How Chef Antonio Ruiz's Life Changed Since Hell's Kitchen - Exclusive

Few and far between are the people who can meet chef Gordon Ramsay and not be left with quite the impression. Chef Antonio Ruiz was certainly affected by the time he spent competing on Season 20 of "Hell's Kitchen," a season appropriately titled "Young Guns," as all of the contestants were under 24.

Despite Ramsay's intimidating reputation, throughout the season, Ruiz found the show's host and lead judge to be more of a mentor figure than anything else. Despite coming up short on victory, Ruiz came out of the show all the more confident and motivated. During an exclusive interview with Mashed, Ruiz was forthcoming about the struggles that came with him to "Hell's Kitchen," and what has changed since the transformative experience.

"I've always kind of suffered with social anxiety and stuff like that," Ruiz said. Going in, the chef saw his participation in "Hell's Kitchen" as not only a culinary test but a chance to force himself out of his own comfort zone. He explained, "[When the show approached] meĀ it was just one of those things where ... I was like: 'Okay. Well, cool. Maybe I am as good as I think I am ... let me go out there and prove it."

Chef Antonio Ruiz's new goals in life

Asked how his time on "Hell's Kitchen" changed his life so far, Antonio Ruiz was thoughtful. "Even right now, it is pretty recent," he said. "'Hell's Kitchen,' I think, has changed my life in a sense of it definitely changed who I am, in the sense of being around Gordon's intensity ... I think it's really cool to see one of your role models never losing that fire. I strive to be like that and never lose my fire. Along with that, though, it allowed me to open up myself more, and be able to talk about things a little bit more, and not be so closed off. You had to be open when you were on that show. So moving forward, it's cool to be able to be more of an open person, and be able to talk about experiences, and being able to lend a voice when it's needed."

"Other than that, I'm trying, as of now, I'm starting a mental health initiative," Ruiz went on. "I suffer with mental health myself, but the show allowed me to kind of have some publicity with that and I really want to make sure that people in the hospitality industry have a shoulder to lean on. I'm thankful for the show that I'm able to do that."

Support Chef Antonio Ruiz's initiative for mental health awareness in the hospitality industry via Our Commitment.