The Moment In Hell's Kitchen That Made Cody Candelario Panic - Exclusive

Cody Candelario went into "Hell's Kitchen" feeling "invigorated," he told Mashed in an exclusive interview. For most of Season 19 — during which, true to the competition's name, Candelario says "a couple" of contestants quit and one was sent to the hospital — Candelario saw rainbows. The Aspen Daily News asserts that the chef hid energy drinks under his bed to fortify himself against 20-hour-days. That may well be. Simultaneously, Candelario says that it was "one of the most vibrant [experiences I've had] and [most] alive I've ever felt."

Spoiler alert: He didn't win. He did, however, make it all the way through to the final four. More importantly, Gordon Ramsay, whose spirit animal in the kitchen is probably a Nile Crocodile, left the door open for him. And yet, things might have gone dramatically differently for the contestant. Candelario told Mashed that during the season's second "Taste It, Now Make It" challenge, he nearly caved. "It broke me for a second," Candelario said. "I got really afraid, where I haven't felt afraid like that since I left home when I was like 16 years old. I felt childishly afraid."

This moment almost 'broke' Cody Candelario

In the aftermath of what Candelario calls a "really traumatic illness" that he contracted "about five years ago," the chef lost his sense of smell. He never recovered it. "It was really, really hard at first," Candelario exclusively told Mashed. "The first six months ... I wanted to give up my career, and then some." Instead of caving, he began to "3D-map" the dishes he made. If Beethoven learned to compose deaf, why can't an anosmic chef cook? By the time he earned a spot on "Hell's Kitchen," Candelario had developed a system. "I think about food in different senses, and ... really approach stuff from the sensory capabilities that I do have, which is most of the balance components: sweetness, acidity, salt, fat, umami, things of that nature," he explained to Mashed.

During the second "Taste It, Now Make It" challenge on "Hell's Kitchen," Candelario's system nearly collapsed. "I was faced with that fear that I had been hiding," he remembered. " I was sitting in a situation where, all right, this isn't just [some] individual [dish], that I'm going to try and try to take context clues from texture, [or from] acidic mobility and anything like that [that] I'm trying to teach myself. This is a composed dish with 15 different components. And I just panicked and I thought like, 'This is how I'm going to go out.'"

This story has a happy ending. During the next Basket Challenge, Candelario began to believe in himself again. "[Gordon Ramsay] said it was the best dish that he had through the entire competition," the contestant told Mashed.

Cody and @lolo_overland are currently hard at work on their newest show, @theefoodtruck. Follow their Instagram profiles for updates on this and other upcoming projects.