The Misconceptions Sammi Tarantino Wants You To Know About Hell's Kitchen - Exclusive

Entering a cooking show like "Hell's Kitchen" isn't for the faint of heart. From long hours spent perfecting Chef Gordon Ramsay's beef Wellington recipe to tense showdowns with fellow competitors, there's rarely a dull moment on set. But have you ever wondered if it's quite as tough as it seems? To find out whether those challenges are as scary as they look — and what the deal was with chef Jason — we at Mashed spoke to Sammi Tarantino, a finalist who competed on Season 22 of "Hell's Kitchen: American Dream." In our exclusive interview, the Los Angeles, California-based chef set the record straight about what it's like to work behind the scenes of the legendary series.

According to the young chef, there's far more happening on the cooking competition than meets the eye. "People don't realize how hard it is. Before I was on the show, I think I definitely underestimated how hard it would be," Tarantino tells Mashed. It's hard to fathom that "Hell's Kitchen" could be even harder than it looks. Still, the Season 22 finalist explains there are some positive misconceptions, too. Chef Ramsay, for example, isn't the snarling grizzly bear we see on screen — in fact, he's actually quite the opposite. "I would do anything to work with Gordon more. He's just a beast in the kitchen and such a presence," she says. Taking the good with the bad, Tarantino broke down some common misconceptions about "Hell's Kitchen" with Mashed.

Tarantino takes the lid off of Hell's Kitchen behind-the-scenes

Naturally, we had to ask Chef Tarantino what the most difficult aspect of competing on "Hell's Kitchen" was. "All of the punishments, and just being around so many people was overwhelming," she told Mashed. She dreaded the blind taste test — "I felt like my taste buds were just like non-existent," — and it wasn't always easy to get along with the competition. Dealing with disgruntled coworkers can be difficult enough in ordinary circumstances, but in a high-stakes environment like "Hell's Kitchen," it can be, well, hell. Most importantly, Tarantino wants viewers to know that what they see on screen is only a fraction of what the chefs endured in a typical day.

"I feel like a lot of people don't realize that one episode is one full day," says Tarantino. "We don't take a break at all; it's just go-time for three weeks straight ... You're just mentally and physically defeated at the end of the day sometimes." Aside from dealing with exhaustion from the grueling filming schedule, she explains that core elements of her journey were occasionally left out. "I thought I definitely was doing a little bit more on the Red Team than they showed," she tells Mashed. Another interesting detail is that the "Hell's Kitchen" cameras tended to skip over dorm life — so you may not have noticed Tarantino's budding friendships with her fellow chefs, like Donya Taylor.

Despite struggles, Tarantino says Hell's Kitchen made her 'a better chef'

It might sound like an uphill battle, but Chef Sammi Tarantino is quick to note that there were several highlights for "Hell's Kitchen" contestants. Her personal favorite was the scallop diving challenge, though a certain sports outing has a place in her heart. "Playing soccer was fun — and watching Jason miss every shot was pretty fun in person," she tells Mashed. And as far as Jason goes, Tarantino admits there may have been some liberties taken in post-production. "They definitely edited him to be that one guy that, I feel, is almost in every kitchen — just kind of a know-it-all," she explains. 

But don't let the threat of long days or video editors discourage you from your dreams. At the end of the day, the Season 22 finalist has one piece of advice for cooking competition hopefuls. "I think you should definitely do it," Tarantino says. "['Hell's Kitchen'] definitely pushed me further and made me a better chef, in ways that I had no idea I could. It was such a growing experience." While it's true that many "Hell's Kitchen" contestants struggle throughout filming, others seem to agree with Tarantino's perspective. In fact, you may even reap the ultimate reward, just as Tarantino did — lasting friendships after the show