How Hell's Kitchen's Season 22 Finalists Formed Lasting Friendships After The Show - Exclusive

Great sportsmanship isn't often associated with reality television. From meltdown exit monologues to scathing jabs, any cooking show fan worth their salt can rattle off sore losers and lob Gordon Ramsay insults with the best of them. Maybe that's why we're so fascinated by Season 22 of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen." Despite the cutthroat competition on display, an unexpected theme emerged from the latest iteration of the fan-favorite: friendship. And we're not talking fair-weather friends or work buddies you're forced to sit with at lunch, either. Indeed, many who tuned in can attest that the stars of "Hell's Kitchen: The American Dream" seemed only steps away from beading best friend necklaces for one another by the end of the series.

But just in case you don't believe everything you see on the screen, we at Mashed conducted exclusive interviews with the show's final three contestants. We spoke to Johnathan Benvenuti, Ryan O'Sullivan, and Sammi Tarantino to find out whether the trio's close-knit friendships were truly the real deal. With unwavering detail, the Season 22 finalists made everything perfectly clear. "It's a friendship that I never thought that could happen," O'Sullivan told Mashed of newfound mate Johnathan Benvenuti. "Meeting somebody and living with them for three weeks, I feel like I've known the guy my whole, entire life. That's the bond we have." What's more, the final three weren't the only ones who stayed in touch after wrapping "The American Dream" — even chef Jason Hedin is now part of the gang.

Hell's Kitchen brought these chefs closer than ever

The "bromance" that unfolded between Johnathan Benvenuti and Ryan O'Sullivan during Season 22 wasn't an act. Echoing O'Sullivan's sentiments, Benvenuti isn't shy about the duo's tight-knit bond. "My favorite moments of filming had to be the time I got to spend with Ryan off-camera, the friendship and the bond we've created," the California-based chef told Mashed. "He's an absolute brother to me, and I talk to him four to five times a day on the phone. Our girlfriends hate it. We call each other up all the time, bouncing ideas off each other, just to talk about life." When the Season 22 finale of "Hell's Kitchen" premiered, the pair came together at Hell's Kitchen Miami to celebrate. "I'm driving on the way to meet him right now. Be with him in the next hour," O'Sullivan told Mashed at the time.

Believe it or not, Benvenuti's even fielding calls from another "Hell's Kitchen" contestant now that the show's finished: chef Jason Hedin. Though the two had some serious spats involving scallops on set, that's all behind them these days. "Jason and I have since then become such great friends," said Benvenuti. "He calls and asks how the kids are. It's funny how on the show you could see clearly how much he really got to me. But it's like when you work with someone and you kind of butt heads, but you stop working with them and you become best friends."

The friends 'get to share all this together'

With "Hell's Kitchen: The American Dream" under their belts, the final three contestants of Season 22 have kept in constant contact ever since the show wrapped. "'Hell's Kitchen' [was] definitely such a growing experience, and I bonded with the other chefs over it," Sammi Tarantino told Mashed. "Johnathan, Ryan, and Leigh [Orleans] have really become some of my great friends from the show." 

Johnathan Benvenuti is inclined to agree with Tarantino's assessment. Though he and Tarantino placed 2nd and 3rd in the cooking competition, respectively, the two chefs are nothing but positive about their time in the competition. "One of the coolest things for me is the friendships I've taken from the show and the journey," said Benvenuti.

As for the Season 22 winner of "Hell's Kitchen," Ryan O'Sullivan? The affection he has for his fellow "Hell's Kitchen" castmates is palpable. He even recalled to Mashed that it was difficult to for him accept first place on the show without his ride-or-die, Johnathan Benvenuti, by his side. That said, he views his win as something of a joint effort. "The way that [Benvenuti] moves around the kitchen and talks about food is second to none. [He's] one of the best I've ever seen," O'Sullivan said. "And now we get to share all this together — we're best of friends."