The Big Sacrifice Mary Lou Davis Made To Be On Hell's Kitchen - Exclusive

Mary Lou Davis finished Season 19 of "Hell's Kitchen" as runner-up, and even though she didn't triumph over Kori Sutton, Davis earned Gordon Ramsay's respect and admiration. In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Davis filled in vivid details about her journey on the iconic cooking competition show. It began with an Instagram post. Davis loves cosplay, and she frequently posts photos of herself in costume, posed as her favorite film and anime characters. In 2019, Davis also posted photos of her cooking at Whiskey Cake Kitchen and Bar in San Antonio, Texas, where she worked as Executive Chef. The "Hell's Kitchen" casting agent messaged Davis on Instagram. "You look like you'd be perfect for 'Hell's Kitchen,'" she said. Davis thought she'd been pranked but agreed to a Skype interview. 

Two weeks later, the casting agent requested videos of Davis cooking at Whiskey Cake. This was hard for her to do. "I'm not here so that I can stand out and be that pretty person or that person doing social media. I'm here to work," she explained. She asked her staff to shoot the videos and submitted them. "Hell's Kitchen" called back, and they needed her in Los Angeles for four days to meet the producers. But Davis turned them down. In her mind, her bosses were "going to think that I don't take [the restaurant] seriously because I'm trying to go be on a television show." 

"Hell's Kitchen" persisted, and Davis finally relented. Her bosses weren't impressed and gave her a laundry list of why she shouldn't go. Her general manager told her: "They're going to put you up against people that you're going to lose against because you're interesting." Despite their lack of support, Davis met the producers, and three weeks later, she was cast. "And it really did impact my career with Whiskey Cake ... in a negative way," Davis explained.

Mary Lou Davis reflects on why she was fired

Season 19 of "Hell's Kitchen" was shot in 2019, but because of COVID-related delays, it didn't air until January 2021. Davis was forbidden to tell anyone about "Hell's Kitchen," and only her mother knew how well she had done. In 2020, the pandemic forced Whiskey Cake to lay off employees, but as Executive Chef, Davis doubted she'd be let go. Her general manager, though, had other ideas, and claimed that he needed her salary to pay other staff. Davis accepted her being furloughed graciously. "I'm sacrificing my job so everybody else can still keep theirs," she thought. Davis was in her car when she heard from a front-of-house employee that she had also been furloughed. Shocked, Davis called employees at other Whiskey Cake locations, and not one of them had been laid off. At first, Davis wondered if the general manager let her go because he believed she had an excessively high opinion of herself for being on "Hell's Kitchen." "I'm a very humble person," Davis told us. "That's not how my mom raised me." 

And then it hit her. "We were both ladies, and we were both the same skin color," Davis said. She had thought she always ran the kitchen like a well-oiled machine, her staff's morale was high, and her food costs were low. "I didn't appreciate the fact that this is why I'm being taken out," she explained. The general manager regretted his decision and rehired Davis two weeks later. It was difficult for Davis to reconcile why she'd been fired, but she kept her head down and just did her job. Coincidentally, when "Hell's Kitchen" began to air, the restaurant's management was let go. New management did a 180 and treated Davis with respect. Davis left Whiskey Kitchen in August 2021 to move on to new ventures.

To learn more about Mary Lou Davis' continuing adventures in the culinary world, follow her on Instagram. You can watch all episodes of "Geeks and Grubs" on her YouTube channel.