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Florentine's Russell Kook Makes Hell's Kitchen Finals

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While people were busy watching Jen Carroll seemingly lose her mind last night on Top Chef All Stars and spout off at Judges' Table, eventually getting booted for her bland food, we almost missed the more exciting news that Chicago's own Russell Kook made it into the finals on Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen.

The Florentine sous chef, who also worked with Todd Stein previously at Cibo Matto, bested all the other chefs save his final competitor, Atlanta's Nona Sivley, who prior to getting on the reality show hadn't had much actual restaurant experience. Kook feels he and Sivley both deserve to compete against each other for the title.

"We both worked really hard to get where we are," Kook said. "Of everyone's who's been on the show we're the most real, both in person and on the show. We were real to each other, and honest. We were deserving."

The final episode, which airs next Wednesday on Fox (Kook couldn't say if the final moment was live or pre-taped), will award one chef a $250,000 prize and land them the gig as chef of LA Market at the JW Marriott hotel at L.A. LIVE. "For me, it's never been about the money," Kook said. "I think the people who get into the show thinking it's all about the money get out the fastest. They don't have their heart in it. They're money chasers."

Before a champ is crowned, each must prepare a five-course meal for some serious heavy hitters: Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG; Joachim Splichal, executive chef of Patina Group; David Myers, chef/owner of Sona; David Lefevre, executive chef of Water Grill; and Kerry Simon, owner of LA Market.

"I think my chances are pretty good," he said. "I've had a good showing so far and would hate to have a let down in the final moments. I'm happy where I've gotten to and want to take it further." If Kook wins, he said he'll pay off some debt and travel, maybe eat at some Michelin-starred restaurants, but won't go crazy. "I'm a regular person like everyone else."

Kook will host a viewing party next week, but couldn't say where, yet. We're hoping because of his secrecy that there's a positive outcome for him. Stay tuned.

· Hell's Kitchen Season 8 Has Strong Chicago Showing [~EChi~]
· Hell's Kitchen Chef Russell Kook to Join Florentine Staff [~EChi~]

The Florentine

151 West Adams Street, , IL 60603 (312) 660-8866 Visit Website

The Florentine

151 W. Adams St., Chicago, IL

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