What The Cameras Don't Show You On Hell's Kitchen

"Hell's Kitchen" is a highly entertaining reality cooking show with a grand prize that includes serious cash and the chance to work for chef Gordon Ramsay. Blending Ramsay's invaluable tutelage with his signature spatterings of cartoonish insults, the show has amassed a devoted fanbase since it first aired in 2005 (via IMDb). In fact, Ramsay's television projects have been so successful that he recently signed a $150 million deal with Fox to launch a new production company that has ambitious plans to create even more captivating culinary content (via The Richest).

Between comedically draping contestants in strands of fresh spaghetti to throwing chefs out of the kitchen, the cameras at "Hell's Kitchen" capture some truly wild footage. Which makes sense, since they never really stop filming; according to "Hell's Kitchen" judge Christina Wilson, about 150 hours of footage need to be whittled down to 45 minutes for each and every episode. 

All of this is bound to make you wonder what's really going on behind the scenes. Luckily for you, we did a little digging and found some interesting tidbits. Here's what the cameras don't show you on "Hell's Kitchen".

Bodyguards are everywhere

When most of your persona is based on relentless wisecracks that constantly humiliate the people around you, it's important to protect yourself. That's why Gordon Ramsay has a band of bodyguards waiting in the wings to swoop in and save the day if one of his infamous quips strikes a nerve and someone tries to get physical (via New York Post). Truth be told, lots of the drama on "Hell's Kitchen" is staged for the sake of entertainment as a Reddit thread divulged.

That being said, it's still a good idea for Ramsay to take extra precautions if someone tries to start a brawl. Case in point: During episode three of season six of "Hell's Kitchen," viewers witness contestant Joseph Tinnelly get fired up, take off his chef shirt, and strut up to Ramsay challenging him to duke it out in the parking lot. Before he gets all the way to Ramsay, bodyguards flock in to save the day by coming between them. Had security not been around, there's no telling how much further the situation would have escalated. 

That moment shined a light on something rarely seen on "Hell's Kitchen": The bodyguards are always standing by off-camera, ready to protect one of the most distinguished chefs in the world.

Enforced method acting is the norm

"Hell's Kitchen" is basically a cooking tournament, but there's also no shortage of drama. On some level, a little tension should be expected considering the nature of the show is a competition with a lot of money on the line. At the same time, viewers are most likely unaware that plenty of the drama that unfolds is intentionally set up by producers (via New York Post).

Tek Moore, a former "Hell's Kitchen" contestant who competed in season six, claims that parts of the show are rigged. Moore told NY Post that producers sneak into the kitchen and try to undermine the chefs. By replacing basic ingredients with look-alikes, producers primed the chefs to make humiliating mistakes in front of the camera. So the next time you're watching the show and someone bungles an obvious step, know that it's highly possible they are being sabotaged.

Jen Yemola, another former "Hell's Kitchen" contestant from season three, divulged to NY Post that she was entirely uninitiated in the world of reality television and caught off guard by the phoniness. Double-sided mirrors allowed camera crews to secretly film everything, while Ramsay's responses were guided by producers via an earpiece. Worse, the cast is often running on little food and sleep, creating an edgy atmosphere on set. And while these circumstances might be detrimental to the health of contestants, it also sets up the conditions for explosive exchanges — which makes the show more entertaining for viewers.

Contestants have no contact with the outside world

According to a survey by Reviews, Americans check their phones over 300 times a day, and many people feel a sense of panic when the battery level runs low. It's safe to say that in today's world, our phones are basically an extension of ourselves, functioning as an indispensable tool used to communicate, socialize, eat, shop, learn, and navigate the world. So imagine the sense of dread that "Hell's Kitchen" contestants feel when they realize that all computers, phones, and personal electronics are forbidden during their time on the show (via Delish).

All of this is a concerted effort to prevent contestants from leaking any spoilers about the show while filming is still in progress. Cameras roll for about 14 hours every day and the entire season lasts anywhere from five to six weeks. The executive producers tell Delish that they warn contestants that their normal lives will be put on hold until the season is over — they aren't even allowed to call home or watch television. So, how do the contestants stay in touch with loved ones? They really don't. Chef Ariel Malone competed in 2016 and tells Delish that executive producers touch base with contestants' families to give them updates.

Diners get unlimited free booze and bread

According to the New York Post, all of the diners watching in on the filming get free beer, wine, and bread. Sure, getting free bread at a restaurant is fairly commonplace, but free booze? That's a one-way ticket to party time, especially considering that diners get front row seats to the show.

We're only left to speculate as to why "Hell's Kitchen" has such a generous policy. It could have something to do with the fact that most of the diners are actually friends and family of the production staff, according to an AMA Reddit thread with a previous contestant. The free bread and alcohol may also help provide some temporary relief while diners wait for their food in the kitchen. 

In fact, season 6 contestant Robert Hesse tells the NY Post that diners have to sign off on the fact that they might not actually be served a meal at all. Considering that the process has a tendency to get backed up due to complications (and sabotages) the contestants have to deal with, it seems fair. At the end of the day, you can't really complain about the food taking a while when you can keep munching on bread and hitting the sauce on the house.

Eliminated contestants get a psych evaluation and pampering

Watching the show from home, we don't really get a clear view of the true toll that "Hell's Kitchen" takes on contestants. Between the long hours of filming, sleep deprivation, and being immersed in an intensely competitive environment for the entire world's viewing pleasure, it's safe to say that participants really get put through the ringer psychologically. Which explains why "Hell's Kitchen" softens the blow when contestants are eliminated.

According to a source on set, contestants are taken for a psychiatric evaluation immediately after they've been booted from the show (via New York Post). This is to gauge their mental health as they process the stressful experience of filming under such intense circumstances and deal with the reality of losing the competition. After the psychiatric evaluation, contestants are whisked away for a relaxing stay where they're pampered with massages and other services to help them readjust to normal society again. It's good to know that even if contestants don't win the competition, they still get rewarded with some much deserved downtime.

Diners get paid and eat for free

You have to admit that getting to watch "Hell's Kitchen" live from the dining room must be a pretty cool experience. But eating food prepared by those talented chefs for free? That's next-level awesome. And then actually getting paid money to enjoy all of that food on the house? That's the stuff dreams are made of.

According to the Today Show, diners on "Hell's Kitchen" don't have to pay for their meals. Since the drama on the show can cause major backups in the kitchen and leave guests waiting for long periods of time, giving everyone free food is a good way to make sure they don't complain too much. It's kinda hard to get too upset when you're eating for free. 

To further sweeten the deal, not only do diners get to eat for free, they actually get paid fifty bucks just to be there. The one condition? Diners have to sign a non-disclosure agreement so they don't share anything that happened during the taping of the dinner service. Still, that's a small price to pay for a front row seat on the show, free food, and some extra cash in your pocket.

The dining room is highly exclusive

A sweet deal that involves live entertainment with unlimited booze, free food, and a fifty-dollar bonus just for showing up might have you wanting to get a seat in the dining room for yourself. Unfortunately, landing the enviable experience of being a diner during an episode of "Hell's Kitchen" is less like making a simple reservation and more of a grueling application process. To make matters harder, lots of seats in the dining room are only made available for those lucky enough to have connections to the show's production crew. Unless you're close with someone on the crew, it seems you aren't exactly well-positioned for the privilege of being a diner on the show.

According to Distractify, one way to get yourself in the "Hell's Kitchen" casting pool is to sign up with a casting agency. But even if you do that and the producers are interested, there's a good chance you'll be placed on a waiting list. And you'll stay there ... for years. It turns out that casting agencies are already backed up with tons of people clamoring for a chance to be a diner on the set of "Hell's Kitchen." With a show this popular, it's no wonder fans are willing to wait for years to watch "Hell's Kitchen" live in action.

The contestant interview process takes months

The interview process for most jobs can be somewhat stressful and time-consuming. But have you ever wondered what the contestants go through to be selected for a coveted spot in "Hell's Kitchen?" According to chef Ariel Malone, a contestant on season 15 of "Hell's Kitchen," the interview process is far more involved than most people realize (via Delish).

Malone says that she went through several rounds of interviews over a few months in order for producers to determine whether her qualifications and personality would work with their vision of the show. The first stage of interviewing was through a phone call. Once producers decided Malone had potential, they invited her for an on-camera interview in New York. After that interview went well, Malone was invited for an in-person interview in Los Angeles. 

As Malone tells it, the producers ask a series of questions to get an idea of the contestants' personalities and see if they are quick learners who can easily adapt to change and tricky circumstances. Considering that "Hell's Kitchen" is famous for throwing spontaneous curveballs, it seems important for producers to gauge a potential contestant's resilience and flexibility.

Gordon Ramsey is very different off camera

Gordon Ramsay has become famous all around the world for his caustic brand of biting criticism and talent for pricelessly degrading hopeful chefs for their foolish blunders. But it's worth considering that our perception of Ramsay is carefully curated and filtered through endless hours of editing and guidance from producers. At the end of the day, television is all about successfully entertaining the masses — and producers are well-aware of how effective Ramsay's overblown denunciations are at keeping you glued to the screen. In reality, a number of chefs who have worked with him claim that Ramsay isn't as outrageous as the cameras make him out to be.

According to chef Christina Wilson, the winner of season 10 of "Hell's Kitchen," Ramsay is actually extremely generous, humble, and constructive with his feedback. Wilson suggests that Ramsay is far more compassionate than what you end up seeing on screen, and notes that his demeanor changes based on the situation. For example, Ramsay is far more intense and serious during dinner services than he is in other segments. Chef Kori Sutton, winner of season 19 on "Hell's Kitchen," echoes these sentiments, insisting that Ramsay's outbursts aren't necessarily motivated by anger, but by a genuine passion to see true improvement.

There's a team of back-up chefs to pick up the slack

Any fan of "Hell's Kitchen" knows that some elements are bound to go wrong from time-to-time. That's why when contestants are kicked out of the kitchen or when Ramsay abruptly shuts it all down out of frustration, there's another team of chefs that swoops in to finish cooking so that diners can still be served a proper meal. In a Reddit AMA with Kevin Cottle, a chef who competed in season 6 of "Hell's Kitchen," he reports that there's a backup cooking crew hanging out on the set. This is done in case the kitchen is slammed and the contestants can't keep up — either because they're floundering or have been booted.

So if you've ever wondered what happens to all of that food in the kitchen when Ramsay kicks the team out, now you know. The cameras don't show it, but a crew of chefs specifically hired with the purpose of saving the day come in and finish the job, making sure that everyone is fed.