The Part Of Hell's Kitchen That Scared Ariel Fox Just As Much The Second Time - Exclusive

Ariel Fox was pumped to take a second crack at "Hell's Kitchen." The first time, she'd left deflated. In Season 6, she'd played it too safe — as she admitted to Hollywood Life – and paid for it with a third-place finish. "I just didn't want to look like a fool or make many mistakes," she reflected. She took the opposite track 12 seasons later and refused to make a dish she'd previously made. It paid off: Gordon Ramsay unlocked Fox's door after Season 18's final dinner service and handed her the keys to his Caesars Palace restaurant.

She didn't accept them, but that's another story. Ramsay, for the record, might be a genuinely stand-up guy in person, but in the kitchen, he's just as fierce as he comes off on screen, according to what Fox once told journalist Steve Adubato. She was undoubtedly prepared for Ramsay's fire going into Season 18. But that first "Hell's Kitchen" dinner service? Not so much. "It is so scary. It was just as scary the second time," Fox copped to Mashed in an exclusive interview. Here's why.

What the first Hell's Kitchen dinner service is really like

According to Ariel Fox, there's not much you can do to prepare for the first dinner service on "Hell's Kitchen," rookie or vet. There are too many complicating factors. First, there are the dishes. "You get this binder and you've got 24 hours to memorize these prep recipes and line recipes," she said. There's not much guidance to be expected, either. "You get this food show where the sous chefs rapid-fire every dish from the menu," Fox explained. "That's it, that's your lesson. Take notes, do what you've got to do, but here it is."

Second, everyone and everything around you is inevitably new. "Everyone's figuring each other out, and you're not used to working in this kitchen, and it's so hot," said Fox. "Those French flat tops are so hot. It's very hard to get used to. [To] anyone who hasn't worked with a French flat top, it's like heat in your face. [There are] new knives that you might not be used to. Everything feels off." 

Finally, Fox explained, you have no idea exactly where you'll end up working. "It's the station assignments that really freaks you out, or [it] freaks me out. It's not knowing where you're working for the night. Mentally, you saw all these plates, but you don't get to find out if you're going to be doing the appetizers or the fish or the steak," she said. "It's that uncertainty, and it changes every night."

Ariel Fox's new book, "Spice Kitchen: Healthy Latin and Caribbean Cuisine" is available for preorder now and will be available wherever books are sold on August 23.