Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Hell’s Kitchen: A Hell of an Embarrassment

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hell’s Kitchen: A Hell of an Embarrassment

Holli Ugalde isn’t standing alone in Purgatory. Other Hell’s Kitchen winners have gotten the short end of the stick instead of the high-profiled prize they thought they had won.

Last Friday, we posted an article on Hell’s Kitchen’s lack of follow through on the prize they publicly committed to for season 7: Executive Chef of The Savoy in London. Gordon Ramsay submitted a statement stating that Holli Ugalde’s visa had been rejected. But Ramsay and show producers have not been forthcoming with the reason for the rejection of Ugalde’s alleged visa application submission (when submitting an application for a visa, the person the visa is for has to sign the paper work themselves. Ugalde claims she never received any visa documents.)

Whatever our personal feelings are about whether each contestant was worthy of the prize they were competing for isn’t a factor. Gordon Ramsay and the Producers get to make that decision and had decided that the winning contestants were worthy.

** The issue at hand is that Ramsay and the Hell’s Kitchen producers publicly announced a Prize at the beginning of each episode and failed to deliver on 6 out of 7 seasons. And, aside from the cash bonus some of them received, the restaurant positions that were actually handed out weren’t much of a step up from where the winners were prior to competing.

Here’s a recap on the winners and their prize-status by season:

Season one, Michael Wray
- Promised Prize: The winner’s very own restaurant
- Did he get it? No, but it was his choice.

Season two, Heather West
- Promised Prize: Multi-million dollar restaurant in the billion dollar Red Rock resort in Las Vegas
- Did she get it? No. Heather was named senior chef (not executive chef, as was promised)

Season three, Rahman "Rock" Harper- Promised Prize: The winner will run a Multi-million dollar restaurant in the Green Valley Ranch Resort
- Did he get it? Yes – and he fulfilled his contract.

Season four, Christina Machamer- Promised Prize: The executive chef for Ramsay’s own restaurant, London West Hollywood in Los Angeles w/a salary of $250k
- Did she get it? No. But she got part of it. Christina was installed as a "senior sous chef" (not executive chef, as was promised in show-related publicity and press releases throughout the season) with a $250,000 salary.

Season five, Danny Veltri- Promised Prize: Head chef at the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City
- Did he get it? No. Veltri was employed as a sous chef under Stephen Kalt at Italian restaurant Fornelletto at the Borgata. However, they at least gave him a cash prize of $250k.

Season six, Dave Levey
- Promised Prize: Head Chef at Araxi Restaurant and Bar in Whistler, British Columbia
- Did he get it? No. He got the title “Head Chef”, but was treated like a line-cook, working under Executive Chef James Walt. This is a step down from the Executive Chef title he held prior to competing in Hell’s Kitchen. According to sources, Levey resigned from Araxi just a few weeks after.

Season seven, Holli Ugalde
- Promised Prize: Executive Chef at The Savoy in London
- Did she get it? We wouldn’t be writing this article if she had… They did give her a cash prize of an undisclosed amount. Unrelated, Ugalde has been recruited by B Ocean Fort Lauderdale to be their Signature Chef for the new restaurant they’re opening.

What we’re trying to figure out is the following: Why publicly commit to a prize and then reneg when it’s time to hand that prize over? Does integrity mean nothing to these people? Why not just offer a cash prize and some sort of bonus? Bravo TV’s Top Chef does this and it’s worked out spectacularly for them.

I don’t know about you, but I think Gordon Ramsay and the producers of Hell’s Kitchen should feel nothing but embarrassment and humiliation for their actions. If you can't live up to public promises, you shouldn't be running a reality TV show. Ramsay, take off your jacket and go.

It looks like Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares isn’t just about the restaurant anymore. According to The Daily Mirror, the Kitchen Nightmares’ star and executive producer has added a number of irrelevant questions to the Kitchen Nightmares contestant application. How much a contestant weighs, as well as their height, eye and hair color are just a few of the questions that have been added. But my favorites of all of them are these:
  • Have you ever had a restraining order filed against you?
  • Does your family have a history of depression?
  • Are you easily upset?

Actually, the one regarding a history of depression seems to be fair.

A friend of mine had filled out an application for Chef Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen (as a joke) and told me that they had similar questions on the application he filled out, which he thought was strange. Considering that Kitchen Nightmare’s is supposed to be focused on the restaurants and not the contestants, asking such personal questions doesn’t seem right.

Moreover, Chef Gordon Ramsay should be focused more on cleaning up his muddied image instead of adding to his laundry list of drama and evil doings.

Are those questions even legal? But then again, does he really care?

More on Gordon Ramsay and Hell's Kitchen:
The Sharks that Gordon Ramsay Killed: The Movie (warning: video contains graphic violence)
Gordon Ramsay Tossed to the Sharks (Warning: Contains graphic photo)


  1. The problem with this type of contest is that usually there needs to be a winner, and in that case sometimes they are always not up to par. From watching Hell's Kitchen for all these seasons you can see some winners weren't really up to par in running a restaurant. However, at the end of the competition if they are able to, i'm sure they will. Some of these people were just average at best.

    Also as far as Holli's work visa, it is probably more of an issue involving issue on her side. Not everyone can have a visa. She may have a criminal record, no education, or wanted to bring family, and some countries/visas don't permit this.

  2. All these stupid reality shows are SO annoying, please bring back REAL TV!

  3. Yeah.. it's underhanded in its positions of "This is what you'll get if you win" And then that changes.

    Heres the thing.... Not ONE of those winners were good enough to be a Head or Executive chef of any of the restaurants mentioned. They are still businesses. Just because Joe Artsy wins a painting contest does not make him qualified to curate an art museum. Same principle here. Welcome to the real world folks

    1. Then don't promise the Executive Chef position as the prize.

  4. "please bring back REAL TV!" isn't that an oxymoron...?

  5. Why does Ramsay swear so much more at the American contestants than at the British ones?
    He seems on the edge of extreme violence all the time, is this entertainment? Is this a cooking show? it's neither, just humiliation.

    1. Your comments are based on ignorance and you don't know what you're talking about. Watch "Boiling Points" , Gordon Ramseys first TV show which follows him at his own restaurants in England in the early 90's.

      He treats his own staff far more harshly than the contestants in Hells Kitchen. Nationality doesn't even come in to it.

    2. Have you ever thought that the reason Chef Ramsey swears so much and appears to be on the edge of violence so often in the American show is this:

      American's seem to flock to this type of show/interaction where someone else is being torn down, belittled and treated as sub-par. For whatever reason, we (Americans) seem to get some thrill from his behavior, otherwise there would be much more public outcry and he'd be forced by the station to change his antics or be canned.
      Americans thrive on the crazy, abusive ways that "Hell's Kitchen" hands out. A.K.A its where the money is at!!! Ratings roll in because we want to see him in all his glory, tearing down the contestants, cursing them out, getting in their faces etc. IF Chef Ramsey were to act like a polite little British Nanny, that show wouldn't have made it a full season!

      One thing I have noticed...Chef Ramsey, in Season 7, sure seemed to have calmed down a lot from the first 5 seasons. Maybe I've become more accustom to his antics (highly doubtful but there is that chance)...but I think, in Season 7, that he wasn't in everyone's faces as much as he's done in the past.

  6. I am sorry but if your promised a prize such as the show stated then you should be awarded the prize. There must have been something in the contract that stated the prizes may be altered, Otherwise I can see a lawsuit against the show and network.

    I feel bad for the winners though that had to endure the verbal and in some cases probably mental abuse of Ramsay only to get the second fiddle prize. I don't give a crap how good of a chef he is, I just want to get a spot on the show so I can knock him out. Now that would be "reality TV.

  7. We're still missing info. In later seasons all of the winners, except Dave, came back as guests on Hell's Kitchen. Heather even came back as Gordon's sous chef. None had a problem. Reality contests do give substitute prizes. These winners were not left empty handed. Maybe these chefs were not good enough for the highest prizes.

  8. Regarding the reappearance of contestants, we knew about it, but didn't see it as relevant information for the following reason:

    If you're kick-starting your career - and had been nix'd from the premium position you were promised - would you say no to free publicity? Even if it's from the place that screwed you?

    After all, saying "no" to HK would be saying "no" to an opportunity that puts your face and skills in front on over 6 million viewers. Saying "no" would not be the smart decision.

    Therefore, a reappearance on HK wouldn't necessarily mean all if forgotten - it would just be good business sense.

  9. I wondered when the show was on how they could *guarantee* that a non-EU citizen would get the appropriate visa to work in the UK; the rule is basically that the applicant has to be fulfilling a role that no one else within the EU can fill - which, with respect to the winner, is a tough call.

    I'm sure the same is true in reverse... I'm in the UK and if I won a reality show that promised me a job in NY, the American authorities would say "congratulations on winning, what the hell does that have to do with us?"

    They should never have promised it if they weren't assured they could deliver it

    Anyway, Gordon Ramsay is rather disliked over here these days... his star has faded. You get all our worst ones - wait until Cheryl Cole on Xfactor starts making your teeth hurt!

  10. aren't people fed up with Hell's Kitchen anyway? i mean, every week with the "you won't believe what's coming up on Hell's Kitchen" faux-drama, it never ever delivers the promised excitement, and even the normal competition seems very tedious

    and also when he gave his horrific wife a snog it was gross

  11. The show never "promises" they will be the Executive Chef as your article states. They are told they will become the "Head Chef" which is completely different. If fact, in most of the various seasons the Executive Chef of the particular restaurant is introduced and the contestants are told the winner will be working under the "Executive Chef".

    All of these contestants know the difference between an Executive Chef and a Head Chef. If they don't, they shouldn't be on the show.

  12. I always wondered whatever happened to the winners.

  13. @ A Fuddyduddy: "Just because Joe Artsy wins a painting contest does not make him qualified to curate an art museum."

    Yes. Just don't promise him a curator's position.

  14. well I guess as someone watching these shows for there entertainment value alone (one does not even considers what happened after the filming finished).

    While I am amazed at the chefs talent (Ramsey's) for turning out great dish's and his own self promo.

    I for one wouldn't want to be someone with a business to run then having to be in position of employment of someone worthy or not of filling the role just because they won it (one can be excused if he looks for an out) and there begs the question !! - why offer it when on the face of it most don't proceed ??

  15. I, for one, would like to see Ramsay COOK SOMETHING for a whole show!! All he does is bitch and throw things (usually wasting GOOD FOOD). Come on Gordon, let's see you do something more than what you do on Leno's show!!!

  16. The thing about HK is that it is just crazy that people WILLINGLY go to get humiliated. Everybody should know by know how Ramsay is. Don't you notice how contestants themsleves even smile when someone gets humiliated. I guess it is just very interesting to see others get humiliated. Humiliating others is what makes Ramsay what he is... without this he would be like any other celebrity cook with a lifespan of 5 years (Usually no celebrity chef stays on top for more than 5 years)... And when it comes to not delivering the prize.... Hey, you all say how can Ramsay and network do it and etc. but do you see the winners complain? I assume they are fine with what they got. Besides, more than winning the prize, this is an opportunity to be seen and recognized and get a better job and in the long run become a stronger person because you made it through the worst humiliation in your life....

  17. Who cares very entertaining

  18. Anonymous, you are so right! Being a HEAD CHEF is not even close to being an EXECUTIVE CHEF. None of the contestants on the show have ever had the talent to be a head chef immediatly after taping. Huge huge difference. Some of these contestants are going into this as bakers or breakfast cooks.

  19. In episode 10 season 3, when different people come to taste the dishes of Rock and Bonnie. Heather (season 2 winner) is among them, with her title of Senior Chef clearly marked on her jacket. This confirms the facts stated by this page.

  20. Hollie's Visa troubles was partly her fault.

    It was very obvious from the show that she isn't the smartest person in the world.

    Why didn't she just request the documents from the employer and submit the documents herself?

    Also to my knowledge. to be able to get a working visa. You usually need a uni degree in a field that is needed in the country. I don't think Hollie has a uni degree. The only people who don't need a uni degree are usually wealthy businessmen with billions of dollars or celebrities/entertainers. Both are under a different type of visa.

    You know what? at the very first episode of season 7 when he announced the restaurant was in the UK. My first thought is i bet the winner couldn't get a visa. lol I just thought the idea of offering a Job overseas as a prize in the first place is pretty stupid. There are too many factors involved in getting a successful working visa.. aka clean record... university degree.. etc. I first thought.. why doesn't the prize just be somewhere in USA. They have 50 states and USA is a huge country with no shortage of restaurants an good places to go. USA is not all about L.A, Las vegas and New york. there are so many other great cities and states that are underrated just because there is no Hollywood ppl there.

  21. Siobhan from season 7 used to strip.. how would she have ever got the visa?

  22. Work in a kitchen and then you'll understand the reason Ramsay acts the way he does. Working with food is dangerous and if you give an inch the staff will slack off and walk all over you. Keeping the edge makes people safer, keeps the alert and focused. People can die from ill prepared food. As for the winners not getting their prizes..Who cares. They get fame and notoriety and let's face it that is the entire reason ANYONE ever auditions for a reality show. The fact that we are sitting here debating about it is proven point.

  23. Very few here seem to have ever worked in a kitchen. Please go work in a kitchen as a real Chef (none of that fast food BS) and you'll see why Ramsay acts that way. He has 14 Michelin stars and most of his critics haven't even ONCE cooked in a restaurant, just goes to show how easy it is to criticize someone.

    Also, the show nor Ramsay never guaranteed the Position of Exec. Chef or Head Chef etc. They only thing they guaranteed was the salary which the contestants received, if they had a work Visa in the country in the case of Holli and only her.

  24. Very few of these people, though they did make it through the contest, seemed to have the ability or mindset it requires to run a high profile restaurant. I think that having them work under someone who is a REAL Exec. Chef was a way of helping them get their feet, but if they couldn't cope, they were never promoted. Very few seem capable of running a real kitchen. It takes a LOT and if you've ever done it, or been around it, Ramsay is *not* surprising, unique, or deserving of criticism for his attitude. If these chefs did not have someone shadow them at their prize restaurants, and could not handle it, everyone would be writing articles about how the prize restaurants had failed because Ramsay can't pick a winner. Well, he HAS to pick a winner, so they do what they can with people that just plain can't hack it.

    Since it's a show, they have to promise a prize, but I agree that it should just be a cash prize as Top Chef does. Of course, since this show steals EVERYTHING from Top Chef (all the challenges are from TC) I'm surprised they haven't lifted the cash prize thing already.

    1. "Very few of these people, though they did make it through the contest, seemed to have the ability or mindset it requires to run a high profile restaurant. "
      You are very correct in that statement. I is most obvious in Season 3, when so many contestants would not even speak to Julia in the dorm - before the contest even started - because she worked at Waffle House. What stupid snobs. They might be able to cook, but run a Waffle House ? NO WAY. And certainly not cook fast enough for a breakfast slam in one..Knowing recipes does not make you a Chef.When younger, I waited tables from places like Waffle House to fine dining & even a 4 star Chinese Restaurant in a large city. These contestants have no idea what they THINK they are talking about when they speak of running any type of resturant.

    2. Relevant point.
      Top Chef started in 2006
      Hells Kitchen USA started in 2005 with Hells Kitchen UK running from 2004

  25. Give me a break. Joe Blow who works in a steak house and Jane Stupid who works in a spa, regardless of the actual prize received, have something to put on a resume and the opportunity to be a "celebrity chef". HK is one of the few shows where not only is the 'judge' legit, and not some has been (ahem, AI), BUT many of the losers down the road end up getting offered executive chef positions. Yes, it might be at less prestigious places but if it weren't for the show they wouldn't have been on anyones radar letalong given the opportunity to have creative control, cookbooks etc. HELLO, they still got any advice/feedback from Ramsay and a cash prize! It's not like they got NOTHING.

    Plus I bet there's fine print in the contracts they sign about the prizes. And in the end, each person has the chance to build upon their career in a field they love, whether they win or lose, how many other reality shows can say the same thing? The perks of American Idol are few and far inbetween for the vast majority and obviously your survivors, big brother, real world knockoffs, and stupid ass romance/dating shows offer nothing substantial for participants longterm besides public humiliation and embarrassment.

  26. Why do nearly all the "chef" contestants smoke?

    1. I'm not a chef, but I've been a waitress for awhile and I can say that smoking is pretty universal in the restaurant industry. I don't smoke, but at the restaurant I work at now, I'm one of maybe 4 people tops that don't. I'm not positive why it's so common; maybe because of how stressful the industry can be?

  27. You want to bad mouth Ramsey, but have you ever considered that maybe they just weren't qualified for that position? Its not Ramsey's fault. He DOES hold up his promises when he can. (case in point: in season three he promised to send Julia to culinary school and he did. She now works as a culinary consultant in Atlanta. Ramsey isn't the one who controls the talent level of the contestants. Maybe the producers should find higher level contestants to win the higher level prizes.

  28. I kind of agree that the show is misleading to say that the winner gets to be a head chef running a brigade. I also do not like the reality-show features like, cutting people off from the world, fomenting drama, etc.

    However. The show is not exactly just about that. It's about lifting up a profession that is considered by a large number of people to be 'low', and making this profession, and the people who practice it, the star of the show. They aren't in the back of the restaurant anymore - the back becomes the front. The process of creation is elevated to be considered something important. Imagine if this could be done for any industry, every industry. The whole concept of irrelevant, pointless commodity, that nobody cares how it made or where it comes from... that concept could slowly disappear and become an artefact of the last few centuries of the second millenium. We could go back, as a society, to caring about the supply chain, the interconnectedness of all things.

    The people on the show do not start as the greatest, most skilled, most experienced, etc. The show is about how much these people grow, if they are given a chance.

  29. Hollie never had a chance to get a visa, no one that season did. You can't offer a job in the UK as a prize to a foreign national, that's an absolute no no as far as immigration over here are concerned! You think they'd have researched that one a little...

  30. As a UK immigration lawyer, I can answer this. The process of getting a "work permit" or "Tier 2 sponsorship certificate" for a chef is that the government make an assessment on the salary AND experience.

    I read Hollie's quote:

    ‘My winning season finished filming in February 2009, and Chef Ramsay and his people have had almost two years of planning for this.

    I would have thought they would have asked me to fill in some paperwork to apply for a visa, but I’ve never once filled in one single piece of paper. I don’t know how the immigration process works, but I’m betting there’s at least a few forms to fill in. I don’t know if they even applied for my visa.’

    Ugalde’s agent, Zlata Faerman said ‘Holli’s face just didn’t fit for the Savoy,’.

    Also saying "Obtaining a UK work visa should have been simple. Ugalde has no criminal record, has demonstrated unique skills by winning the competition and was offered a fixed-term contract after which she would return to the United States."

    Well, if she didn't know how the immigration process worked, she and her agent should have found out before spouting rubbish about how she was betrayed.

    To confirm. If her new employer, based on her CV, could not get a work permit (because she lacked experience, qualifications etc) then she couldn't.

    If the winner was someone with experience she would have been ok. Out of the 16 Competitors, based on my assessment of their experience at least 8 could have obtained visas.