CHARLOTTE -- From 150 people came the cascade of "Boo!"
Lou did not win.
How? Why? How did Lou Petrozza, 47-year-old chef for Winthrop University catering, not win the "Hell's Kitchen" TV show on Fox on Tuesday night?
Petrozza did not win, and every one of us regular guys lost. He was gracious in defeat -- he did not boo. He had kept it a secret for months after taping, saying, "Thrilled with the chance."
I am not thrilled.
Lou is great, and everybody in a hotshot Charlotte hotel where he had a viewing party for the show's finale was crushed.
I led the boos, I admit it.
Petrozza now has to go back to the people at Winthrop, so many of whom were there to cheer him on Tuesday night.
"Mad!" said co-worker Kelly Amana.
"Really mad!" Chris Averett said.
"Disappointed," Ryan Morse said.
"Torn," said Petrozza's boss, Andy Nash.
Torn because he would have lost Petrozza to the bright lights of Hollywood if he had won. No more would Petrozza have made flaming Bananas Foster for freshmen at Winthrop orientation.
Now, I hate Bananas Foster.
Because Lou Petrozza is not the biggest devil in "Hell's Kitchen."
He competed to be the top cook, the survivor of weeks of screaming from a rock star Brit restaurateur named Gordon Ramsay, who owns some of the top restaurants in the world. He rides in cars longer than city blocks. He probably cooks for the Queen.
He reminds me of my bosses or my mother-in-law, with a lot more money.
Sure Petrozza lost Tuesday night in the final episode of the Fox TV show that has been on for months. But it shouldn't have happened. Lou had to win.
For me and you out there, a balding, a bit overweight, chain-smoking guy who started out in restaurants as a dishwasher had to win. He is one of us.
Every guy I knew growing up -- all those Italians from New York and Pennsylvania who had too many vowels in their names to say right -- who worked so hard and their parents did, too, in factories and coal mines and laying brick. They ate meals on Sundays that lasted four hours.
Lou started out in his uncle's restaurant because the uncle drove a Cadillac as long as a block in Staten Island, where the clan was based. Lou said to himself he could have that Cadillac, too, if he cooked.
Now, Lou should be able to buy an armada of Cadillacs.
We all lost when Lou lost.
Two of the competitors he bested in the contest came to his party. Dom DiFrancesco, from Catawba in York County, came to support him. Ben Caylor of Cornelius, N.C., whose wife comes from Smyrna -- a well-drilling family named Faulkner -- called Petrozza "the greatest guy."
But the greatest guy didn't win.
The woman he lost to is one of Them. What Caylor called the woman who won cannot be printed in this newspaper.
Lou bested all but one of 15 people, including the snotty woman 22 years his junior in the two-part finale. Her name was Christina. She is forever, for anybody who rooted for Lou, called "she" or "her."
"She ought to install tires, the mean battle-ax," I heard somebody saying. That somebody is me. I wanted her to swoon, fail, through Tuesday night's show.
Petrozza is a decent sort who looks out for his helpers. She looks like a blonde Darth Vader.
When Lou tried out for "Hell's Kitchen," he lost his job at a Charlotte catering company because the honcho didn't see Lou's move as making him any coin. So, he landed at Winthrop. He became a star making great dishes, rubbing elbows with all from deans to dishwashers.
Lou became fast friends with all people who are not glamorous.
Lou tried out for the show. His girlfriend, Lynn, gave him moral support. Lou supported himself other ways: He worried a lot. He cooked. He smoked like a Chinese factory.
He has known for months that he would lose but he had to keep the secret or risk the wrath of Fox and its lawyers. Guys from Staten Island, they can keep a secret, that I can tell you.
He doesn't get the job for a year as a head chef at Ramsay's new swank joint, London West Hollywood.
I could see Lou now in Beverly Hills. The stars pull up in limousines. Petrozza stubs out his cigarette he's sneaking with the pot-scrubber behind the dumpster and says, "Bring on Spielberg! I'll give him sweetbreads! What does Cruise want? Quail? Quail he gets! Madonna? Monkfish? I'll make her jaw drop!"
I hate TV. But I, and so many Tuesday night, love Lou.