What Contestants Really Eat On Hell's Kitchen, According To Alex Najar - Exclusive

It's hard to argue that "Hell's Kitchen" is not, in many ways, all about the drama. But at its core, we all know it's really about — the food. The longstanding show has seen dozens of hopeful chefs put their best plate forward in the hopes of impressing the formidable Gordon Ramsay. And along the way we have seen it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly –- as contestants put everything on the line.

Fans of the show have witnessed the chefs serve up thousands of plates of food during hundreds of episodes over the last 20-plus seasons of the show. Dinner service in the Hell's Kitchen restaurant is a focal point of each episode and each round of the competition. So more than anything, viewers get to see what's being served up on those plates, and all the sweat, tears, and often blood, that goes into each and every service. And while it's no mystery what the dinner guests, or the judges, are eating on "Hell's Kitchen," have you ever wondered what the competitors themselves get fed? It's no secret the cast members all live together in a dorm during the course of filming, but what does that mean for how they eat when they aren't busy cooking for the cameras?

After cooking under such high stakes while competing on "Hell's Kitchen," you might assume that the last thing any of the contestants want to do is make a meal for themselves. But that's exactly what they've got to do. And Mashed got the inside details from current season 21 contestant, Alex Najar. In an exclusive interview, Najar dished on exactly what the food situation is like behind the scenes on "Hell's Kitchen," and gave some insight on how the contestants stay fueled throughout the competition.

Hell's Kitchen contestants are cooking both on and off the camera

According to current "Hell's Kitchen" competitor Alex Najar, everyone is basically responsible for feeding themselves throughout the course of filming. Najar tells Mashed that the producers "have a notebook" for all the contestants staying at the dorm to write down the foods and ingredients they want. "Every other day ... they would go grab groceries for us," he adds. That meant food, and whatever else one might need. "People who smoked, they got cigarettes," he notes, adding that "there wasn't a lot of drinking, because if you're cooking the next day, you don't want to be hungover, and people get hurt."

From there, the contestants could eat and cook as they saw fit in order to stay energized throughout the long, busy filming days. And unsurprisingly, Najar confirms that everyone was not making a point to cook for themselves every night. "I went back to eating like I did when I was in high school or in college, he admits. "It was Hot Pockets, granola bars, and Gatorades."

Of course, you can't live (or compete, for that matter) off just junk food and processed snacks, and there was quite a bit of communal cooking in the dorms. While Najar says "it was a matter of grabbing a quick bite to eat for lunch real quick to get ready" for the challenge or dinner service ahead – when it came to morning and evening meals, everyone came together. 

"We all took turns," in the kitchen preparing meals for everyone to enjoy, says Najar. "It was like a big happy family ... and it was awesome." Najar recalls, "Vlad would make dinner every single night. Tara is a mother, so she would make everybody breakfast every morning." Those meals no doubt served as moments to bond and prepare food with no stress, and no Gordon Ramsay waiting to put each plate to the test.

Catch new episodes of "Hell's Kitchen: Battle of the Ages" every Thursday at 8/7 CT on FOX, or stream episodes on Hulu.