Knives were drawn during Hell's Kitchen grand finale as last night's competition came down to two contestants, Nona Sivley and Russell Kook. Backed up by several former teammates, the chefs dueled over Season Eight's final dining service. The stakes were high with the winner to score the head chef position at LA Market Restaurant at the JW Marriott Los Angeles at L.A. Live, a one-year gig that comes with a hefty $250,000 paycheck, and the role of official spokesperson for Rosemount Estate Wines. After a tense showdown, a victor was declared by Chef Gordon Ramsay — Nona.
TV Guide Magazine caught up with the sous chef from Ft. Worth, Texas at a grand finale party at JW Marriott Los Angeles' The Mixing Room, where she chatted about everything from her finely tuned palate to handling critics.
TV Guide Magazine: What did it feel like to win?
Sivley: You know how you feel when you go out in the cold and it kind of takes your breath away for a minute? That's what it felt like. I literally put my hand over my mouth and thought, "Oh my God, my door opened. What do I do? Do I walk out? Do I walk downstairs?" Then it was like, "Okay, don't fall down the stairs." Winning Hell's Kitchen validates everything I've worked so hard for. It's a remarkable feeling.
TV Guide Magazine: What was your strategy for the finale?
Sivley: We were relying on someone else to make us or break us, so when I wrote the menu, I wanted it to be as simple and executable as it could be.
TV Guide Magazine: What did you consider your obstacles during the course of Hell's Kitchen?
Sivley: The 15 other chefs on the show. People can judge from their couch and say, "Oh they're horrible, no one can cook on that show." In everybody's defense, all of us could cook, but having someone as intense as Chef Ramsay and that amount of pressure and stress on your shoulders all day long, every single day, is just mind-boggling. I think we all did the best we could possibly do in the situation. I say kudos to all of us.
TV Guide Magazine: What did you feel gave you the edge in the competition?
Sivley: When I won the blind taste test and everyone knew I had a palate. It was the confidence booster I needed and a turning point for me. I was like, "Oh my God, I actually have something I can contribute here." It was just straight up from there.
TV Guide Magazine: What techniques did you learn from Chef Ramsay?
Sivley: Just seeing how he moves is amazing. He moves like a ballerina, rocking back and forth on the tips of his feet, ready to go if he needs to. I've adopted that simply from watching him.
TV Guide Magazine: Would you turn to Chef Ramsay for advice down the road?
Sivley: I would take any advice Chef Ramsay offers, whether it's as simple as where he keeps his side towel on his apron.
TV Guide Magazine: What advice what you give future contestants?
Sivley: You have to be yourself. If not, you're gonna get ripped apart and look like an idiot at the end.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you suggest they handle criticism?
Sivley: You can either go hide in a corner and cry, or you take it and go, screw that, I'm going to make this 10 times better and show you what I have. Live and learn.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you think your culinary philosophy will blend with that of LA Market owner, Chef Kerry Simon?
Sivley: It's a great match. His philosophy and my philosophy are pretty simple. You start with great ingredients, don't fuss with them too much and let them shine on their own. A lot of his menus are geared towards comfort foods done in a fine dining way. Comfort food makes people feel good, and I just want to make someone to feel good through my food. That's the ultimate goal.