How Gordon Ramsay Has Changed Since The Original Hell's Kitchen - Exclusive

"Hell's Kitchen" first aired in 2005, smack in the middle of an era when a tough-talking TV judge or host was key to television success — and at that time, Gordon Ramsay's extreme tongue lashings (and pot throwing) gave other stern reality stars a real run for their ratings. "Hell's Kitchen" just concluded its 20th season, and while it's true that Ramsay still has his fiery moments — in a recent episode, raw lobster got him hot under the chef's collar (via YouTube) — one person who knew him in the show's early days say his mood has mellowed considerably.

Rock Harper, who won Season 3, and has since gone on to open Queen Mother's Fried Chicken, told Mashed in an exclusive interview that indeed, Ramsay has changed dramatically since the show's original days. "He's still really tough, but the way that it's presented — certain things that he doesn't say anymore, whether they be catchphrases or just things that probably get him canceled today," Harper explained. Much of this shift is due to how viewers themselves have changed, he added. "The dynamics of the viewer changed, so they had to either grow with the viewers that love 'Hell's Kitchen,' or get new viewers."

This is what hasn't changed about Gordon Ramsay, according to Rock Harper

While Ramsay may have toned down a bit, one thing about him remains the same: It's always dishonesty that pushes his buttons, according to Harper. "The one thing about chef Ramsay is that he honors authenticity and honesty. And if you just look at the show, the people that run into the biggest problems, they're not honest and they're not authentic," he explained. What, exactly, does Harper mean by the word, "honesty"? He clarified, "Honesty could be: one minute to the pass. How long for that? And you say one minute and it takes three; he can't trust you!"

By the same token, Ramsay has a soft spot in his heart for contestants who don't pretend to be more sophisticated than they are, and who are open to learning. Case in point: Julia Williams, who hailed from Waffle House prior to competing on "Hell's Kitchen." (per Atlanta Magazine). William never said "that she knew about truffles or lobster: she didn't! She was honest with herself and everyone else, and this is why she worked really hard and she made it to the top four," Harper explained. He added that anyone who wants to compete on "Hell's Kitchen" should keep this principle in mind. "Be yourself and work like you've never worked. Appreciate the opportunity," he said. "And if you're going to win, you might as well win as yourself, instead of losing trying to be someone else."

Keep up with chef Rock Harper by following him on Instagram. The next time you're in D.C., be sure to visit Queen Mother's Fried Chicken.