The wannabe chefs on FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen (Mondays at 9 p.m. ET) have been boiled down from 12 to three by hotheaded perfectionist Gordon Ramsay. Tonight, one finalist will be sent home, and in the show’s two-hour finale Aug. 1, the winner will be awarded the grand prize: his or her own restaurant. Meet the cream of the crop, and vote on whom you think will be cut next:
RALPH PAGANO, 36
Hometown: New York City
Relationship status: Will marry Buffy, his girlfriend of three years, in January
Signature dish: Seared spicy tuna with sesame noodles
Favorite dining experience: Outdoor patio of Smith & Wollensky in Miami Beach
If Ramsay were a food, he’d be: “A prickly pear.”
What he’s up to now: He recently opened Fat Ralph’s deli in New York’s Hamptons.
Why he takes the cake: He has 15 years of restaurant experience – and a stockpot full of confidence. “As far as being able to dice it up and bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, there was no equal,” he says. “That’s not bragging, that’s just fact.”
MICHAEL WRAY, 28
Hometown: Fort Collins, Colo.
Relationship status: Married for four years to Lola
Signature dish: “Any sort of seafood.”
Favorite dining experience: The 15-course tasting menu at the Greenhouse in London
If Ramsay were a food, he’d be: Blowfish sushi. “If you prepare it wrong, you’re gonna die – but if you get it right, it’s amazing.”
What he’s up to now: Working as a menu consultant to restaurants in L.A. and starting a company that makes custom chefs’ knives.
Why he takes the cake: He had a plan from the start. “To make (Ramsay) think I thought I knew everything would be a bad deal,” he says. “My strategy was to lay low and to see what he expects, and try and deliver that.”
JESSICA CABO, 27
Hometown: Huntington, N.Y.
Relationship status: Engaged to longtime girlfriend Courtney
Signature dish: Miso black cod over wasabi mashed potatoes
Favorite dining experience: Hama Sushi in L.A.
If Ramsay were a food, he’d be: A blackberry. “It can burst. You never know what’s going to happen.”
What she’s up to now: Still living in Venice Beach, Calif., and working as a corporate headhunter, she’s launching jessicacabo.com, which will feature restaurant reviews and food-related tidbits.
Why she takes the cake: What she lacks in formal training, she makes up for in talent. “Technically, I had less experience than everyone else, but I think I’m a bit of a natural and I pick things up pretty quickly,” she says.