‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Winners: What Do They Win and Where Are They Now?

Gordon Ramsay is the “master chef” behind reality competition cooking shows MasterChef and MasterChef Junior — but that’s not all. A third competition series, Hell’s Kitchen, is now in its 18th season in the United States.

The premise of the show, as advertised on Fox, is that every season’s winner “receives a head chef position” as a restaurant of Ramsay’s choosing.

Is that really all the show’s winners get for beating at least a dozen other chefs? Maybe not always. Here’s what they’re promised, and why those promises aren’t always — technically — kept. Plus, find out what some of the show’s winners are doing now.

What do Hell’s Kitchen winners get?

Gordon Ramsay on "Hell's Kitchen"

Gordon Ramsay on “Hell’s Kitchen” | Fox

When each season’s cast of contestants are introduced, it’s generally understood that they are all there for the chance to win:

  • A chef position at a restaurant
  • $250,000

The show’s premise is that contestants compete for a “head chef” position. It’s much more accurate to say they compete for the chance to work in a high-end restaurant — something many aspiring chefs never get the chance to do at all.

All contestants are offered the opportunity to work under chefs at some of the best restaurants around the world. But sometime’s the promises the show’s marketing makes and what winners are actually offered don’t quite line up.

Hell’s Kitchen winners don’t win as much as you think

Not all winning contestants are offered executive chef positions. Controversy ignited when the Season 7 winner wasn’t given the head chef position she was promised, but it turned out she wasn’t awarded 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 being given the opportunity to work with expert chefs even if their positions are “downgraded.”

Think of it like applying for a job and being told you’re not quite the right person for the original position, but the company is willing to give you a job at a slightly lower level in hopes you might work up to earning that original position. Better than no job at all, right?

As most of us are aware, 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 very real-world job of running a restaurant. Some winners simply can’t keep the jobs they are given or don’t have what it takes to run a real high-end kitchen — yet.

Whether they get the prizes they were promised or don’t, whether they stay in those positions for extended periods of time or not, most end up maintaining sustainable careers. Some remain chefs. Others branch out into other areas that suit their talents and interests.

Where are the Hell’s Kitchen winners now?

Michelle Tribble cooking

Michelle Tribble | Michelle Tribble via Facebook

By now, most early winners of the show have moved on from working day-to-day as chefs.

Many past winners have gone on to launch their own catering companies and other food-centric businesses, using their culinary training to serve a slightly different market. Here’s an update on a few past winners and where they are now.

Michael Wray, who won the first season of the show in 2005, would eventually decline the opportunity to work under Ramsay in London. Multiple sources say he owns and operates a knife company and works as a culinary instructor.

Christina Machamer won Season 4 of Hell’s Kitchen, was awarded a senior chef position, and now manages a vineyard in Napa Valley, California.

Scott Commings won Season 12, and still works as the head chef at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Los Vegas, Nevada.

Michelle Tribble won Season 17 of the show and was awarded the opportunity to become the executive chef at Ramsay’s Caesars Palace Hell’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, where she still works today.