WOODSTOCK – Chef Scott Commings didn’t enter the Fox reality show “Hell’s Kitchen” expecting to win.
“I didn’t go in for that,” said Commings, executive chef at Loyola University Chicago Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock. “I went in to do the best I could ... I was thankful every week that I was still there.”
And he’s made it almost all the way.
The competition, which began airing in March, has boiled down to season 12’s final episode, where the Woodstock chef will stand off against Chicago chef Jason Zepaltas for the title.
The season finale airs at 7 p.m. Thursday on Fox.
Starring celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay as a quick-tempered critic, the show began with 20 contestants. With an elimination at the end of every episode, the season will end with one final chef, who will receive a $250,000-salaried position at one of Ramsay’s well-known restaurants.
Without disclosing specifics about the outcome, Commings said viewers should expect an intense-as-usual show Thursday.
While entertaining to audiences, the intensity of the culinary competition was oftentimes a lot to handle, he said.
“There were definitely some moments of tension,” Commings said. “It’s stressful. ... Everything is stressful.”
The high-stress atmosphere and competitive spirit wasn’t all bad, though, he added, saying the overall experience has helped him develop both personally and professionally.
“You’re pushed to the limit every day [on the show],” he said. “There’s a lot I took on, just about myself, what I can do, and how far I can be pushed.”
He also got to see how he held up next to high-caliber competition, which he said was one of his motivations to enter the show in the first place.
Commings will be watching the season finale surrounded by friends, family and even some strangers. He said viewing parties at Main Street PourHouse, 214 Main St. in Woodstock, have gotten more crowded with every week.
“Last week we had at least 100 people,” he said, adding he’s expecting more to attend for the finale.
Commings said the viewing party will begin around 6:30 p.m. Thursday at PourHouse.