Not only do we love the heat, but we can’t wait to get back into the kitchen, Hell’s Kitchen, that is.
The OG series in FOX’s Gordon Ramsay universe returns Thursday with all-new episodes, and we can tell you right now the series still delivers exciting content and is must-watch television after 21 seasons.
Speaking of 21, the season teases a Battle of the Ages with 20-something-year-old chefs competing with 40-something-year-old chefs for the grand prize. And the generation war is as fun and even heartwarming as you can imagine.
TV Fanatic had the opportunity to catch up with Chef Christina Wilson, Hell’s Kitchen Season 10 winner, head of the Red team, and VP of culinary for Gordon Ramsay America, to chat about the upcoming season.
Check it out below!
Congratulations, of course, on another year of Hell’s Kitchen. You’ve pretty much been on every season since you won, right?
Yeah. In some capacity. I did 15 and then 17 on, but I always joke that I’m like a barn cat. Gordon fed me once, and I just keep coming back. So, it’s good to be home again this season.
I can’t even remember a time when you weren’t on it now. It feels like you’ve been on forever.
Yeah, it feels that way to me, too. Trust me.
Did you ever envision when you were a contestant that you would end up here? You earned and achieved so much more than just that initial grand prize. It’s really amazing to see it.
I didn’t. I didn’t know that this was an option. I think one thing that really helped me is just having a growth mindset. After I hit one goal, I wanted more, and I saw there was more, and then I hit that next goal, “Oh, wait, there’s more.”
I’m thankful for all the coaches, teachers, my Gram, and people who helped me create that thinking style. But no, I remember the first day vividly walking into Hell’s Kitchen Season 10 and going down the hallway, passing season four winner Christina’s photo. In my head, I thought, “oh, they’ll never let two Christina’s win.”
So even that first day, I thought I was behind the eight ball already. Thankfully I’m hyper-competitive, so it was a good environment for me to shine. But I never thought this would be it. I’m glad it is, though.
Nothing beats an unexpected win! This is #8 on our countdown to #HellsKitchen Season 21!! 🔥 👏
📺: @HellsKitchenFOX pic.twitter.com/Z38PNe17xC
— Food Club FOX (@FoodClubFOX) September 22, 2022
It’s really cool in a full circle kind of way because now you’re a mentor. What is fulfilling that role of mentor that you enjoy so much and keeps pulling you back in?
All of it. I don’t think people actually know, the restaurant industry, how much we get beat up, how much we sacrifice to be able to put on your 50th wedding anniversary or your wedding, or your 21st birthday party. That means we’re making sacrifices in our lives, too, for the love of the industry and to be able to create these experiences for people as these background players.
In the real world, that’s the most fulfilling part of having your food be part of a life celebration for somebody else. But being given the opportunity to dig in and be able to mentor and give back… I’ve been so fortunate.
The chefs I came up under Gordon included have been so generous, gracious, and humble with their skillset and time and helped me grow as a chef, person, and leader. It is a great opportunity for me to give that back, help people grow, and be better at their craft.
It’s definitely, my favorite part about being on the show is what I get to do with the contestants and then working alongside Gordon in that capacity, of course.
Last year, I got to speak to Nyesha Arrington a bit about the challenges of this difficult industry as a woman. Was that challenging for you, coming in and navigating through the industry?
Yeah, for sure. It definitely came with its challenges. I think I was at a bit of an advantage because I grew up with three older brothers and five uncles, so I was quite familiar with that environment, speaking that language and navigating it. I do think I had a leg up in that regard.
I love this age battle concept. There are always generation discussions, Millennials, X, Gen Z, whatever. I love how it’s not uncommon for a bunch of 20-year-olds to get their shot, but it is for 40-year-olds, so that’s refreshing. Was that a fun concept to explore this season?
It was definitely really cool. To your point, the 40-year-olds- getting this kind of big, shiny prize in front of them after a lot of them had already been pretty thick in their career is super motivating and fun to watch. They’re just so headstrong and in the thick of the grind.
The 20-somethings where I had an exceptional amount of empathy for them is they came out of either culinary school or whatever chef internship situation or mentorship situation they had. And they entered the workforce right on the bubble of the pandemic.
The restaurant industry across the board was so heavily impacted. They’re not as well-versed in working a line, working in a hot kitchen, tickets being called out, et cetera, et cetera. So I think they were on the back foot a little bit.
But man, that generation is so motivated. They just know how to make a difference. They have this innate call to action for everything they do, and it’s cool to see.
It’s not just them talking about it. They really care. If it’s something they’re invested in, they give their all.
Are you mentoring the 20-year-olds then, or the 40-year-olds?
I don’t know if I can say, but I’m younger than Jason, so I’ll let you connect those dots.
Every season the show steps it up. What kind of exciting things can you tease about this upcoming season?
I think that the challenges were remarkable this year. We have some fun ones. Gordon, you know, always has to put it a little over the top.
It was a little more collaborative than we’re used to seeing. Usually, it gets a little more intense at times. But there’s so much good talent, excellent talent. They have this really deep respect for each other.
It was a lot of fun for Jason and me to work with these guys because their skill set was above what we sometimes see as a collective. I think the challenges were some of the better parts of this season and how competitive they’d get, and some of the dishes that came out of those challenges were remarkable.
What do you think it is about the Gordon Ramsay Universe that appeals to people so much? Everything he seems to touch is always a hit, and fans love Hell’s catching just as much now as they did nearly two decades ago. And you’re part of this legacy too.
Yeah, I’m just hanging on tight, grabbing the coattails where I can.
Gordon, on TV, and even if you meet him in person, he’s so magnetic. And you’re right. He absolutely has a Midas touch. Something about the guy is just innately special, and you feel it. There’s never a time that I’m around him that I don’t learn something or walk away from it wanting to be either better in my work life or better in my personal life.
He can change the climate of a room. The second he walks into it, for better or for worse. I’ve been on both sides of that coin. So There’s just this magnetism, and it’s because he’s humble and gracious and such a mentor by nature. And that really comes out, especially if you get the time in person with him.
But yeah, I think it’s just his stunning good look, stellar personality, and the fact that he flies off the handle at his leisure. It makes it fun to watch, not fun to be in, but fun to watch.
What is it like to create this legacy of your own and follow your dreams?
Honestly, these kids, I say “kids,” because, man, they made me feel old this year. [Laughs]
These contestants coming through, that’s the living legacy right there. And all my cooks and chefs out in the restaurants that I’ve been able to help mentor, propel their careers, and broaden their experience. That’s my living legacy, and it’s been wild and an absolute privilege to be part of Hell’s Kitchen for this long.
Otherwise, I’m just trying to keep up with Gordon. That man does not stop. It keeps me on my toes at all times.
—This interview has been edited for length and clarity—
You can catch Chef Wilson on the season premiere of Hell’s Kitchen, on September 29 at 8/7c on FOX.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.