After pouring their hearts into this intense competition, Russell, a sous chef from Chicago, and sous chef Nona from Atlanta have become Season 8's final two contestants. Now, they'll have to create their own menus and run their own kitchens for the final dinner service. As soon as that's over, one of them will be rewarded with the job of a lifetime - a head chef position at the JW Marriott Hotel's LA Market restaurant in downtown Los Angeles and a cool $250,000 annual salary.
The duo stays up most of the night coming up with ideas for their respective menus. The next morning, they spend the day consulting with their sous chefs to finalize menus, fine-tune presentations, and perfect their cooking techniques.
With just about 24 hours left until the start of the all-important final dinner service, Russell and Nona take a surprise helicopter tour with Chef Ramsay. But there's one more surprise in store: The helicopter lands on the roof of the JW Marriott for their final challenge. After telling Russell and Nona that they'll have to parachute down (Nona was willing to do it!), Chef Ramsay admits that part was just a joke. But he's very serious about the fact that they'll each have one hour to create five stunning dishes, which will be judged by five stars of LA's culinary community.
They head inside LA Market's kitchen to cook up a soup, salad, pasta, fish, and a meat dish. Nona plans an upscale Southern menu, while Russell wants to make healthier, California-inspired dishes. When time is up, both contestants step outside to present their dishes to the judges in front of a cheering crowd.
Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, judges the first round, which includes Nona's loaded potato soup, and Russell's cream-less roasted cauliflower soup. Tim loves them both, but gives Nona the point.
Next up, Michelin star chef Joachim Splichal judges the salad round. Russell's burrata and prosciutto salad beats out Nona's arugula salad with a grapefruit-champagne dressing, tying up the score. Time for the pasta. After tasting both Nona's pan-seared chicken breast over orecchiette and Russell's garganelli with sea scallops, Michelin star chef David Myers gives the point to Nona, which puts her in the lead. Next, executive chef of The Water Grill, David LeFevre, steps out to judge the fish dishes. If Nona wins the point, she'll clinch the entire challenge. He starts with Russell's pan-seared arctic char, and then moves on to Nona's salmon with vegetables. Chef LeFevre gives the point to Russell, which means, with a score of 2 to 2, it all comes down to the meat round. And who better to judge than Chef Kerry Simon, the man who will be the winner's boss at LA Market?
He tries both Nona's pan-seared rib-eye steak with a cauliflower puree as well as Russell's grilled veal with pearl onions. Chef Simon enjoys both but gives the point - and the win - to Russell.
With no time to waste, Chef Ramsay tells both contestants that he's got a surprise waiting for them back in "Hell's Kitchen." When they return to the dorms, they're greeted by eight of their former competitors. It's time for Nona and Russell to choose the team members who will be assisting them during this critical dinner service. Since Russell won the challenge, he gets to choose first and goes with Jillian. Nona picks Gail. Russell rounds out his team with Vinny, Sabrina, and Rob, while Nona chooses Melissa and Trev and gets stuck with Boris as the last choice.
While the finalists and their teams sleep, Chef Ramsay's crew works through the night to transform the dining room into two separate restaurants. As dawn breaks, Nona and Russell begin prepping for the most important moment of their lives. Nona is a bit concerned about the slow-moving Boris, and she spends extra time training him on fish. Over on Russell's side, Vinny seems to be the team's sticking point, prompting Russell to ask if he wants to be on the opposing team. Vinny, it seems, has some animosity left over from when he was still in the competition.
Just prior to opening, Chef Ramsay gives the finalists new chef's coats and implores them to inject passion and creativity into their teams. Nona has come up with a menu including a baby beet salad, halibut, and a rib-eye steak with a red wine reduction. Russell's menu features scallops over cauliflower puree, goat cheese ravioli, and a filet mignon.
As the orders start streaming in, Russell already runs into trouble with Vinny, who's sent cold scallops up to the pass but quickly redeems himself. Over in Nona's kitchen, Nona tells Trev that his salads are overdressed, an issue he quickly corrects. Appetizers go out smoothly, and the momentum takes both kitchens into entrees. Chef Ramsay, however, isn't happy with Sabrina's technique on steaks. Unfortunately, her re-fires aren't much better, and Russell kicks Sabrina off the meat station, replacing her with Vinny.
On Nona's side, Boris sends up his first fish entrée and, as expected, it's not satisfactory the first time . . . nor the second time . . . nor the third. His mistakes are slowing down Nona's kitchen, and Trev jumps in to help, frustrating Boris and prompting a swearword-laced tirade from Nona. Finally, on the fourth try, Boris cooks a proper halibut.
With Russell determined to stay ahead, he fires two tables at once - a risky move that costs him when one of his steaks is sent back for being too rare. Chef Ramsay reminds him that LA Market doesn't run like this, and he needs to stick with one table at a time.
As Nona tries to make sure the order going out to her husband's table is perfect, Melissa runs into trouble on the meat station, and Russell deals with Rob, who ran out of an ingredient without warning. While Russell scolds him, Rob gets angry and soon the two men are in a full-blown argument that gets close to turning physical. Things soon turn around for both kitchens, and the teams hit their strides and finish their services.
Nona and Russell wait nervously upstairs as Chef Ramsay goes over the customer comment cards and thinks about his big decision. Russell and Nona are called to Chef Ramsay's office, where he tells them that the customers on both sides really enjoyed the food and the scores were quite close. Chef Ramsay wishes he could give the job to both of them. But, of course, he can't.
It's finally time for the moment of truth. Nona and Russell each stand in front of a door. The chef whose door opens will become the head chef at LA Market. Both contestants turn their door knobs. The crowd below goes wild, and an emotional Nona embraces her husband and one-year-old son.
Chef Ramsay tells Russell that he did an amazing job, and during confessional, a bitter Russell blames the team he chose for his loss. Chef Ramsay introduces Nona as the latest winner of "Hell's Kitchen" and congratulates Nona on delivering the "knock-out punch" she needed to win.