Reddit Dishes On Why Hell's Kitchen Contestants Share A Dirty Habit

If you've ever had a nightmare involving a pan of scallops that refuse to sear, while Gordon Ramsay is yelling in your ear, you likely woke up relieved to learn it was only a dream. Unfortunately, for contestants on "Hell's Kitchen" this isn't merely a film playing in their sleep-addled minds. It is a reality from which there is no escape.

Being a chef in the day-to-day world is no easy job. You spend your day on your feet working with sharp objects, raw foods, fiery frying pans, spitting grease, and slippery floors (via Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety). You have to go from sweating over a hot stove to stocking a walk-in freezer. And those are just the obvious dangers you face. According to Business Matters, an academic study showed that "bullying, violence, and aggressive behavior" were commonplace in Michelin-starred restaurants in North America, the UK, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Factor in the fact that you may have to work seven days per week with up to 14-hour days (via Culinary Lab), and you'll be facing all of these challenges with very little sleep.  

When you consider that the contestants on "Hell's Kitchen" experience all of these things plus the added pressure of being in a competition under the watchful eye of the hot-tempered Ramsay, it's no surprise that some have picked up unhealthy ways to cope. One bad habit, however, drives Gordon Ramsay to distraction and has Reddit talking.

Gordon Ramsay's pet peeve is chefs who smoke

So what is the one habit Gordon Ramsay believes a chef should never adopt? According to the NY Daily News, Gordon Ramsay's biggest issue with today's chefs is their penchant for the cigarette. Why? It destroys the palate and, basically, leaves chefs unable to taste what they cook. When he administers the famous "Hell's Kitchen" taste test, he believes that 90% of those that flunk are either smokers or big drinkers. Despite this threat to their treasured taste buds, when the contestants gather in their dorms, there is always a cloud of cigarette smoke. 

When Reddit user u/malarglitter asked r/HellsKitchen, "Why do almost all of the contestants smoke cigarettes?" it seemed that everyone empathized with the stressed-out chefs, offering reasons for their nicotine addictions. One said that the job is very stressful and smoking gives them a way to de-stress quickly, while another stated it was a coping mechanism for all they have to endure. Perhaps, the best explanation was offered by u/OrangeJuliusPage who said that "the culture of the industry is such that you get short breaks and short times to chat and bond with your coworkers in a relaxed manner, all of which are conducive to smoke breaks."

Yes, it would seem that the reasons provided by the folks at Reddit are all valid, but what do the statistics say about smoking in the restaurant industry? 

Over 25% of food service workers smoke

It is important to show that heavy smoking is not only common among the "Hell's Kitchen" contestants, but it is a problem in the restaurant industry as a whole. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the food service sector has the largest number of smokers with 25.9% suffering from nicotine dependence from 2011-2013.  And according to CBS, the only profession that smokes more are those in construction. While the most recent numbers are, admittedly, a decade old, they still illustrate how rampant this problem is in this industry.

And stress is not the only motivator. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports male employees who take smoke breaks with their managers are promoted more often than those who do not. In the competitive realm of the culinary arts, workers may perceive this opportunity as one worth taking — despite the hazards to their health. Plus, those who smoke tend to get more breaks than non-smokers. After several hot hours inhaling cooking fumes, a cigarette may seem like the perfect opportunity to escape.

No matter what pushes these contestants on "Hell's Kitchen" to reach for a smoke, one bold truth remains. If you had to cook Gordon Ramsay's Beef Wellington recipe to the soundtrack of one of Ramsay's swear-riddled "episodes," you might feel pretty stressed too.