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2 from Philly in 'Hell's Kitchen' finale

Join Sade Dancy and Jennifer Salhoff at a viewing party Wednesday night in Atlantic City.

The 13th season of Fox's Hell's Kitchen - the Gordon Ramsay-run cooking-competition series - is down to four finalists.

The winner - to be named Wednesday, Dec. 17 - will become chef at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, opening in February at Caesars in Atlantic City.

Caesars' Diamond Lounge will host a public viewing party from 8 to 10 p.m. and at least the winner is due to be there.

But who is that? You can't pry that info out of the two contestants from Philadelphia, Sade Dancy and Jennifer Salhoff. (Also in the finals are Bryant Gallaher of Virginia and La Tasha McCutcheon of Florida.)

But in phone chats, Dancy and Salhoff were happy to talk about the show, which they credit for boosting their skill during their five weeks out of town.

Dancy, 26, of West Philadelphia, enjoys getting recognized on the street. "Oh, I know you! You look familiar" is how most of those encounters begin.

Salhoff, 34, of Roxborough, appreciates the attention but, as she notes, she missed her daughter's first day of kindergarten.

A private chef before the taping, Salhoff opted for restaurant work upon her return to the world. She did not do badly; she is executive chef at Cuba Libre in Old City. But the time in seclusion - contestants are shielded from the general public - took a toll on her psyche. She said that after she got back, she had what she calls a panic attack in the supermarket.

Salhoff credits the show for "making me grow. I actually liked the punishment [meted out for losing a challenge]. They're educational. I mean, I had never extracted ink out of a squid before, or butchered a whole animal. I was like, 'I'm in the rib cage of a cow.' I'm a competitive person, so winning or losing is a big thing."

Hell's Kitchen also taught her to stop second-guessing herself in the kitchen. "It forces you to believe in yourself, or you will fail fast and hard," she said. "It really pushes your mind, your creativity, and your time-management. You have to think on the fly."

Her only real regret - if you could call it that - was an allergic reaction to fresh coconuts while unloading 200 of them. "I took the medicine and went back to work," she said - her only option, since missing a dinner service would send her packing.

Dancy, who left her job at The Treemont in Center City about a month ago to do private catering, said the show "made me tougher and push a little harder." She also got a surge of confidence.

Dancy, a spirited woman who laughs easily and often, also learned to "tone it down - a little bit" for the cameras.

Things got serious when she joined the Blue team. She noticed a lot of chauvinism. Her male teammates did not want to sample her cooking, but Ramsay directed them to do it. "After they tasted my dish, I felt vindicated," she said.

"I had three goals: Don't be eliminated on the first night. Win a black jacket [the point in the season at which all 18 chefs work out of a single kitchen]. And my third was win Hell's Kitchen."


"You'll have to watch."