A Peek Inside The Newest Season Of “Hell’s Kitchen”

Jeryl Brunner

“Hell’s Kitchen,” the culinary competition series just returned for its 19th season on January 7th. Each season, two teams of chefs compete for a job as head chef at a restaurant. Tension is high. Tempers flare and the competition is fierce. The show makes for some serious drama.

Week by week the competition heats more and more as the chefs are put through rigorous culinary challenges. Plus this season, which was filmed before the pandemic, takes place in a flashy new setting. Las Vegas.

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Gordon Ramsay is host, judge and executive producer of Hell's Kitchen (Photo courtesy Fox)

This season Chef Gordon Ramsay brought show to Las Vegas. The city is home to the first Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen restaurant at Caesars Palace. For this season it was important to go to Las Vegas so that the contestants could experience Hell's Kitchen restaurant there.

“It’s one of the top grossing restaurants in the world. Gordon has five restaurants in Las Vegas. It was a way for the cast to see just how big the prize was actually being offered to them if they were the winner,” shares showrunner Kenny Rosen who has been with Hell’s Kitchen since the first season. “Also, Las Vegas is a ton of fun.”

At stake is a life-changing grand prize, including a head chef position at Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen Lake Tahoe at Harvey’s Hotel and Casino. “Our chefs are very serious and have big, bold personalities and are a ton of fun,” says Rosen. Also, being in Las Vegas they were able to access more Vegas-related rewards and punishments.

“Hell’s Kitchen" spotlights the blue collar line cooks of America who are hidden even in their own restaurants. “We are not casting for beauty here. We're casting for real chefs who live in work in this industry and are given an opportunity to make something of themselves,” observes Rosen. “A lot of them are never given an opportunity like this.”

The contestants hail from around the country and rage in age from 23 to 44. They include Cody Candelario, Mary Lou Davis, Fabiola Fuentes, Nicole Hanna, Declan Horgan, Amber Lancaster, Lauren Lawless, Peter Martinez, Kenneth McDuffie, Josh Oakley, Adam Pawlak, Marc Quinones, Brittani Ratcliff, Eliott Sanchez, Jordan Savell, Kori Sutton, Drew Tingley and Syann Williams.

“Hell’s Kitchen” is produced by ITV Entertainment in association with A. Smith & Co. Productions, Inc. Gordon Ramsay, Arthur Smith, Kent Weed, Kenny Rosen and Bernie Schaeffer serve as executive producers. The show airs Thursdays at 8/7c on FOX.

Appearing on “Hell’s Kitchen” can be a real game changer for contestants. Christina Wilson who won season 10, has now become part of Gordon Ramsay’s empire in Las Vegas. “She is the sous chef on the show, is running all five of his restaurants in Las Vegas and helps with all of his restaurant openings around the world,” says Rosen. “Her career was launched by being on season 10. A lot of the chefs who won have gone on to do great things.”

Also, while the show spotlights competition, Ramsay is really rooting for the chef-testants. “One of the things that we don't show a lot in the edit is him showing them how to cook. It doesn't make for interesting TV a lot of times,” says Rosen. “But for them to please and respect him and do well in the show, he has to earn that respect from them. The first four or five episodes, he spends loads time with them, teaching them how to make dishes, showing them techniques. He really does mentor them and hold their hand a lot of the way. He really does want them to do well.”

Meanwhile the contestants share a deep camaraderie, especially between the last six chefs. “These are probably our most talented chefs that we've ever had on the show,” shares Rosen. “And they are definitely our most competitive final four that we've ever had. They are all rooting for each other and want one another to do well.”

While the typical reality format is for people to fight with each other, these contestants seem to go beyond that. “There is plenty of that, trust me,” says Rosen. “But at the end of the day, we've got some really good, nice people who you can really root for. You almost don't want to see anybody lose toward the end of the season because they are such good people.”

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New York based journalist who has written for Forbes, Parade, InStyle, National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and The Wall Street Journal. Author of the book "My City, My New York, Famous New Yorkers Share Their Favorite Places" and podcaster, ("When Lightning Strikes"). I cover the arts, theater, entertainment, food, travel and people who are motivated by their joy and passion.

New York City, NY
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