Why Omi Hopper Didn't Eat The Food On Next Level Chef - Exclusive

On their best days, the contestants in culinary competitions serve up dishes so exquisitely plated that the Gordon Ramsays of the world swoon, and we — as watchers — are left wondering why we didn't dedicate ourselves to the culinary trade too. But off camera, the food that contestants eat to prepare for long days of sweating in staged kitchens is often less than gourmet.

Had "Next Level Chef" contestant Omi Hopper competed on "Hell's Kitchen," for example, she'd have been cooking her own food after hours. As "Hell's Kitchen" Season 21 contestant Alex Najar exclusively told Mashed, because days of filming were so long while competing, "I went back to eating like I did when I was in high school or in college ... It was Hot Pockets, granola bars, and Gatorades." On the other hand, had food trucks been Hopper's true calling, she might have been stuck running on Starbucks breakfast sandwiches and coffees for her 12-hour days — which was what Daniel Shemtob of "The Great Food Truck Race" told Mashed he had to do.

Omi Hopper, as it turns out, might have preferred both scenarios to the food she ended up with on her show.

What the Next Level Chef Season 2 contestants ate off camera

Unlike on "Hell's Kitchen," "Next Level Chef" Season 2 contestants didn't have to cook for themselves. And unlike on "The Great Food Truck Race," there was no shortage of free food to be had. In fact, Omi Hopper exclusively dished to Mashed, "We were fed very well."

Breakfast, Hopper said, was provided by the hotel the contestants lodged at in the U.K. "But while we were on set, right behind there was a shared lunch space that was there for the crew, plus for us as the contestants, so we could order," she detailed. "A lot of the chefs that were cooking there [were] professional-trained chefs, but the culture is very different because we were in the U.K., so food was a little bit different from what we were used to as U.S. contestants." 

The cultural shift in cuisines was not something Hopper was prepared for. "Whether or not you liked the food, that's a whole other story," the "Next Level Chef" aspirant dished. "It got to the point where when I would cook on set, I would put a little bit of food aside so that I could eat." 

Follow Omi Hopper's journey by tuning in to "Next Level Chef" on Fox every Thursday night.