On September 10th, Fox’s hit cooking competition show, Hell’s Kitchen ended its tenth season with Philly native Christina Wilson named as the winner of the season. Chef Gordon Ramsay chose Wilson over Justin Antiorio to become head chef of Gordon Ramsay Steak inside of the Las Vegas Strip casino, Paris. Chef Christina Wilson’s strong performance and leadership skills throughout the season is what ensured her victory on Hell’s Kitchen. I was able to secure an interview with Chef Wilson through her publicist and girlfriend, Sara Ann Kelly. In the interview, Chef Wilson talks about her impressions of her fellow competitors in the competition, insights on Chef Ramsay, what excites her about being in Las Vegas and more.
Early on, you showed that you were a strong contender. What were your impressions of your fellow contestants when you first met them? Did any of them surprise you or challenge your first impression of them?
I was slightly intimidated that first day of filming. We came in, had 45 minutes to cook our signature dish in a foreign kitchen with 8 other people fighting for position and equipment. It was difficult, but looking back I’m glad I was smart enough to know to keep my dish simple and to actually cook a ‘signature’ dish, not something that I had never cooked before. I was mostly intimidated when we were introduced to Chef Ramsay. I was the very last of 18 contestants to present my dish and had listened to resumes that sounded pretty impressive. They all talked a really good game and had titles from executive chef to chef instructor to owners of their own business. Turns out, I was the only one who didn’t attend culinary school. At that point, I saw it as a disadvantage. It wasn’t until about a week into the competition that I realized it was actually one of my strengths. I have little to no ego in the kitchen and am always looking to learn something new. I let my work ethic speak for itself and otherwise don’t feel the need to prove anything. On a personal level, many of them surprised me. I didn’t expect the drama in the dorms to find it’s way into the kitchen. I had never been around that many women in a living or working environment before so it was disheartening to see how negatively they could act towards one another. Although, I do think the majority of those reactions were a product of the extremely stressful environment the show created.On a professional level, Dana really surprised me. She had never really worked the line before so to see her adapt to that system so quickly was amazing to watch. She has such finesse in plating and her flavor affinities are right on. On the blue side, Guy was really impressive to me and I was surprised he was cut so soon. He is actually probably one of the most successful of my castmates coming off the show. He spent time running his father’s kosher catering company, even employing runner-up Justin after the season wrapped filming, before opening his first restaurant Beyond Sushi. His sushi restaurant in the Union Square section of New York City is doing extremely well and I believe is still holding strong as favorite sushi in NYC on yelp.com.
Chef is one of the most gracious and humble people I have ever met. He is a natural mentor and extremely magnetic. There is something about him that makes you just want to be in his presence. And it has nothing to do with the 27 restaurants, 7 TV shows and all the accolades he has acquired throughout his career. He is just a good person. Period. I am so grateful to be working with his team and to see that he truly is involved with the restaurant in Vegas. He checks in about once a month to make sure the standards are being met and to see if there is anything that needs to be adjusted to maintain a positive work environment. He’s also incredibly funny; he has a very British sense of humor and charm. Again, it is just wonderful and inspiring to be around him.
Sara has had her hands full as she is my publicist as well. It’s been an adjustment for sure, but I think we are handling it the best way we know how. We are both on the same page in that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, not only for me, but for her and her PR firm as well. Right now we both have to concentrate on making the most of the platform we are currently on. Unfortunately, sometimes putting your career first means that your personal life takes a hit. It doesn’t feel great, but for now it’s necessary. Sara has been fortunate to pick up some new contracts back in Philly, so she isn’t able to join me just yet. She is also being my rock and taking care of my house and cat while I get set up out here. It’s only been a month so hopefully I’ll be all settled by Thanksgiving and we can revisit our plan around then.
Vegas is more of a culinary playground than I ever imagined. The strip is full of Michelin stars and I couldn’t ask for a better place to start this new chapter in my career. I have moved out of the hotel and about 25 minutes off the strip. Being near the mountains has definitely been a good move. It keeps me humble and my mind at ease being around nature. The strip is quite the sensory overload if you spend too much time there.I miss a lot about Philly. I miss the tight knit restaurant scene, I miss autumn on the east coast, my cat, dive bars and late night talks with close friends, the subway and riding my bicycle to work. I miss the simplicity, grittiness and blue collarness of Philadelphia. Everything out here is excessive, but I guess that’s the allure of it all. I’d give anything to be able to go out for a nice meat and cheese plate with good friends, wake up the next day, ride my bike to a dark bar, drink beer from a can and watch football in a smoke free environment.