Hell’s Kitchen has only grown in popularity over the years, and we can understand why. There aren’t too many shows where you can watch the head chef just rip into the people he is mentoring. Chef Gordon Ramsay is known for his unorthodox behavior in the kitchen. He is not opposed to cursing, swearing and basically losing his mind when something goes wrong in the kitchen.
The great thing about Hell’s Kitchen is you can recline at home in a chair, popcorn on your lap, sitting in your comfy pants and just take in all the madness, knowing full well Ramsay can’t get to you. Sure, it’s easy for us to pass judgment when we watch the show, believing we can all do better as if we would be the first one that Chef Ramsay never yelled at.
With Hell’s Kitchen going strong into its 16th season on Fox, the best way to find yourself on the popular series is to show some serious passion for cooking. The show is not interested in finding the next movie star; they are looking for serious cooks of any shape or size.
The show is one that has staying power. It’s popular for a reason, mainly because Chef Ramsay is actually a pretty nice guy who just expects the best for his restaurants, so when you see him losing his mind, it’s only because he works really hard to provide his guests with the best possible meal. Think you know what really goes on behind the scenes on the show? Read on.
15. The Show Creates Smokers
I can’t count how many times I’ve seen the show and been surprised to see the contestants lighting up one cigarette after another. I’ve always found it surprising in this day and age, with the promotion of a healthy lifestyle, that there would be so many people collected together that would be smoking. Well, as it turns out, many contestants don’t come to the show as smokers, but throughout the process, they start to smoke. In season two, producers claimed that there were only four smokers that arrived on the show but by the time the season ended there were ten. Producers claimed it’s probably due to the stress of the show. Contestants are asked to leave their lives behind for a five-week period; they aren’t allowed to have any contact with loved ones or the outside work, even over the phone. They are also secluded and forced to work under stressful conditions for long hours.
14. Contestants Are Expected to Feed Themselves
While watching Hell’s Kitchen, it can be easy to forget that these cooks work long days, sometimes up to 19 hours. During that time, they still have to eat meals. You would think with such busy days, that the show would have catering available for the cooks. That’s not the case at all, in fact, the contestants are expected to cook their own meals throughout the day. Of course, they have a fully stocked fridge full of any type of food that they could possibly desire. Imagine however having to cook for yourself after a long day of spending time in a hot kitchen. Being under so much stress throughout the day, contestants often go back to their room exhausted and looking forward to bed. However, cooking is something that all of them have to do in order to keep themselves nourished throughout the show. Maybe that’s why they look so grateful when they win dinners from the group challenges.
13. They Get Paid To Be On The Show
I’ve often wondered myself how these people have managed to leave their lives for five weeks with only the hope that they will win and leave with a job plus the bonus of $250,000. It would be difficult for many people to up and leave their jobs and income in the hopes of winning on the show. It’s pretty crazy if you think about it, especially since many of the contestants are single mothers who admit to constant financial troubles. So, how is it that these contestants are able to leave everything? Unbeknownst to most people, the show actually offers a modest salary to the contestants for the time they spend on the show. That way, whether they win or lose, they aren’t going home with empty hands for all their troubles. Producers don’t offer a dollar amount that they give to the contestants, but it’s apparently just a stipend.
12. Season Seven Winner Didn’t Get Her Restaurant
Oh, the scandal. As you may well know, part of winning Hell’s Kitchen is to get a job as head chef at one of Ramsay’s new restaurants as well as a $250,000-a-year salary. Those are extraordinary prizes and contestants work really hard to be the last remaining chef. For Holli Ugalde, the winner of season seven, things fell apart for her after the season ended. It took the show two years to get the Savoy built and ready for the chef to take her position, but to her shock and dismay she found out through a press release that she would not be taking up her position at the London restaurant. According to Ugalde, she wasn’t even notified by Ramsay; she heard of it only when it hit the news. Chef Ramsay claimed that the reason she wasn’t given her prized position was due to her visa application not going through. Ugalde stated in an interview that, “I would have thought they would have asked me to fill in some paperwork to apply for a visa, but I’ve never once filled in one single piece of paper. I don’t know how the immigration process works, but I’m betting there’s at least a few forms to fill in. I don’t know if they even applied for my visa.”
11. Passion Is The Most Important Quality
You probably thought that excellent cooking skills are the first thing that the producers would be interested in when it came to picking a contestant. That’s not the case at all, however, passion is what they are looking for. Chef Ramsay believes wholeheartedly that you can transform a mediocre chef into something extraordinary as long as they have that one special trait. We have watched season after season of contestants, some of which seem level-headed while others we imagine were picked up straight from an insane asylum. Their personalities don’t worry the producers one bit; in fact, they don’t mind eccentric characters as long as they have enough passion to last a lifetime. Why is that, do you think? It’s because working for Chef Ramsay can be a stressful career choice, not to mention what’s involved in running a busy kitchen. If you don’t have passion, then you are unlikely to survive long-term.
10. Breakdowns Are Common On The Show
Audiences often see contestants have emotional and mental breakdowns during the episodes. Who can really blame them, they are working in hot kitchens for long hours and are constantly being screamed at by a man that holds their futures in his hands. It’s not surprising that a couple of contestants lose their cool. The show usually airs a few of these breakdowns during the season but apparently the numbers are much higher than we may be aware of. Producers have admitted that most of the contestants that arrive on the show have some form of breakdown during the five weeks. Despite whether they come in strong, a lot of them fail at keeping their resolve throughout the show. While working in Chef Ramsay’s kitchen, chefs often experience self-esteem issues and self-doubt. Due to these extreme conditions Ramsay has stated that contestants are free to leave the show at any time if they feel it’s affecting their mental well-being.
9. Contestants Get Very Little Sleep
When watching Hell’s Kitchen, you often see contestants being woken up by a phone call that has them frantically getting ready for their day. Their days often start as early as 7am, and it can go on for 19 hours. You don’t know it by watching the show but those late night dinners sometimes don’t end until after 12am and even when they do the chefs are expected to clean up the kitchen afterward. Sometimes they don’t get to sleep until 2 am or later. Contestants have stated that at times they can get almost no sleep at all but usually not more than five hours a day. That’s where their passion comes in, however, without it who would want to work in conditions such as that? It takes a certain amount of commitment in order to work in such stressful conditions with little to no sleep.
8. You Only Need Basic Knife Skills To Be A Contestant
You would think that when Chef Ramsay picked his contestants for the show that he would want the best of the best- five-star chefs from the best kitchens. That’s not the case, however; in fact, the only requirement you need to get on the show is basic knife skills. Just by watching the show you know that even the most experienced chefs can crumble under pressure and often the underdog, the less experienced cook is in the top four. It’s been often stated that the producers are more interested in passion than skill, so when it comes to less experienced chefs, the more, the merrier. Producers have found that sometimes the most experienced chefs aren’t a good fit for the show. All contestants have to go through a basic cooking test before the show airs to ensure they have the basic skills needed to survive the kitchen.
7. Contestants Are Evaluated By Psychiatrists
Since breakdowns are common, there have been contestants that have either been asked to leave or have left due to the stress involved. As part of the show’s requirements, contestants have to go through a psychiatric evaluation as part of their exit on the show. It’s required for legal reasons, probably so that the show cannot be sued later on if a contestant has a breakdown down the road. Another part of their exit evaluation is a mini vacation at a resort. Contestants get to spend some time at a resort before they return home as a way to transition from the show back to their normal lives. It’s a way for them to decompress, especially if they felt they were under a great deal of stress. It appears as if the show was ensuring that they would not be blamed if anything happened to the contestants after the show.
6. It’s Open Bar For Everyone
It’s hard to tell when watching the show how long guests are expected to wait for their food. But since the show is not in an actual restaurant but instead on a soundstage, diners can sometimes wait up to three hours for food. Due to this major inconvenience Chef Ramsay allows for an open bar. That means guests get to drink as much as they want in the hopes that it will make up for the long wait. That’s a great advantage for those that want to have dinner on a Hell’s Kitchen episode. There is no liquor involved, however, but guests can have as much wine or beer as they desire while they watch the shenanigans of the show. That would be enough for me to want to risk not eating for three hours. Hey, just have a snack before you show up!
5. Logos Are Not Allowed To Be Seen On The Show
Maybe you have noticed that you never see a Pepsi can or a can of Green Giant beans in the pantry of Hell’s Kitchen. There’s a reason for that. Unless a specific company is sponsoring the show their logos are not allowed to be seen during filming. That could be really hard considering the amount of food that can be seen in the pantries. The art department is in for a lot of work when it comes to hiding all those logos. The next time you watch the show pay attention to the grocery store brands. The art department is required to print up generic logos and place them on all the items that have logos on them. These generic labels are often painted, taped, or even doodled on, anything to manipulate the actual logo. I know myself, I can’t remember one time that I have seen an actual logo, so there probably aren’t that many grocery store brands that sponsor the show.
4. Diners Hear And See Everything
If you are like me, you probably have wondered how much the diners get to see when they find themselves on the show. Apparently, it’s quite a bit. Although the sound stage looks roomy, it actually isn’t since it isn’t a restaurant. The episode is aired on a soundstage that is used for the dining room as well as the kitchen. Because of this, diners get to see and hear everything that happens during the episode. At first, I thought they might only get to hear things but because it’s being aired on a soundstage the diners hear it all. Everyone is very close to the stage, so it doesn’t leave any room for privacy. That would be reason enough for me to want to have that type of dining experience; if anything it would be something to talk about for years to come.
3. Bacon Is Used A Lot
There are many cooking challenges in Hell’s Kitchen that require contestants to guess the ingredients in the dishes served. Due to the fact that the sets are in close proximity, there is the risk that contestants will be able to smell the ingredients being cooked. In order to mask these ingredients, the culinary teams cook large amounts of bacon to ensure contestants won’t get the upper hand. We can all agree that the smell of bacon cooking is one of the best smells out there. It’s funny to think that they would go to such lengths but if it means saving a challenge that’s exactly what the show’s team will do. The problem is, however, that many times contestants will assume that bacon has to be in the recipe as well due to the smell. So it can certainly backfire on them as well. That’s why contestants are advised only to focus on the taste of the dish and not the smell.
2. Chef Ramsay Really Does Want The Best For His Chefs
It’s easy to have doubts about Ramsay when you see him ranting and cursing on the show. He really rips into his chefs if they do something wrong and it could be easy to assume that he doesn’t care at all about the people around him. During season 13, contestant Ashley Sherman got to see Ramsay up close and personal, and she only had good things to say about him. “The great thing about Chef (Ramsay) is he’s super passionate about what he does. You know it’s not personal. He wants to get the best out of you.”
Maybe Ashley relates to Ramsay because she has the same personality in her own kitchen. She believes that when you are in a time crunch, you have to do whatever it takes to get the job completed and sometimes that means not being very nice. The other chefs in her kitchen would probably say she was a tough personality as well.
1. All Phones Are Confiscated
One thing that is easy to forget are the diners who watch the show live and what their experiences might be. If you have ever watched the show you can see that many diners get angry when they don’t receive food and some will even get up and leave. It can be hard sitting there for hours without any food. Before diners are even seated they have to hand over any electronic device they are carrying with them so that there are no posts to social media that would ruin the show for audiences who haven’t seen it yet. That’s interesting considering the obsession our culture has with posting just about anything. Diners are given their phones and devices as they are leaving the restaurant. They are also told not to post reviews on the Yelp website upon leaving because Hell’s Kitchen is not a real restaurant, it’s just a soundstage that resembles a restaurant.
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