Gordon Ramsay is the “master chef” behind a slew of competition cooking shows. They include MasterChef and MasterChef Junior. But that’s not all. A third reality TV series, Hell’s Kitchen, is now in its 21st season in the United States.
The premise of the TV show, as advertised on Fox, is that every season’s winner “receives a head chef position” at a restaurant of Ramsay’s choosing.
But is that really all the show’s winners get for beating at least a dozen other contestants? Maybe not always. Here’s what they’re promised and why those promises aren’t always — technically — kept. Plus, find out what some Hell’s Kitchen winners are doing now.
What do ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ winners get?
When the show introduces each season’s contestants, it’s generally understood they’ll compete to win two prizes:
- A chef position at a restaurant
The show’s premise is that contestants compete for a “head chef” position. It’s much more accurate to say they vie for the chance to work in a high-end restaurant — something many aspiring chefs never get the chance to do.
All contestants are offered the opportunity to work under chefs at some of the world’s best restaurants. But sometimes, the promises the show’s marketing makes and what winners actually get don’t quite line up.
The winners don’t win as much as you might think
Not all Hell’s Kitchen winners are offered executive chef positions. According to Eater, controversy ignited when the Season 7 victor wasn’t given the head chef position she was promised. However, it turned out she didn’t get the job because she didn’t have a proper work visa.
Is Hell’s Kitchen offering fake prizes to its potential winners? Not necessarily. They’re still allowed to work with expert chefs even if their positions are downgraded.
Think of it as applying for a job and being told you’re not quite the right person for the advertised position, but the company is willing to offer you a job at a slightly lower level in hopes you’ll work toward earning the other post. Better than no job at all, right?
As most of us know, reality shows aren’t always as real as they might seem. Competing on a show to prove you’re a better cook than a dozen other people doesn’t necessarily translate to the real-world job of running a restaurant. Some winners can’t accept or keep the jobs they’re offered or don’t have what it takes to run a high-end kitchen — yet.
Whether they receive the prizes they were promised or don’t, and whether they stay in those positions for extended periods or not, most end up maintaining sustainable careers. Some remain chefs. Others branch out into other areas that suit their talents and interests.
‘Hell’s Kitchen’ winners: Where are they now?
By now, most early Hell’s Kitchen winners have moved on from working as full-time chefs. Many have launched catering companies and other food-centric businesses, using their culinary training to serve slightly different markets. Here’s an update on a few past winners and where they are now.
Michael Wray: ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Season 1 winner
The Hell’s Kitchen Season 1 winner eventually declined the offer to work under Gordon Ramsay in London. Instead, Wray became a culinary instructor for Sur La Table. But following the loss of his infant daughter, he faced drug addiction, the BBC reported.
After rehab and a short prison stint following a pharmacy raid, he began to rebuild his life and continues to work in restaurants.
He said he reached out to Hell’s Kitchen a few times after his recovery but didn’t hear back from producers. “I think that’s because the way my life went right after Hell’s Kitchen,” he told the BBC. “I think they’re more interested in having success stories.”
Christina Machamer: ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Season 4 winner
Machamer won a senior chef position and worked under Gordon Ramsay, Thomas Keller, and other greats. Mashed reports she is now a professional sommelier, and her website, chefcmac.com, lists private events and dinners she hosts in Napa Valley, California.
Scott Commings: ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Season 12 winner
After winning Hell’s Kitchen Season 12, Cummings began working as the head chef at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Las Vegas. He has remained in Sin City and works with many restaurants there, as well as in Los Angeles and Chicago, through his culinary management company, ECM, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Michelle Tribble: ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Season 17 winner
Winning Season 17 allowed Tribble to become the executive chef at Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. She worked there for more than two years but left when the restaurant shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She returned to her home state of Texas and to her alma mater, Texas Woman’s University, to pursue a post-baccalaureate degree in nutrition. According to the Texas Woman’s University website, she plans to become a registered dietitian nutritionist.
Kori Sutton: ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Season 19 winner
The Hell’s Kitchen winner in 2021 received $250,000 and an offer to become a head chef at Hell’s Kitchen Lake Tahoe. However, she turned down the job, according to her Instagram.
Instead, the LA-based chef created the salsa line Mama Kori Salsa and teaches online cooking classes. Her Instagram also hints she has a new venture in the works in Mexico, where she grew up.