The Most 'Shocking' Thing About Hell's Kitchen For Winner Alex Belew - Exclusive

"Hell's Kitchen" Season 21 champion Alex Belew thought he knew what "Hell's Kitchen" was all about. He'd watched enough of it before being cast on Season 21. He'd studied, for example, Gordon Ramsay's reactions to disaster so that when his team got kicked out of the kitchen, he already knew what his options were. "I stood there in the hallway, contemplating," Belew reflected in an interview with Mashed from early in the season. "Do I go back in there and say, 'Can I please finish this ticket?' That would've gone one of two ways. 'Good man. I appreciate you trying,' or 'Get the f*** out.' I didn't want that to happen so I turned around and walked away. It was heartbreaking." 

Belew was ready to take the heat. He wasn't prepared for how quickly things could go wrong on the show. "When you're sitting at home watching it on TV with your hand in a bag of Doritos, it's easy to be like, 'Why can't these people cook scallops? They can't cook risotto,'" Alex Belew told Mashed in an exit interview. "But there's so much pressure ... The best chef can crack, and you're only as good as your last moment. If your last moment sank the whole ship, that's it. You could have had a stellar performance three or four or five days in a row — but one bad dinner service, you're gone. It's crazy." Belew was even more surprised at the parts that the cameras chose not to show you. 

The part of Hell's Kitchen that astounded Alex Belew

A reality show edit will never portray reality in its entirety. Are "Hell's Kitchen" editors as drama-hungry as those of "The Bachelor"? Maybe not, but if a competition is not cutthroat, what's the point in tuning in? "You sit at home, and there's so much that you don't see on TV," Alex Belew told Mashed in his exit interview. "You only get about 1% of our day. There's so much that goes on in the dorms and in the punishments."

Belew said he left the show with more than a job offer (and, for the record, the jury is still out on whether or not he'll take up a position at Hell's Kitchen at Caesars Atlantic City). "There's a lot of camaraderie that you don't [see]," Belew said. "... I didn't expect to come away with friends, and that's been the most shocking thing." 

According to Hell's Kitchen's reigning champion, Season 21's top 11 competitors "talk almost every single day." While Belew wouldn't invite us into his WhatApp group, he did detail, "We listen to each other and we give honest feedback. It's not all sugar-coated. It's not, 'Yay, that's great.' Sometimes it's, 'This is the hard facts; you need to hear this.' Or my wife lost her dad the other day, so we talked about that. ... We're a group of friends. It's crazy."

To keep up with Alex Belew, visit his website and subscribe to his mailing list.