How Working With Gordon Ramsay Changed Hell's Kitchen Season 22 Finalist Johnathan Benvenuti's Life - Exclusive

Those who compete in "Hell's Kitchen" find out quickly that there's plenty to fear on the hit Fox series, from working the hardest station on the line to facing the chopping block at the end of an episode. Of course, cooking for Gordon Ramsay is a unique challenge in and of itself. It's no secret that the chef doesn't mince words — and being on the receiving end of his wrath cuts worse than any sort of kitchen scrape. Still, one "Hell's Kitchen" finalist wants you to know that there's another side to Ramsay. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Season 22's chef Johnathan Benvenuti explained that working with the iconic host is far more inspiring than intimidating.

Benvenuti knew early on that he wanted to be on "Hell's Kitchen," and working with chefs like Gordon Ramsay was always a life goal for the California native. "I always told myself that ['Hell's Kitchen'] was one of the few cooking shows I would ever want to do," he told Mashed. "When I got there, I just couldn't wait for Gordon and all those chefs to taste my food, and I think that was the best part." Despite several heated scenes in Season 22, the runner-up of "Hell's Kitchen: The American Dream" wouldn't trade the experience for the world, thanks in part to his mentorship under Chef Ramsay. "By no means is he this mean, angry chef people think he is. He truly is there to mentor the chefs, and it is awesome."

Ramsay's energy in the kitchen is 'contagious'

When asked what Gordon Ramsay is really like behind the scenes of "Hell's Kitchen," Benvenuti had plenty to say. "Working with Gordon Ramsay has changed my life, and he teaches you so much about professionalism and being a young chef. In a way, you almost feel like when you get to spend some time with him, you progress a little bit as a person and as a chef, and it was really special." The show's runner-up said that Ramsay was just as helpful when the cameras stopped rolling, taking time to guide each contestant he came into contact with. 

Though Gordon Ramsay's insults on the show are the stuff of legend, the "Hell's Kitchen" host is more likely to teach than taunt. This was especially true toward the end of the competition on Season 22, as the chef worked more closely with the remaining contestants. "He came over and showed me how to sear some steaks and go back and forth with the pans, and that was a special moment," said Benvenuti. "He tells you to stand up straight and how to carry yourself in front of his judges, and those are things that you can't put a price tag on ... watching the way he carries himself is contagious."

Benvenuti on his biggest takeaways from Hell's Kitchen

Chef Johnathan Benvenuti may not have nabbed first place on Season 22 of "Hell's Kitchen" — but he walked away with more than a title. "I didn't lose anything. I'm super happy and proud with how everything came out," he told Mashed. "I wouldn't change a thing. I think my food was amazing. And hats off to Ryan: His food was that much better." In addition to the lessons he learned from Ramsay, Benvenuti developed lasting friendships after the show with fellow contestants like Ryan O'Sullivan and Sammi Tarantino. "One of the coolest things for me is the friendships I've taken from the show, and all of the comments on my dishes from the guest judges. Those are moments you sit on the porch and you tell your grandchildren about."

Johnathan's time on "Hell's Kitchen" has already inspired the next generation. Lately, his children have starred in their own cooking demonstrations on his Instagram account, working under the watchful eye of Benvenuti. "The support from the fans [on social media] has been super special. I just feel overwhelmed with gratitude," he told Mashed. "All the people sending messages and keep my phone buzzing constantly — it's special. It's super cool to see organically where food has taken me, from Hell's Kitchen and being next to Gordon Ramsay." One thing's for certain: We'll be keeping our eye on this Californian chef, regardless of where he goes next.