ATLANTIC CITY—Meet the town’s newest celebrity chef, Danny Veltri.
The 25-year-old Edgewater, Fla. resident won that distinction Thursday night as he was crowned Season 5 winner of “Hell’s Kitchen,” the FOX-TV culinary competition hosted by psycho-chef, Gordon Ramsey.
Veltri, along with his co-finalist, Paula DaSilva, were at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa for a screening of the final episode which was taped there in March, 2008. His grand prize is a job running Fornelletto, a gourmet Italian room that is scheduled to open at Borgata in early summer. He’ll report to owner Stephen Kalt, who has operated restaurants at some of Las Vegas’ toniest casino-hotels.
Even though he's known about his victory for some 14 months, Veltri, whose Borgata deal is worth $250,000, choked up Thursday while addressing an audience of invited guests at the casino's Music Box theater just moments after the telecast ended.
"It's just so great," he said, fighting back tears. "It's just a great opportunity. It seems like the best thing that ever happened to me."
In a recent conference call with reporters Ramsay, whose relentlessly intimidating style of management is the show’s calling card, described Veltri and DaSilva as "the best two" finalists in the show's history. In a message taped especially for Borgata and shown after the broadcast, he said he picked Veltri because, "He grew more (during the span of the contest) than any chef I've ever seen." Ramsay couldn't be at Borgata because he's currently shooting a new season of "Kitchen Nightmares."
Veltri and DaSilva were joined at the Music Box by a group of vanquished Season 4 and 5 contestants, including Pine Hill, N.J.’s Matt Siegel, who participated in the most recent competition. The event was emceed by Fox29 weather guy John Bolaris, who, at one point, got in the spirit of the event by describing the notoriously moody contestant, Lacey D'Angelo, as "a bitch."
In his post-show remarks, Veltri compared dealing with Ramsay to "trying to make your dad proud, but nothin's ever good enough. The whole time, you're vying for his freakin' attention, and you never get it."
He added, however, he thinks Ramsay is "awesome."