  However he wouldn't get what he wanted, as her halibut was also criticized for being raw.

Tennille slowed everyone else down and was unable to give a straight answer when asked how long it would take for new halibut.  She told the other contestants two minutes, and then told Gordon six minutes -- and he was not pleased by the discrepancy since Dave already cut the lamb.

Gordon pulled her aside for a chat.

"Please pull it together!" he yelled.  "Don't give up!"

"I'm not, I can do this!" answered Tennille.

She made good on her promise and was able to finish the service.

"Tonight was the worst night I've had in Hell's Kitchen, and I'm devastated," she said.

Gordon then questioned Dave about his injury, expressing concern that he'd be unable to continue.

"I've never, ever seen a chef suffer with that amount of pain," said Gordon.  "I'm deeply concerned that you may not be able to continue in this competition."

"Chef I can pull through this," answered Dave.  "I feel fine now.  I would not lie to you chef -- I respect you too much to lie to you.  I feel fine... Please do not take me out of this unless you feel I'm not a good enough chef -- then take me out.  But not because of my wrist."

"I hear you. But I'm watching you carefully," said Gordon, who turned his attention to Tennille.

"You had a bad service," he told her.  "I'm going to be really honest now. I don't want any nominations. I don't want to prolong your agony.  Take off your jacket and leave Hell's Kitchen."

Tennille then had emotional goodbyes with the other contestants.

"I'm so proud of you.  You fought back like I've never, ever seen anybody in Hell's Kitchen fight back," said Gordon.  "You are an amazing competitor and you have got a massive heart.  You're young, now use that experience and do some good with it... The greatest comeback.  You never forget that."

The final three contestants then celebrated making it so far before Gordon surprised them with visits from loved ones -- as Dave saw his fiancee and sister, Ariel saw her fiance and mother, and Kevin saw his wife and son.

Hell's Kitchen's two-hour sixth-season finale will air Tuesday, October 13 at 8PM ET/PT on Fox.

(Photo credit Fox)


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