What Really Went Down In The Final Dinner Service, According To Alex Belew - Exclusive

This season, the "Hell's Kitchen" finale was no huge surprise. Reigning champion Alex Belew was always a pacesetter. "I'm a dad. I've run my own restaurant. I've been in those leadership positions for a long time. It's something that comes naturally at this point," he told Mashed of his frontrunner status back in November 2022. Maybe the only true bombshell to come out of the final episode is that while Dafne Mejía, Belew's finale sparring partner, went a more traditional route with beef tartare and similar five-star fare, Belew managed to win the thing by making fairground food. (Yes, as you may argue, they were elevated with prawns. They were hushpuppies, nonetheless.) 

In retrospect, it's also a minor miracle that Belew and Mejía didn't undercook every single steak they sent out into the "Hell's Kitchen" dining room during the final dinner service. Both were running on empty, and between the service and awards ceremony, they zonked out. "Every time you get the phone call that dinner service is happening ... you get a buzz," Belew told Mashed in an exclusive exit interview. "You get that second, third, fifth wind. I was out of wind. I was done." He passed out feeling less than confident that he'd won the thing. His dinner service didn't "end as strong as it should have," he confided to Mashed. "I was not aware of what was going on in Dafne's side of the kitchen, so I had no idea." 

Why Alex Belew says 'he lost it' during the Hell's Kitchen finale

It's fruitless to ask Alex Belew for a play-by-play of the finale; a lot of the service "is blacked out" in his mind. "I remember talking to my mom and my wife, and they were like, 'Everything seemed fine until the very end.' Then they were [like], 'Your entire demeanor changed, and you seemed like you had lost everything. I was like, 'It all fell apart.'"

The Southern chef attributes his minor mental meltdown to pace. Gordon Ramsay let his team know that Dafne Mejia was on track to get her last two tickets out. Belew, on the other hand, was turning food around at the expo. "We had an issue with a piece of fried chicken and a hush puppy ... we had a few steaks that were undercooked, a piece of raw chicken," he recounted. "We kept pushing, and at some point, they were like, 'Dafne's going to finish first.'"

The chef may have been internally shaken, but he didn't tell his team that. That's why Belew thinks Ramsay unlocked his door at the end." I think what Gordon saw was that I never lost my composure. I never got mad. I never lost the drive," Belew reflected to Mashed. "I kept pushing the team to crank out great food no matter the speed bumps, and that's what we did."

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