Hell's Kitchen is probably the most notorious cooking competition on television. If it's not an overcooked duck breast or a raw prawn, it's an angry, blonde chef swearing in your face in his clipped, British accent.
However, there were - of course - the contestants who rose above the tears and tantrums of the kitchen and mastered working within the environment of a high-stakes competition and a high-end restaurant. So what happened to these culinary geniuses after the cameras stopped rolling?
Season 1: Michael Wray
The inaugural champion, punk rocker Michael Wray surpassed expectations and took the win. However, he also took a job working with Ramsay in London. He later turned down an offer to be head chef at the glamorous Standard hotel in Los Angeles. He now runs Skull and Cleavers, a knife company, in Arizona - where he also teaches cookery.
Season 2: Heather West
Cheffing remains a male-dominated world so it was encouraging to see New Yorker Heather West see off the competition and win season two of Hell’s Kitchen in 2006. Following fine dining’s curious excursion into the desert, she chose to be the senior chef at the Terra Rossa restaurant in Las Vegas’ Red Rock Casino. At 25, she had withstood the heat of Hell’s Kitchen. But it seems the heat of the Nevada sun may have been too much as she now lives back on Long Island.
Season 3: Rock Harper
Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, resident Rock Harper was 30 years old when he won Hell’s Kitchen. Again opting for heat stroke and dust storms, he opted to work at Terra Verde restaurant in the Green Valley Ranch Casino in Henderson, Nevada. He has since been executive chef at Ben’s Next Door in Washington D.C, taught a course at Stanford and written a bestseller entitled 44 Things Parents Should Know about Healthy Cooking for Kids.
Season 4: Christina Machamer
This 25-year-old was still a student when she won Hell’s Kitchen and was therefore the first ever winner to have her prize downgraded - from executive chef to senior chef. However, she went on to work in West Hollywood’s The London and also at Bouchon Bistro in Yountville. She is now a sommelier and manages a vineyard in California’s Napa County.
Season 5: Danny Veltri
Just 23 when he won, Danny Veltri also had his prize downgraded and took up the position of sous chef at the Borgata Hotel Casino’s the Fornelletto in Atlantic City, New Jersey. However, the Florida boy was soon to return to his home state where he worked at the presumably unpretentious Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill. After a slight run-in with the law for driving under the influence, he now runs a company called Back From Hell Catering.
Season 6: Dave Levey
San Diego resident Dave Levey was something of an elder statesman when he won season six of Hell’s Kitchen at the age of 32 in 2009. Bucking the trend, he headed for the snowstorms and icicles of Whistler, British Columbia. Here he worked for Araxi Restaurant before returning to his home state of New Jersey where he has worked at a number of restaurants.
Season 7: Holli Ugalde
California girl Holli Ugalde was 24 when she won season seven amid a fanfare of tears and congratulations. When it became clear that it wouldn’t be possible for her to work in London’s Savoy, she moved to Fort Lauderdale in Florida to become the executive chef at B Ocean’s. She now runs the SENS Wellness lifestyle programme which helps people achieve personal wellbeing.
Season 8: Nona Sivley
When Nona Sivley won the eighth season of Hell’s Kitchen in December 2010, it was like Christmas come early. The 29-year-old went on to work as the head chef in Los Angeles’ LA Market for three years. She has since launched a catering company called Sizzling Peach in addition to opening her own restaurant in - yep, you guessed it - Las Vegas.
Season 9: Paul Niedermann
Paul Niedermann was 27 when he won season nine of Hell’s Kitchen. Having worked for BLT Steak in New York, he returned to his home state of Florida and took up a job at Hudson at Waterway East before moving to SALT7 in Delray Beach.
Season 10: Christina Wilson
Hailing from Philly, 32-year-old Christina Wilson won season 10 of Hell’s Kitchen. She went on to work in fabulous Las Vegas as the head chef at Paris Casino’s Gordon Ramsay Steak and then as executive chef at Gordon Ramsay Burger in the Planet Hollywood Casino.
Season 11: Ja'Nel Witt
When 31-year-old Texan Ja'Nel Witt won season 11 of Hell’s Kitchen, it wasn’t possible for her to take up the prize and work at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas as she failed a drugs test. She returned to the Lone Star State, working as the executive chef at Houston’s Corner Table before moving to Sammy’s Steakhouse in Richmond.
Season 12: Scott Commings
Hailing from Woodstock in Illinois, Scott Commings was 36 when he won season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen. He now works as head chef at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas which, by now, must be overrun with ex Hell’s Kitchen contestants.
Season 13: La Tasha McCutchen
Season 13 continued the trend of older winners and saw 33-year-old La Tasha McCutchen crowned the champion. Originally from Winter Haven, Florida, La Tasha went on to work as head chef at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace in New Jersey’s Atlantic City. However, a year later, she left the role and is now a private chef for what one must presume is a very happy family.
Season 14: Meghan Gill
Meghan Gill, from Roanoke, Virginia, was 28 when she won Hell’s Kitchen season 14 in June 2015. She became head chef of the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace in New Jersey’s Atlantic City.
Season 15: Ariel Malone
This Hackensack, New Jersey resident famously had no training but won the 15th season of Hell’s Kitchen at the age of 26. She has since worked as head chef at BLT Steak in Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas - until the beginning of last year - and is now pursuing an opportunity which was reportedly too good to turn down.
Season 16: Kimberly Ann Ryan
Michigan girl Kimberly Ann Ryan was 29 when she won the 16th season of Hell’s Kitchen early last year. She now works as head chef at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Las Vegas’ The Venetian Casino.
Season 17: Michelle Tribble
Michelle Tribble came third in season 14 at the age of 22. However, the Dallas, Texas, resident beat all the competition to win season 17 and was consequently awarded with the role of head chef at the brand new Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Ceasars Palace, Las Vegas. As well as living in America’s biggest party town, she also bagged herself a $250,000-a-year salary.
With season 18 underway, we'll just have to wait before we find out what form the next victor will take. Personally, I struggle making any dish with more than three elements. So hats off to these guys, regardless of where they wound up.