The five remaining players, now in black jackets, meet Chef Ramsay in the dining room, where they are assigned their first individual challenge. They are given 50 minutes to revamp a classic comfort food into an exquisite and delicious dish.
The chefs race through the dining room to claim the dishes imprinted with the names of the not-so-lovely entrees, such as meatloaf and chicken and dumplings. Elise, or Little Miss Speedy Knickers, as Chef Ramsay dubs her, is the first to get to the coveted eggplant Parmesan.
When time is up, Chef Ramsay welcomes the esteemed panel of guest judges: Los Angeles magazine dining editor Lesley Bargar Suter, cookbook author Susie Heller, food stylist Valerie Aikman-Smith, food photographer Deborah Jones, and owner of the Foundry on Melrose Eric Greenspan. Each dish will be scored on presentation and taste, with a maximum of ten points per category. A perfect entree will receive 100 points.
First up is Tommy, who makes a twist on chicken and dumplings. Lesley exclaims, "It's a lovely dish!," and Deborah thinks that the garnish is "perfect." But all the judges agree that the dumplings are overcooked. He gets 44 on presentation and 30 on taste for a total of 74.
Paul has prepared a fine dining take on tuna casserole. Deborah says it resembles cat food. In the taste department, he's chastised for using canned fish. He receives a 33 for looks and a 27 for flavor, for a grand total of 60 points.
Jennifer brings her version of lasagna to the judges' table. Susie remarks that it's confusing to look at. They are all disappointed by the taste, and Jennifer scores just 52.
Elise brings forward her "tower of eggplant Parmesan." Eric calls it "impressive." Lesley declares, "It's screaming out, 'Eat me!'" With a 42 for presentation and a 44 for taste, she jumps ahead of Tommy with a total of 86.
Will is last up with his poached bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Deborah, who claims to not be a meatloaf fan, says that she liked it. He earns a 38 for presentation. When he receives a 49 on taste, he knocks Elise out of the top spot. He wins with a total score of 87.
As a reward, Will wins a unique Los Angeles dining experience and gets to choose a fellow chef to take with him. He picks Elise, since she came in second. A chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce takes them to two of Southern California's finest eateries: Spago and the Foundry on Melrose. The rest of the chefs are left at "Hell's Kitchen" for laundry day, where they must clean all of the restaurant's linens by hand, using metal tubs and washboards.
That evening, Chef Ramsay calls the chefs back to the dining room and announces a twist. The five remaining chefs will work as one team in the Blue Kitchen, as another group of chefs will oppose them in the Red Kitchen. Five past contestants will take on the finalists: Ben from Season 5, Tennille and Van from Season 6, and Trevor and Jillian from Season 8.
Chef Ramsay warns the current cooks, "They are here to kick your ass!" He gives each team one hour to prepare a menu. Elise's antics create friction right off the bat, causing Will to walk out of the planning session, threatening to go home. At the end of the 60 minutes, the returning chefs feel confident in their menu, while the current chefs settle on a half-planned list after wasting time arguing instead of being productive.
When "Hell's Kitchen" opens, diners are presented with menus consisting of four appetizers, four entrees, and three desserts. Will immediately takes charge of the returning chefs in the Blue Kitchen, helping lead Tommy on the appetizer station. Forty-five minutes into service, they have completed their starters and moved on to entrees.
The returning chefs in the Red Kitchen are subjected to Trevor's fast-paced style. When he delivers salads prematurely to the pass, Chef Ramsay sends them back to await the complete order.
Elise is delivering perfect meat, with a lot of guidance from Paul. Tennille struggles with her fish in the Red Kitchen, and Chef Ramsay rejects her overcooked tuna.
In the Blue Kitchen, Paul brings up overdone lobster. Then he and Elise clash after Chef Ramsay asks how long it will take to complete a new plate. Over in the Red Kitchen, the returning chefs start to fall back into the "Hell's Kitchen" groove, until they give Chef Ramsay undercooked lamb and suffer another setback.
Two hours into service, food is flying out of both kitchens. Each team has just three tickets left, and it's still anybody's game. They end up sending out their final meals at the same time.
Chef Ramsay declares that "Both kitchens performed quite well." He informs them that there is one question on the customer comment card that will determine the winner: "Would you return to Hell's Kitchen?" For one team, 80 percent of the diners checked off "yes," but for the other kitchen 96 percent said they would come back. The current season chefs win the challenge, earning the highest number of customer satisfaction votes.
The veteran cooks were defeated, but Chef Ramsay tells the final five competitors that they still need to nominate two people for elimination. They retreat to the dorm and erupt into a firestorm as Elise, once again, defends herself against her annoyed teammates.
They ultimately choose Jennifer and Elise, who spell out to Chef Ramsay why they should stay. Chef Ramsay professes, "No one performed in such a way that they deserve to leave the competition." He sends both chefs back in line and doesn't send anyone home.