The untold truth of Hell's Kitchen

If there's anything in life Gordon Ramsay doesn't suffer, it's fools and undercooked scallops. And please, don't even get him started on beef Wellington. The fiery chef from Britain has basically created a screaming chef monopoly, but the gold standard for his obscenity-laced, colorful tirades remains the cooking competition show Hell's Kitchen. If you've never seen the show, here's how it works: a group of not-quite-camera-ready chefs from all walks of life (line cooks, sous chefs, and everything in between) are herded into a dorm and put through hell in hopes of landing a job as the executive chef of one of Ramsay's restaurants. It's kind of like The Apprentice only less horrifying in retrospect. And you'll never believe this, but it turns out that not everything on Hell's Kitchen is exactly what it's … cooked up to be. (Not sorry.)

No one gets physical with Ramsay

There have been times throughout the run of Hell's Kitchen where it appears that Gordon Ramsay and some hotheaded young chef — and it is often a young meathead dude from Long Island or New Jersey or Philadelphia — are on the verge of coming to blows. But as you might expect, that's basically entirely fabricated for the sake of drama. In reality, if the contestants thought about throwing a punch in Ramsay's direction, they'd be tackled to the ground before they could cock their arms back. That's because what you don't see on camera is that Ramsay's got bodyguards all over the place to prevent any actual physical altercations. Which makes sense, honestly. As much fun as it'd be to watch Gordon Ramsay tussle with some young punk line cook named Rocko, Fox doesn't really want anything more than the threat of violence. Ramsay's too valuable an asset, and there are also those pesky potential litigations that could stem from a millionaire chef trading punches with some poor schmuck looking for his 15 minutes of fame.

It's remarkably unhealthy

No, we're not just talking about the high fat content of half the foods being prepared and served to diners. We're talking about how ridiculously unhealthy the entire Hell's Kitchen is on the chefs competing for one of Ramsay's coveted executive chef positions. And not just because the chefs are pushed to their physical limitations, either. The stress of being in this particular competition — which involves sleepless nights, being constantly screamed at for the slightest mistakes, and having your every movement scrutinized by the ever-present cameras and microphones — drives the competing chefs to cigarettes and booze. During Season 2 of the series, one producer noted that the competition began with only four smokers in the cast. By the end of the season, that number had more than doubled to 10. Yes, that's right: this is a job interview so stressful that it drove six non-smokers to become chimneys just to try to deal with the pressure.

You're not guaranteed to win anything

That's a video of Holli Ugalde, the chef who won Season 7 of the American version of Hell's Kitchen. Her prize for suffering through the vast and various indignities was supposed to be the top job at the Savoy Grill in London. It's an iconic restaurant, and a gig that many, many chefs would absolutely kill for — which is why it was such a crushing blow to Ugalde when she didn't get the job she was promised because of work visa issues. Obviously, Gordon Ramsay and the producers of Hell's Kitchen can't just force a government to grant someone a work visa. Believe it or not, the government isn't a cowering sous chef from Des Moines who keeps screwing up the risotto. And Ugalde wasn't the only one to miss out on the gig she was promised upon winning her season. Each year, the promised job title includes the term "executive chef." But even when the winning contestant does get a prize, it's often something like "senior chef" or "head chef," not the coveted title of "executive chef."

There's a lot of sex

It turns out there's a lot of sex going on behind the scenes on Hell's Kitchen. Of course, that makes sense, given you're putting nearly 20 youngish people in a single dorm, giving them plenty of booze, and creating high-pressure situations that can be plenty stressful. There's a certain physical activity people engage in (rhymes with "Tex") when they need to rid themselves of stress. A former contestant named Kevin Cottle did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit and said that people are having sex "all the time." Of course, he didn't divulge any names. The cameras very rarely even hint at actual sex being had, other than a few flirtations like the one in the video above. That's okay, though. We'd rather not imagine all the bumping and grinding.

No one is that bad at cooking scallops

If you watch the show, one of the first things you start irrationally screaming at the screen during every single episode is how bizarre and crazy it is that no one can seem to figure out how to cook basic staples of the show. There are a few items that are on the menu every season, including risotto, beef Wellington, and scallops. Yet somehow, these dishes are repeatedly undercooked or overcooked by the hapless chefs, whose cooking credentials we immediately start to question. And while some of the chefs on the show are working at higher levels than others, it's always baffling to see how frequently these dishes are screwed up. So what's the real story? According to a former contestant named Tek Moore, the producers would often sneakily swap out ingredients to create drama and giving Ramsay something to blow up about. This would sometimes include juvenile pranks, such as swapping out salt for sugar

The cameras never stop rolling

Obviously when you sign up for a reality show, you basically agree to wave goodbye to your privacy. But you probably expect that you might get a brief respite at some point, right? Maybe to get a little shuteye, or hopefully when you want to drop a deuce in peace. But guess what? You're out of luck. The cameras are always on, and they are everywhere. And so are the microphones. According to former contestants, you wear your microphone at all times — even to bed. And that means that the lights are always on, too. If you're hoping to get some sleep at around four in the morning, you may be completely out of luck, because if even one of the other contestants is awake, those lights are going to stay on in hopes of the cameras catching something good. Some people use that to their advantage, too. One former contestant, Justin Antiorio, said that he rarely sleeps anyway, so he'd stay up as late as he could as a sort of psychological warfare. If he wasn't sleeping, he knew his competition wouldn't be sleeping, so maybe he could throw them off their game.

There's one sure way to get some privacy

If you want a little bit of time alone and need those cameras off you, there's only one way to do it. It's not having sex, and it's not taking a dump. No, if you want a couple of minutes for the cameras and microphones to finally leave you alone, you need to belt out a tune. Music rights are expensive, you see. Fox has a lot of money to play with, but it doesn't want to shell out the cash it would take to acquire the rights to, say, a Taylor Swift song. The contestants often figure this out, which means there's a lot of singing on Hell's Kitchen that we never see. And the chefs would also use code words to communicate without the producers and crew catching on to what they were really saying.

Sorry, but you probably can't go to the restaurant

When you watch Hell's Kitchen, you invariably start thinking about how much fun it'd be to attend a taping of one of the dinner services. You get an incredible meal and get to witness Gordon Ramsay screaming obscenities at cowering wannabe chefs. It's fun for the whole family! But unless your family includes someone connected to Fox, you'll probably never set foot inside the Hell's Kitchen restaurant. According to that Reddit AMA with former contestant Kevin Cottle, pretty much the only people who get to eat there are friends and family members of the crew. Obviously, special guests get invited — which typically consist of a few C-list celebrities the cameras will occasionally show enjoying a glass of wine. ("Hey, it's that guy from that CW show I don't watch!") But unless you're well-connected, the odds of you getting in the doors are very slim.

Of course, it's not an actual restaurant

Not only are the diners not "real" (at least in the sense that they're not everyday, ordinary people but are somehow connected to the show), but neither is the restaurant itself. It makes sense, when you think about it. Hell's Kitchen is a television show, after all. Television shows are shot on soundstages. And Hell's Kitchen is no different. According to a TV Guide writer who attended one particular finale taping, the whole place genuinely looks like the set of a TV show when you see it in person. It's incredibly bright due to the TV lights, and everything is oversized and "more exaggerated than on TV." And because it's not an actual restaurant, despite the appearance of a fine dining establishment, it doesn't have the facilities you'd expect in such a place. Specifically, there are no actual bathrooms there. Considering the place has an open bar and the drinks flow freely and frequently throughout taping, you can see how that might be a problem. Fortunately, there are plenty of trailers outside the set — meaning that, basically, you have to leave the restaurant and go take a leak in a pimped-out camper when your bladder gets too full.

There's a backup plan for a poor service

Have you ever wondered what happens when Gordon Ramsay kicks both teams out of their kitchens when a service is going horrendously, yet there are still dozens of diners waiting for their meals? What happens to them? Do they go home hungry? Does Gordon run to a McDonald's and buy everyone some nuggets to tide them over? Well, we're going back to Kevin Cottle on this one. According to him, there is a backup plan in the event of these types of situations (which happen with remarkable frequency over the course of each and every season). Cottle says that there are people you can sometimes see bustling around looking like a cleanup crew, but that isn't really their jobs. They're basically culinary ninjas, hiding in plain sight. These are backup chefs, ready to swoop in and complete a service whenever called upon.

So while there's plenty of raw food served, dishes get sent back, and you may have to go outside and poop in a trailer, at least you're probably not going to go home hungry.