The Untold Truth Of Hell's Kitchen Winner Ariel Contreras-Fox

Mouth-watering beef wellingtons, juicy drama, and world-renowned Scottish chef Gordon Ramsay — what more could you want? Based on the British series with the same name, "Hell's Kitchen" is where Ramsay's cutthroat character really shines, and you can look forward to many bleeped cuss words and well-crafted insults dished out in each episode. While it may be hellishly entertaining to watch, there are some difficult parts of being a contestant on this hit reality television show, to say the least. 

It's been over two years since Season 18 aired, but it's hard to forget Ariel Contreras-Fox's stand-out performance on "Hell's Kitchen." Contreras-Fox was on not one, but two seasons of Hell's Kitchen, placing third in Season 6, and coming back in Season 18. Season 18 of the reality show, officially titled "Hell's Kitchen: Rookies vs. Veterans," featured both a rookie and a veteran in the grand finale: rookie Mia Castro, a private chef from Miami Beach, Florida, and veteran Contreras-Fox, a previous Hell's Kitchen contestant from Season 6. The two female chefs went head-to-head in a culinary battle, but it was ultimately Contreas-Fox who came out on top. Read on to discover more hidden gems about this culinary genius. 

Contreras-Fox is only the second Hell's Kitchen winner to turn down the final prize

After serving up a menu of modern Latin food with an Asian twist, Contreas-Fox was declared the winner of Season 18, awarded the grand prize of $250,000 and the opportunity to serve as an executive chef at Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen restaurant at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

Contreras-Fox surprisingly turned down the highly-esteemed position at Hell's Kitchen and instead became an executive chef at Dos Caminos, an upscale Mexican restaurant in New York City. In January 2020 this talented chef publicized on Facebook that she is now a Vice President at Del Frisco's Double Eagle, Del Frisco's Grille, and Dos Caminos.

Contreras-Fox is only the second winner to turn down part of the final prize, the first being Season 1 winner, Michael Wray, who also passed on an opportunity to work alongside world-famous chef Gordon Ramsay. It's not always about the prize!

This Hell's Kitchen veteran was a guest judge on another cooking show

Contreras-Fox hasn't just appeared on multiple seasons of "Hell's Kitchen"; she was also featured on the Food Network show "Beat Bobby Flay" as a guest judge. Contreras-Fox posted a sweet Instagram capturing the experience for her fans. "Catch me guest judging this season on @foodnetwork's Beat Bobby Flay!" she shared. "If you missed last night's episode, you can find it on Hulu or YouTube." (For fans of the celebrity chef, Bobby Flay just came out with an official "Beat Bobby Flay" cookbook.)

 According to Hollywood life, although Contreras-Fox loves being a competitor, she is also interested in pursuing other opportunities in the culinary world. "I want to get more on the tastemaker side of things. I think I've proven myself and I' someone who knows what they're doing," she shared. "Competing's great, but I'd love to do some guest judging and some hosting would be awesome." Is there anything that this successful chef can't do?

Farming in California inspired Contreras-Fox's love of food

Contreras-Fox has been immersed in the culinary world for as long as she can remember. Her mom worked at a local bakery in Santa Cruz while she was growing up, and the "Hell's Kitchen" victor started helping her mother out in the kitchen shortly after starting high school.

When speaking about her backstory and how she fell in love with cooking, Contreras-Fox credits her teenage years in Northern California inspiring her to become the cook she is today. Contreras-Fox worked for a small family farm called Mariquita Farm in Watsonville, under Alice Waters, a leader in the sustainable food movement. "It wasn't until I started working on an organic farm in high school that I truly fell in love with food," she said in an interview with New York Lifestyle. It was while working there at the source, digging, and picking, and eventually selling the produce at the Farmers Market, that I understood the magic of food." Waters eventually inspired the Dos Caminos executive chef to attend culinary school.

Contreras-Fox also acknowledges her mom and grandmother as motivating her to become a chef, describing them both as "amazing home cooks."

Contreras-Fox co-authored a children's book with her mother

Not only is Contreras-Fox a culinary wizard, but she's also a published author. Part children's book, part cookbook, part memoir, "Freckle-Faced Foodie: Journey of Young Chef" is based on Contreras-Fox's real-life childhood growing up in a biracial family. Published in August 2020 by Mascot Books, the book explores the dynamic of a child's multi-cultural experience within a blended family.

In the story, young Ariel struggles to make sense of her complex heritage and work her way through a tricky school assignment. While her two best friends seem to know everything about their cultural identities, Ariel feels lost. However, when she reflects upon her Caribbean grandma's patacones and her Pacific Northwest grandma's blackberry pie, she ultimately discovers that food is a strong and constantly emerging theme in her life that helps to shape her identity. Even better? This deeply personal and sweet story was co-authored by Contreras-Fox's mom, Marlin Adams.

Ariel's first job in the kitchen was shucking oysters

Contreras-Fox attended the esteemed California School of Culinary Arts, enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu Le Grand Diplome Program, the school's prestigious program in French culinary education. After graduating from culinary school, this successful chef moved to Venice Beach, California for her first professional cooking job at Globe Venice.

According to an interview with New York Lifestyle, Contreras-Fox's first task at Globe Venice, which has since closed, was shucking oysters, "every day all day." "It was painful, and it was endless," she describes. "But it taught me so much. Little by little I got faster and could do it without breaking the shells. Eventually, I became a master of it!" The "Hell's Kitchen" victor's first experience in the kitchen shows us all that we have to start somewhere.

When Contreras-Fox was working at the Globe, she also met her "first real teacher," Robert, the chef de cuisine. "He was tough!" Contreras Fox admitted. "He expected excellence, speed, cleanliness, and dedication. I ate up every minute of it." Despite his strict disciplinary teaching style, the talented TV personality credits Robert with her quick promotion up the restaurant chain.