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Ja’Nel Witt wins the shows eleventh season with dishes that reflect her hometown
Although Witt was not the friendliest competitor, her unique take on classic dishes helped her win the competition.
A Houstonian chef Ja’Nel Witt won Hell’s Kitchen Season 11 with a unique menu that reflects the taste of her hometown, Houston Culturemap reports. Although the other finalist, Mary Poehnelt was the generally more likeable of the two contestants, Witt’s confidence ended up helping her to win the title.
The not so humble winner will now be the head chef at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas with a salary of $250,000. Witt originally planned to have a career in optometry after graduating from the University of Houston, but decided to follow her passion for cooking and enrolled at the Art Institute of Houston.
Witt’s final menu on the show reflects the diversity of the culinary scene in Houston. She prepared a deconstructed BLT (which consisted of fried green tomatoes with prosciutto, arugula, and gorgonzola), slow-braised veal cheek with potatoes, and chai crème brûlée. Her unique tastes on international cuisine beat out her competitor’s more conservative pieces.
Witt hopes to one day host her own cooking show, and after this success, it seems that she may be on her way to accomplishing that goal.
Who Won Hell’s Kitchen and the Head Chef Job in Las Vegas?
Michelle Tribble of Dallas lands the new head chef job at Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen, the TV personality’s fifth Las Vegas restaurant. She won season 17 of Hell’s Kitchen on Friday night, taking home the $250,000 salary and a shot at a job in the restaurant that sits in front of Caesars Palace.
At age 22, she first appeared on season 14 of Hell’s Kitchen, coming in second place. The Texas Woman’s University grad defeated two other all stars — Nick Peters Bond, also on season 14, and Benjamin Knack, who appeared on season seven of the show. For the past year, Tribble worked as a meat cutter at Whole Foods in New York City.
Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurant opened in January with a red and blue side to the kitchen, along with pitchforks decorating the lights and chairs. During the grand opening last weekend, Ramsay said that more than 25,000 reservations came in since the opening.
Michelle Tribble is the new head chef at Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen. Fox
Hell's Kitchen Interview
Ariel: Being judged by the Bon Appétit staff.
Kevin: Usually, you have just one or two judges, and here there were nine of you.
Was anything especially difficult about today's challenge? [Chef Gordon Ramsay told them to create a visually stunning dish.]
Kevin: We were working with presentation first and flavor afterward, so that was a bit of a challenge.
Ariel: I had to have a mental picture of what I wanted my plate to look like, with all these blank spots that needed to be filled in with something innovative and creative.
So your dish was like a puzzle?
Ariel: My dish was definitely a puzzle—I wanted a protein about this big in the middle, I wanted this on the side—I definitely had a piece of art in my mind, and I filled in the blanks, flavor-wise.
Tell us about your dishes today.
Ariel: I did a John Dory wrapped in sage and prosciutto. I pan-crisped the prosciutto, then finished it in the oven. I also did a squash risotto with butternut squash "rose petals," which were very thin slices of butternut squash lightly sprinkled around the plate to give them the look of rose petals. And then I did a very daring thing, which was a sweet-and-sour cranberry sauce to balance the flavor of the prosciutto. I was a little worried about that, but then I went with it and finished with some caramelized pearl onions and some baby carrots.
Our food editor, Kristine Kidd, said that when she heard butternut squash rose petals, she really sat up and took notice. That really got her attention. Kevin, tell us about your dish.
Kevin: I wanted something light and yet satisfying. I wanted to have a straight-off-the-beach feel, so I went with papaya and a very citrusy kind of Caribbean feel. I needed to somehow take all that tartness and fold it together with my fish, a pan-seared sea bass. I thought parsnips would work well, so I just cut the segments out of orange and lime to make a base, then I made a gate, if you will, with the papaya and filled that with parsnip puree, which I made very mellow because I had all these tart flavors going on. I put the seared fish on top of that. And then I needed crunch, something of substance, so I made a very light salad of fennel, haricots verts, and diced tomatoes with a very light tarragon-orange vinaigrette. I finished it with a citrus butter sauce.
We were all wondering how you came to think of parsnips with citrus. It's unusual, but it really works.
Kevin: I was asking myself, What's a subtle flavor that can bring all this together? I love parsnips, and so I used them and added a little bit of cream to balance all that high acidity.
Do you read food magazines, such as Bon Appétit ?
Kevin: Certainly, certainly.
Ariel: You have to keep up with the trends, be cognizant of what's going on in the food industry. It's also inspiration. You can take ideas from those magazines, such as what people are into. You take that and carry it with you when you go into your restaurant.
Kevin: Yes, they totally keep you up on trends. Sometimes you forget what's in season you don't get to see everything every day. I consider them a springboard: Some people put things together one way, and that's a spark that guides you to another area where you want to go.
What's your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Kevin: Well, I'm from Cape Cod, so fish is near and dear to my heart. Whenever pushed into a corner and I have to figure out what I am going to do, it's always fish.
Ariel: I grew up on the beach, so I am also comfortable with fish. I never feel like you could give me a piece of fish and I wouldn't know what to do with it.
Pretend you are Joe or Jane America. It's been a long day, you get home, and your family wants to eat. What do you make?
Kevin: The quick thing that I do for my wife and my son is either rice or pasta. It's quick and easy. I use garlic, basil, and whatever else is lying around—it could be chicken it could be fish. It's quick, it's done, and everybody is satisfied.
Ariel: I always have potatoes lying around, so on my way home I would pick up a piece of fish, maybe salmon. It's one of the easiest fish to cook. Just chop some potatoes, throw them in the oven with some herbs or whatever you have in the spice cupboard, lightly season with salt, pepper, nothing special. Just broil the fish and serve it with the potatoes maybe sauté some spinach. Very simple.
So why do you think you will win Hell's Kitchen ?
Kevin: Well, I set the bar for the whole show everyone's chasing me.
So it's your modesty that will really make you the winner?
Kevin: Yeah, you know [laughs]. Maybe it's the years of experience I have over everyone else. People have come to me, they keep coming to me, and they ask me questions. But I am not a show-off. I set the bar, and that's what everyone is trying to reach.
Ariel: I couldn't agree more that Kevin has set the bar. I was told once by a chef that whenever you go into a kitchen, you should pick the strongest person and stick by them and learn what you can from them. I picked Kevin out of the bunch early on.
Any final advice for our readers?
Kevin: Let the ingredients talk for themselves, taste everything, and don't mask the flavor.
Ariel: Preserve the integrity of your ingredients. So many things are perfect just the way they are. Honestly, the best thing you can do is understand when you have a good product. Just lightly season it, and cook it. It's perfect on its own.
One source told TMZ that Witt 'failed miserably' and the casino refused to hire her.
Next cooking chapter: Witt tweeted that she couldn't take the head chef job due to personal matters and thanked Hell's Kitchen for the opportunity
Witt did not divulge details on her personal situation on Twitter, but thanked the reality cooking competition show for the opportunity.
'I would like to express my sincerest thanks to HELL'S KITCHEN, Gordon Ramsay, Caesars Palace & my supportive fans for this amazing experience,' she wrote.
Taking the prize money: Witt will take the $250,000 cash prize instead of the head chef job
She later tweeted that she was looking forward to her 'next cooking chapter.'
Witt went against a field of 20 contestants on Hell's Kitchen and beat finalist Mary Poehnelt.
'In all my years in Hell's Kitchen, I have never seen a more composed individual than Ja'Nel. And that is why I am so happy to have this ambitious, creative and talented woman as my Head Chef,' Ramsay said.
No reaction: Witt, shown in front of Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill after winning Hell's Kitchen, said on Twitter she would not respond to the 'negativity or ridiculous headlines'
The show's production company ITV Studios released a statement on Friday announcing their disappointment that Witt would not be accepting the head chef position due to 'unforeseen personal circumstances.'
'She's an incredible talent, and we all wish her much success with the next chapter of her career,' the statement on the Hell's Kitchen Facebook page said.
Witt declined to address the matter in a tweet she issued on Friday afternoon.
'Thank you for the kind words, and the rumors are very entertaining, but I won't address the negativity or ridiculous headlines #celebstatus,' she posted.
Reality Tv Revisited
Hell's Kitchen Season 12 aired March 13 to July 24, 2014 on Fox Network, there were 20 contestants and the prize for the winner was the head chef position at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Caesars Palace at Las Vegas offered during Season 11.
In this season, Gordon Ramsay was judge, Jean-Philippe Susilovic was Maître d', Andi Van Willigan was sous chef for the red team and James Avery was sous chef for the blue team.
Continue below to read what the Hell's Kitchen season 12 contestants did next after appearing on Hell's Kitchen. Hell's Kitchen season 12 what happened next?
Anton Testino was a Head Chef from Butler, New Jersey. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 14 due to his deteriorating performances and his ego/arrogance.
After Hell's Kitchen, Anton opened restaurant Axtons, co-owns Donna's Pizza with his cousin, runs a catering company and gives culinary demonstrations.
Beth Taylor was a Line Cook from Independence, Louisiana. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 6 as she was out of her depth and lacked confidence and leadership skills.
After Hell's Kitchen, Beth is a Private Chef and runs a catering business.
Bev Lazo Gonzalez was a Food Truck Chef from Whittier, California. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 8 due to her poor performance and allowing herself to be pushed out of her own station.
After Hell's Kitchen, Bev returned to being a food truck Chef and doing cooking demonstrations and pop up events. She is currently chef/owner at Fiesta Adobo and a Private Chef.
Chris Eversole was a Line Cook from Las Vegas, Nevada. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 7 due to his average performance and wasting ingredients.
After Hell's Kitchen, Chris became a crypto currency trader.
Gaurav Navin was an Executive Chef from East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 1 due to his poor performance and his attitude.
After Hell's Kitchen, Gaurav returned to the kitchen and later became the Senior Executive Chef for IMU Restaurants and Catering. Gaurav is currently resident district manager for Chartwells, Carnegie Mellon University’s primary dining vendor.
/>Jason Zepaltas was a Sous Chef and a former Hell's Kitchen contestant (Season 9) from Chicago, Illinois. He was the Hell's Kitchen Season 12 runner up and took his defeat well saying that Scott deserved to win.
After Hell's Kitchen, Jason returned to the kitchen, regularly appearing at Driftwood Inn.
Jessica Vogel was a Line Cook from Spring Lake, New Jersey. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 10 due to her performance during the service.
After Hell's Kitchen, Jessica competed on Cutthroat Kitchen and was Executive Chef at Black Rebel Burger. She also posted recipes on her blog. Jessica Vogel died in August 2018, she sadly passed away from heart failure.
Joy Parham-Thomas was a Kitchen Supervisor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She quit during Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 18 after arguing with Gordon.
After Hell's Kitchen, Joy returned to the catering company she co-owns Urban Country Culinary Concepts and offers private chef services as The Food Lab.
Kashia Zollicoffer was a Line Cook from Carthage, Mississippi. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 17 due to her poor performance and bad temper during the service but praised for her effort in the process.
After Hell's Kitchen, Kashia opened restaurant Urban Country Kitchen and reviews are excellent. She also released a cookbook called Cooking is my Therapy.
Melanie Finch was a Line Cook from Woodland Hills, California. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 19 but was praised for her performance over the process and she was allowed to keep her jacket.
After Hell's Kitchen, Melanie was Sous Chef at Local Peasant before moving to The Front Yard restaurant in the Beverley Garland Hotel. She is currently working at The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey and is also an artist.
Michael DeMarco was a Line Cook from Scranton, Pennsylvania. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 5 after being nominated in every show and failing to improve.
After Hell's Kitchen, Michael returned to his his role as Executive Chef at Churchill's Pub Savannah.
Michael Gabriel was an Executive Chef from Spring, Texas. He was automatically eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 16 after serving raw salmon during the service.
After Hell's Kitchen, Michael works as a Private Chef and caterer, owns a food truck and appeared on Cutthroat Kitchen where he won Champion of the Camp. He was the 2018 Taco Takedown Champ.
Mike Aresta was a Chef Instructor from Keyport, New Jersey. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 4 for his poor performances and lack of contribution.
After Hell's Kitchen, Mike returned to being a chef instructor.
Nicole Rutz was a Baker from Morganville, New Jersey. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 2 due to her poor performance, her attitude and lack of passion.
After Hell's Kitchen, Nicole appears to have returned to her previous career as a baker.
Ralph Johnson was a Chef De Partie from Boston, Massachusetts. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 10 due to his performance during the service and refusing to take responsibility for his mistakes.
After Hell's Kitchen, Ralph was Sous Chef at Aragosta at the Fairmont Battery Wharf and is currently Executive Chef at Straw Hat Restaurant.
Richard Mancini was an Executive Chef from Bloomingdale, Illinois. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 13 due to his abilities failing to live up to his experience and allowing himself to be removed from his station.
After Hell's Kitchen, Richard released a line of pasta sauces and offers catering, cooking classes and private chef services via Chef Most Wanted. He also helped launched Primo restaurant.
Rochelle Bergmanwas a Catering Chef from Riverside, California. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 19 but was praised highly by Gordon for her energy in the kitchen.
After Hell's Kitchen, Rochelle appears to have returned to being a catering chef and did a number of cookery demonstrations.
Sandra Flores was a Sous Chef from Queens, New York. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 12 due to her lack of improvement in the process.
After Hell's Kitchen, Sandra competes in cookery competitions.
Scott Commings was an Executive Chef from Woodstock, Illinois. He was the Hell's Kitchen season 12 winner due to his passion, determination and leadership skills.
After Hell's Kitchen, Scott took up his position as the Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace before becoming Executive Chef of Freedom Beat at The Downtown Grand Hotel and Casino. He is also Co-Founder of BLT Foods Las Vegas. In 2018 he opened Stove in Las Vegas with co-owner Antonio Nunez.
Simone Hammond was a Buffet Cook from Henderson, Nevada. She volunteered to leave the show Hell's Kitchen season 12 episode 3 and Gordon granted her wish to leave.
After Hell's Kitchen, Simone returned to being a chef at Gustav International Catering before working at Newport Domestics offering Personal Chef Services.
Reality Tv Revisited
MasterChef features MasterChef judges Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, Joe Bastianich, Christina Tosi and Aarón Sánchez testing the culinary skills of amateur chefs from the USA with a number of challenges and dishes to prepare, with those failing to impress being sent home.
The winner of MasterChef wins $250,000, their own cookbook and a MasterChef trophy. Continue reading below to find out what happened next to the MasterChef USA winners.
Whitney Miller was a College Student from Poplarville, Mississippi. She was the MasterChef season 1 winner and the first MasterChef winner due to her natural ability in the kitchen.
After MasterChef, Whitney returned to college to complete her degree and released her cook book Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm and further released Whitney Miller’s New Southern Table.
She has stayed heavily involved in cooking with many published recipes, television cookery segments, recipe development, cookery demonstrations and competitions and consultancy work. She is also a food stylist and can be hired through her website.
Jennifer Behm was a Realtor from Wilmington, Delaware. She was the MasterChef Season 2 winner after her three course dinner consisting of scallops, quail and a poached pear impressed the judges.
After MasterChef, Jennifer did a number of cookery events/demonstrations, started her own catering company Pink Martini Catering and runs restaurant Red Fin Crudo with her husband Julio. She appeared in MasterChef season 10 alongside other past winners.
Christine Hà was a student from Houston, Texas. She was the MasterChef Season 3 winner due to her menu in the final.
After MasterChef, Christine Ha's cookbook Recipes from My Home Kitchen: Asian and American Comfort Food was published. She offered private chef services, is a brand ambassador and a food blogger.
She co-hosts a television show Four Senses, a cookery programme for those with visual impairments, judged MasterChef Vietnam and appeared on MasterChef US. In 2014, she received the Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award. She opened her first restaurant The Blind Goat in Houston in July 2019.
Luca Manfé was a Restaurant Manager from Astoria, New York. He was the MasterChef season 4 winner due to his three course meal impressing the judges and was praised by Gordon for his short ribs.
After MasterChef, Luca launched his cook book "My Italian Kitchen: Favorite Family Recipes". He also launched personal catering service Dinner with Luca and food truck The Lucky Fig. He hosted online cookery classes with other MasterChef winners and does cookery demonstrations and dining experiences. He is a brand ambassador for Donna Italia.
Courtney Lapresi was a Dancer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the MasterChef season 5 winner due to her eclectic three course meal impressing the judges.
After MasterChef, Courtney released cookbook "Everyday Fancy: 65 Easy, Elegant Recipes for Meals, Snacks, Sweets, and Drinks" and she now works in sales for Tesla.
Claudia Sandoval was an Events Manager from La Mesa, California. She was the MasterChef season 6 winner due to her three course Mexican meal impressing the judge in the final.
After MasterChef, Claudia released cookbook "Claudia's Cocina: A Taste of Mexico", launched catering business Claudia's Cocina, has been a brand ambassador for large brands, hosted cookery classes and online cookery classes with other MasterChef winners. Claudia became a judge on MasterChef Latino and plans to open El Cochi Dorado, a Mexican Bakery in June 2020.
Shaun O'Neale was a DJ from Las Vegas, Nevada. Shaun was the MasterChef season 7 winner due to his halibut, venison and pear dishes impressing the judges.
After MasterChef, Shaun released cookbook "My Modern American Table: Recipes for Inspired Home Cooks", has hosted a number of pop up dining events, cookery demonstrations and hosted online cookery classes with other MasterChef winners.
Dino Angelo Luciano was a Dancer from Bensonhurst, New York. He was the MasterChef season 8 winner due to his unique menu with a twist of traditional dishes of squid ink pasta, lamb chop and tiramisu.
After MasterChef, Dino has hosted a number of exclusive dinners and pop up dining experiences as The Gourmet Rabbit and was Executive Chef at Muse and Market in Phoenix.
Gerron Hurt was an English Teacher from Louisville, Kentucky. He was the MasterChef season 9 winner due to his southern themed menu being well received by the judges.
After MasterChef, Gerron has appeared at a number of cookery events in Louisville. In 2019, he took part in Camp Masterchef, was a travelling chef and returned to MasterChef in season 10 for a special wedding episode where Gordon officiated his marriage.
Dorian Hunter was a Creeler from Cartersville, Georgia. Dorian Hunter is the MasterChef season 10 winner. Her final menu of scallops, short rib and lemon blueberry tart was well received by the judges.
After MasterChef, Dorian will take up training at the restaurants of the three judges. She plans to start working on her cookbook now her win is public and to use her winnings to contribute towards opening a restaurant.
Does the Hell&rsquos Kitchen Season 19 finale continue a pattern?
With celebrity chefs as guest judges, Declan, Kori and Mary Lou might had a difficult task. It is one thing to impress a chef who they know, and it is another scenario to impress an unknown palate.
Still, Gordon Ramsay is guiding them through the cook. With his advice in the outdoor kitchen, comments like telling Declan don&rsquot over salt things, the chefs better listen. In addition, their sous chefs are guiding them with each dish. Since each of those former Hell&rsquos Kitchen chefs appreciate the gravity of the scenario, they know that every bite needs to be perfect.
Each course will receive a score from 1-10. The two chefs with the highest score will earn a spot in the Hell&rsquos Kitchen Season 19 finale. Did you know that the past several Hell&rsquos Kitchen winners were women? Would that pattern continue?
Although each course was judged on its own merits, the reality is that the meal needed to show a progression. The celebrity chefs appreciate that subtle differences and build of the meal.
For the first course, both Mary Lou and Kori start with a strong choice. The fruit forward salads are light, bright and open the palate. Although Declan&rsquos dish shows a lot of technique, his use of a gel was a mistake. Mary Lou and Kori surge ahead.
In the second course, Kori probably should have skipped a risotto and the same could be said for Declan&rsquos polenta cake. Although those dishes have a high difficulty level, the execution needs to be on point.
For this course, Mary Lou surges ahead with another perfect score. Her shrimp and grits featured refreshing spices. More importantly, her shrimp were perfectly cooked.
Moving onto the seafood course, the chefs better remember all that time on the fish station. While Declan&rsquos choice to reinvent fish and chips was intriguing, Mary Lou and Kori presented dishes that seemed to show more of their personality. For example, Kori&rsquos Chilean Sea Bass with chimichurri showcased a flavor that is her on a plate.
With Declan falling behind, it was his time to prove that he was here to stay. For the chicken course, his aggressively seasoned chicken earned high praises. Maybe the Irishman really did have a pair of aces up his sleeve and luck was about to run out for the ladies.
Going into the final course, the Hell&rsquos Kitchen Season 19 finale was up for grabs. With just a few points separating the chefs, that last bite would hold their fate. As Wolfgang Puck tasted the dishes, it would come down to execution.
Each beef dish was quite different and executed well. Comparing Kori&rsquos bourbon demi to Mary Lou&rsquos ancho chili rub to Declan&rsquos morel cream sauce, it seemed that bolder flavors impressed Chef Puck.
As the finale scores were revealed, Mary Lou and Kori has the exact same final score and Declan came up just short. Unfortunately, the luck of the Irish was not smiling on Big D.
Michael Wray: How a Hell's Kitchen winner ended up on the streets
The shy but talented cook had made it through to the final on the first US series of Gordon Ramsay's show Hell's Kitchen. His last challenge was to run his own kitchen in full view of TV cameras and one of the world's most fearsome chefs.
It was a test Michael, then aged 27, passed.
Footage of the tall, heavily tattooed young chef embracing Ramsay after winning the show was beamed into millions of households across the world in 2005.
"For the first time I feel like I'm in control of my own future," Michael said on the show. "I've proven myself to myself and that's important."
Michael initially thought he had won $250,000 prize money to open up his own restaurant. "As Michael was celebrating the win of a restaurant," Ramsay's voiceover said, "I realised that an individual of Michael's talent - I didn't want him to get away."
Ramsay made Michael an offer to work alongside him in London. After some nervous deliberation, a shell-shocked Michael agreed. The room erupted in cheers.
But Michael would later change his mind. "It was the hardest decision I've ever had to make. I regret it all the time," he tells the BBC.
"I was in Hell's Kitchen with a drug problem. I was deathly afraid of going to London with this giant addiction."
Growing up in rural Colorado, Michael was interested in cooking from an early age, often helping his father in the kitchen. He says it was a way to express himself outside the classroom, where he struggled due to his attention deficit disorder.
He dropped out of high school and went to work in a kitchen.
In 1999, Michael spent two years training to be a chef in London. It was during this period he became fully aware of a chef with a fearsome temper called Gordon Ramsay, who was building a name as one of the world's best chefs.
"He had this reputation out there of being this badass chef that no one wants to mess with," Michael recalls.
"I tried for like a year to work with him for free but no-one could get in there, it was really exclusive."
When he heard about auditions for Hell's Kitchen through his in-laws, who worked in the industry, Michael decided this would be his best shot at getting close to Ramsay. He applied and went through a rigorous process of interviews and tests. Eventually, he was told he had made the final 12.
Michael saw the show as a chance to show off his talent and draw on Ramsay's expertise. But as soon as the cameras started rolling, Michael realised it was going to be tougher than he thought.
He learned that Hell's Kitchen would be open to the public and one contestant would be eliminated after each service. Cameras would be rolling 24/7, even when they slept.
"I went into this thinking that I'm going to learn all this great chef stuff from Gordon Ramsay and then I ended up realising I needed to do everything I could to stay on this show to win," he says.
"I didn't want to be on national TV and lose."
But Michael had little to worry about.
Despite Ramsay telling him he had a "palate like a cow's backside" in the first episode, Michael soon emerged as a frontrunner.
While contestants regularly received the famous wrath of Ramsay's tongue, Michael generally dodged verbal attacks. He was winning tasks and carrying his team, regularly stepping in to assist those struggling.
Despite Ramsay's fearsome persona in the kitchen, Michael says he was the polar opposite outside of it. And even when Ramsay would let rip, he recognised it was for good reason.
"I didn't know if heɽ be able to turn off his chef persona once he got out of his chef clothes, but as soon as he changed out he wasn't chef Ramsay, he was this happy, boisterous kid," Michael says.
"When he leaves the restaurant I think that persona is still embedded in the kitchen, like a poltergeist. When he leaves people are still pushing themselves to be as perfect as it can be, every single dish," he says.
After seeing off every other contestant, Michael faced off against Ralph Pagano in the final. Both chefs had to create their own menu and decor, with former contestants returning to help them run their kitchens.
Although Ramsay voiced reservations over whether Michael was assertive enough to run his own kitchen, his cooking ability and high standards shone through.
After service finished, Michael and Ralph were made to stand in front of two doors. The winning door was unlocked, while the other was locked.
Michael stepped forward, turned the handle and walked into a room full of cheers.
"My mind went blank for a little bit," he recalls.
"What's going to happen now with the rest of my life? I was flooded with possibilities."
But Ramsay's offer of working alongside him in London immediately made Michael face up to a problem that had been brewing for some time.
A couple of years before he appeared on Hell's Kitchen, Michael had back surgery for scoliosis and was prescribed powerful opioid painkillers for his recovery. He was soon hooked.
During filming he handed his prescribed pills to producers while also smuggling his own into the house. Even then, he still needed to request more from his doctor.
"It was already taking half my mental energy just to keep my addiction in check just so I could work and live a normal life," he says.
Michael was flown out to London for five days and got a taste of what could lie ahead for him. But in the end, fears of not having access to his drugs eventually made him turn down the offer.
"Gordon wanted me to move out there. He probably got a little miffed that I didn't go out to London," he says.
"He's offering this young chef to move to London to mentor, to show how this is all done, and I had to turn him down."
Ramsay's representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite turning down the chance to work with one of the world's best chefs, Michael still had a lot going for him in the US.
He was preparing to open his own restaurant in Los Angeles. He had money in the bank and was expecting his first child with his wife Lola.
"Within a few weeks of opening the restaurant my daughter passed away," Michael says.
"We had some complications at birth where she lost her breath for seven or eight minutes. She lost too much oxygen to her brain and died."
Michael could no longer prevent his addiction taking hold of his life.
"It put me in a tail-spin for the next couple years," he says. "It was all starting to crumble around me."
Michael managed to carry on at the restaurant for around six weeks after his daughter passed away before walking away.
His relationship soon broke down and he started living out of his truck. Michael would still find work in kitchens, mainly so he could fund his spiralling drug habit.
Before long, Michael was living beneath an underpass near Hollywood Boulevard.
"I was a complete loner," he says.
"I would listen to my radio at night and go to sleep. It was almost like there was nothing really happening in my life. It was just like existing," he adds.
"I was sticking a needle in my arm, I didn't want anyone to see that."
Although Michael was by then on the streets and in the full-blown thralls of addiction, he would still find ways to cook. At one point, he was leading classes at the high-end Sur La Table store by day, then retiring to the underpass to take drugs and sleep at night.
"I was living this dual life where you had this persona of ɼhef Michael from Hell's Kitchen is going to teach you guys to cut onions today' but then at the same time I had this raging drug addiction that I'm trying to hide from the world," he says.
With all his money going on drugs, Michael was forced to visit homeless shelters for meals, but would usually end up rustling up dishes in the kitchen for the rest of the shelter.
After years of Michael getting highly addictive painkillers on prescription, his doctor in New Mexico, where he had relocated, eventually refused to give him any more.
With the withdrawals kicking in, he started to panic. He tried to check himself into rehab but was told his withdrawals were too severe so he would need to go to hospital.
By this point, Michael knew he had to get drugs inside his system. It was then he remembered that his pharmacy was the only one in the state that keeps all their medication on the shelves at night. He broke in with an axe, stole the drugs and drove out to the middle of the desert.
Michael had intended to use his time in the desert as an opportunity to slowly wean himself off the drugs - but things went from bad to worse.
"What ended up happening was I went almost 30 days without eating any food. I had almost no water," he says.
"I was literally just lying in this adobe hut, watching the sun come up, go across the sky, fall down, watch the moon come up, go across the sky. There were two baby rattlesnakes living with me in there for the first two or three days."
After about a month, Michael started hallucinating, believing that ghosts were trapped inside him. He then attempted to take his life but was found by a passing driver as he drifted in and out of consciousness while crawling by the side of the road.
"I didn't want to die and I needed to get somewhere where someone could see me and help me," he says.
Michael woke up in hospital 48 hours later and decided it was time to get clean. After 10 days recovering in hospital, he entered rehab in June 2012.
Unsurprisingly, cooking played a part in his recovery.
"All my days were spent cooking three meals a day for seven or eight people dealing with drug addiction. It was a really fulfilling time in my life," he says.
It was in rehab that Michael met his wife Sharlene.
"I had a smile on my face for the first two or three years. I couldn't believe how good life is," he says.
When Michael left rehab, he handed himself into the police for the pharmacy raid. He ended up serving close to a month in jail, where he was allowed to help out in the kitchen.
"I felt I had to answer for my crime and make it right," he says.
Once out, he knew it was time to get back to what he loved.
But he felt he needed to earn the right to call himself a chef again. He started by taking some shifts at a local breakfast cafe.
"I spent the next three to four years just getting back to the ability where I could call myself a chef," he says. "I started the whole process again."
In recent years Michael has worked as the head chef at numerous restaurants and has also been consulting with other chefs to help with their menus.
He dreams of one day owning his own food van. "To me, as a chef, it seems like the ultimate expression of our art - to be able to go anywhere and cook anything," he says.
Michael has also visited the Philippines where he has some pop-up events lined up for later this year, that he hopes will not be derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. He is looking into starting a restaurant there.
He has reached out to Hell's Kitchen a few times, but never got a response.
"I think that because the way my life went right after Hell's Kitchen, I think they're more interested in having success stories," he says.
But after the journey he has been on, Michael is happy to be alive and cooking again.
Reality Tv Revisited
Hell's Kitchen Season 14 aired March 03 to June 09, 2015 on Fox Network, there were 18 contestants and the prize for the winner was a head chef position at Gordon Ramsay's Pub & Grill at Caesars Atlantic City.
In this season, Gordon Ramsay was judge, Marino Monferrato was Maître d', Andi Van Willigan was sous chef for the red team and James Avery was sous chef for the blue team.
Continue below to read what the Hell's Kitchen season 14 contestants did next after appearing on Hell's Kitchen.
Adam Livow was an Amusement Park Chef from Freehold, New Jersey. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 8 due to his problems on the meat station.
After Hell's Kitchen, Adam became Executive Chef at Shaka Burrito and in February 2019 became Executive Chef at iPlay America. Adam had previously worked for the company in 2011.
Alison Rivera was a Sous Chef from Manhattan, New York. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 12 due to her failures on the fish station during the service.
After Hell's Kitchen, Alison was chef at Mexican restaurant Mission Cantina and later Kitchen Manager at Rusty Lantern Market.
Brendan Pelley was an Executive Chef from Bedford, Massachusetts. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 6 due to his failure on salmon and failing to take responsibility.
After Hell's Kitchen, Brendan returned to Zebras bistro & wine bar before opening pop up restaurant Pelekasis until August 2016.
He became chef at Doretta Taverna & Raw Bar and in January 2019 became Executive Chef at Gibbet Hill Grill. In April 2018. he appeared on Beat Bobby Flay.
Bret Hauser was a Sous Chef from Delray Beach, Florida. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 8 after an accident led to further injury to a slipped disc and Gordon refused to let him continue and risk further damage.
After Hell's Kitchen, Bret was Executive Chef at Pizza Craft Artisan Pizzeria, was a guest chef at a number of locations and he now offers private chef experiences.
Cameron Spagnolo was a Banquet Chef from Jersey City, New Jersey. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 2 due to his poor performance on the fish station.
After Hell's Kitchen, Cameron returned to the kitchen and currently works at Yale Club of New York City. He had a bit part in movie House Shark.
Chrissa Schmerler was a Food Truck Owner from Bellmore, New York. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 1 due to her failures in the service and the feeling that she wasn't taking the competition seriously.
After Hell's Kitchen, Chrissa returned to her Big Cheese food truck.
Christine Hazel was a Banquet Chef from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 9 due to her decision to make adaptations to the dishes.
After Hell's Kitchen, Christine became a private chef and chef consultant specialising in pop up dinners.
She has also had a number of recipes published and appears on local radio and television cooking segments. She is Culinary Director at Moonshine Philly.
Josh Trovato was a Chef De Cuisine from Brooklyn, New York. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 13 due to his decline in the process but Gordon praised his passion.
After Hell's Kitchen, Josh became a fitness and health guru, an actor, a part time bartender and does cookery events and pop up dinners.
Meghan Gill was an Executive Chef from Roanoke, Virginia. Meghan was the Hell's Kitchen season 14 winner due to her passion, determination and leadership skills.
After Hell's Kitchen, Meghan took up the winners head chef position at Gordon Ramsay's Pub & Grill at Caesars Atlantic City.
Michael Dussault was a Senior Chef from Hartford, Connecticut. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 3 due to his poor performances and for putting a hot pan on top of cold pans causing potential for danger.
After Hell's Kitchen, Michael became the Director of Operations and Executive Chef for his own catering company Adventure By The Plate and was Culinary Director at a Yacht and Golf club in Massachusetts.
Mieka Houser Harris wwas a Sous Chef from Olney, Maryland. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 4 due to her struggles with service and lack of confidence.
After Hell's Kitchen, Mieka became Kitchen Manager at Rockville’s Full On Craft Eats & Drinks.
Michelle Tribble was a Line Cook from Dallas, Texas. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 15 but praised by Gordon for her progress.
After Hell's Kitchen, Michelle competed in Mentor Young Chef Competition and worked at Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck.
Milly Medley was an Executive Chef from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 15 but received praise from Gordon.
After Hell's Kitchen, Milly went to work at The Playhouse 822 before going to work alongside Meghan at Gordon Ramsay's Pub & Grill at Caesars Atlantic City.
Monique Booker was a Line Cook from Lynn, Massachusetts. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 5 due to her poor performances, lack of improvement and lack of faith from her team mates.
After Hell's Kitchen, Monique returned to Rialto and became a Lead Line Cook for Compass Group. She is currently Executive Chef of Meals & Moe, a meal prep delivery company in Greater Boston.
Nick Peters was a Private Chef from Stoneham, Massachusetts. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 14 as he had made mistakes during service.
After Hell's Kitchen, Nick became Executive chef at The Seaglass Restaurant and was Front of House Manager at Mission Oak Grill. He co-founded catering company Kitchen to Aisle Catering & Events, LLC and is currently Executive Chef.
Randy Bell was a Line Cook from Nashville, Tennessee. He was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 11 due to his lack of experience but was praised for both his work ethic and performance
After Hell's Kitchen, Randy was Banquet Chef at Dave & Buster's.
Sarah Baumert was a Chef Instructor from Dallas, Texas. She was eliminated in Hell's Kitchen season 14 episode 7 due to her declining performances in service.
After Hell's Kitchen, Sarah decided to step away from the kitchen to retrain in accounting but has since returned to catering as a Private Chef. She is a brand ambassador for psla and continues to work as a CPA.
Torrece "T" Gregoire was a Line Cook from Atlanta, Georgia. She was the Hell's Kitchen season 14 runner up coming a very close second.
After Hell's Kitchen, Torrece became Executive chef at Three Blind Mice and later Draper Mercantile and Trading Company. She became a travelling chef before opening her first restaurant in 2019.
Cooking Spree Chef Wins Hell’s Kitchen
Chef Rock is a professional chef from Spotsylvania, Va. In the season finale, which aired on Monday August 13, Rock beat out the show’s other finalist, Bonnie Muirhead, a nanny and personal chef.
At the Washington, D.C. Gluten-Free Cooking Spree, Rock was a member of the Revolution Health team. With the help of Sous Chefs GastroGirl (Jacqueline Gaulin) and Val Jones (Senior Medical Director of RevolutionHelath.com). Rock cooked a stunning meal consisting of Shrimp with Marscapone and Parmesean Cheese Grits.
Here’s a photo of the team with NFCA Executive Director Alice Bast and Revolution Health Director of Non-Profit Partnerships Dominick Kennerson.
Throughout the competition, Rock emerged as the leader of the blue, boys cooking team. His leadership and consistency in the kitchen earned him the Hell’s Kitchen top prize of a $250,000 salary and the executive chef position at the Green Valley Ranch Restaurant in Las Vegas.