Hell's Kitchen: Who Is The Most Successful Winner In The Competition's History?

Viewers of top cooking show "Hell's Kitchen" know that the long-running reality competition series justifies its ominous title. Each season, up-and-comers in the restaurant industry compete for a cash prize and a job as an executive chef. Doing so means completing culinary challenges under considerable stress, intensified plenty by the ever-present threat of host Gordon Ramsay's notorious outbursts.

In the end just one competitor comes out victorious, so there are only as many winners as there are "Hell's Kitchen" seasons. However, while this may be an exclusive club, earning Ramsay's approval in that coveted first-place spot doesn't necessarily guarantee success. Of course, demonstrating the wherewithal to come out on top of a strenuous televised competition makes for as good of a good starting point as any. With that in mind, these are the chefs whose career trajectories in the wake of "Hell's Kitchen" arguably make them the five most successful winners in the show's history.

5. Scott Commings

Scott Commings won "Hell's Kitchen" Season 12 and landed the Head Chef position at Gordon Ramsay's Pub & Grill, which is located in the Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas. Commings told Eater Vegas that he had never visited Vegas prior to moving there to start working at Ramsay's restaurant. However, he apparently took a liking to the city and remains a part of its restaurant scene to this day.

In 2016, Commings started working as Head Chef at a brunch-focused restaurant called Freedom Beat located in the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino located near downtown Vegas' Fremont Street. Two years later he teamed up with a fellow local chef to open up another brunch spot called The Stove. Today he also works as Executive Chef at Lake Las Vegas, a large lakeside community comprised of homes, hotels, and businesses. Beyond these and other ventures he's undertaken as a chef, he's likewise helped run a few different hospitality management companies like Hospitality Alliance and 34th Floor Hospitality. 

Commings' success on "Hell's Kitchen," then, helped him transition into a thriving career as a pillar of the hospitality industry that helps maintain Vegas' reputation as an international tourist destination.

4. Rahman Rock Harper

Longtime "Hell's Kitchen" fans will remember Rahman "Rock" Harper as the first-place winner of the show's third season. Prior to his reality TV stardom, Harper had already made a name for himself in the restaurant business at various Washington, D.C. kitchens before working his way up to a gig as Executive Chef and Assistant General Manager at B. Smith Restaurant Group.

For winning "Hell's Kitchen," Harper earned the Head Chef position at Terra Verde Restaurant in the Green Valley Ranch Resort and Spa, located in the city of Henderson neighboring Las Vegas proper. After working there for just under a year, Harper returned to D.C. and held lead positions at various restaurants like Ben's Next Door and Willie's Brew 'n Que Restaurant. Eventually he opened his very own fried chicken spot called Queen Mother's Restaurant and later bought a bar called Hill Prince in 2023.

Harper also worked as a culinary educator at Virginia's Stratford University and trained students at a nonprofit organization called DC Central Kitchen. Furthermore, in 2010 he authored a book titled "44 Things Parents Should Know About Healthy Cooking for Kids." He also earned a spot as a James Beard Award finalist in the Mid-Atlantic region among just 16 other Best Chef candidates in 2023.

3. Ariel Contreras-Fox

After winning "Hell's Kitchen" Season 18, Ariel Contreras-Fox earned herself the Head Chef position at Gordon Ramsay Hell's Kitchen restaurant located in the Caesar's Palace hotel. However, Contreras-Fox turned down her "Hell's Kitchen" prize — although she didn't cut dies with Ramsay altogether, opting simply to work with the Hell's Kitchen restaurant on events rather than as a full-time lead.

Now Contreras-Fox's main gig is as a vice president for the Del Frisco's and Del Frisco's Grille restaurant chains. Both Del Frisco's and its Grille counterpart are different shades of high-end steakhouse concepts with locations throughout the U.S. under the massive Landry's Inc. umbrella.

In 2022, meanwhile, Contreras-Fox published a cookbook titled "Spice Kitchen: Healthy Latin and Caribbean Cuisine." She's also returned to the world of reality competition TV in the wake of her big win, appearing as a guest judge on "Beat Bobby Flay" and even showing up as an advisor on an episode of "Hell's Kitchen" Season 20. More than most of her fellow winners, then, Contreras-Fox is successful on the national level, both through her subsequent TV work and her executive position with two national restaurant chains.

2. Christina Machamer

"Hell's Kitchen" Season 4 wound up with an unlikely winner when Christina Machamer ended up with its top prize. Of the contestants that season, Machamer was the least experienced, drawing principally from a background as a culinary student rather than work in active kitchens like her competitors. Her prize was a spot at Gordon Ramsay's The London West Hollywood restaurant, though she wound up as Executive Sous Chef rather than Executive Chef.

"Here's the thing. I'm in culinary school. Do I know what it takes to be an exec chef? Yes. Do I have it yet? No. For me, being where I am, I know it's not the right position for me. I know if [Ramsay] wants me to excel, he will put me where he wants to see that happen," she told Eater LA after her "Hell's Kitchen" win.

What makes this gig notable is the fact that the Michelin Guide awarded The London West Hollywood a Michelin Star in 2008 while Machamer was still working there, making her the only winner with a Michelin Star pedigree. Her next major milestone was working alongside chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry fame to open Bouchon Bistro in Beverly Hills. Since then, Machamer has made a name for herself in Napa Valley's wine industry after earning her sommelier certification. There she operates her own events and catering business called Clandestine Table.

1. Christina Wilson

Christina Wilson, who earned the first place spot on "Hell's Kitchen" Season 10, is undeniably the most successful winner in the show's decades-long history. For her win she became Chef de Cuisine at Gordon Ramsay Steak located in the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. What makes Wilson's ensuing career unique is the fact that she not only remained a part of Gordon Ramsay's restaurant empire, but worked her way up to an important position behind the scenes of Ramsay's businesses.

First, from 2015 to 2020, Wilson worked as Culinary Director of Gordon Ramsay Restaurants US. Then she transitioned to a gig as VP Culinary with Gordon Ramsay North America, which she maintains to this day. She also appears frequently on "Hell's Kitchen" as a sous chef and maintains a sizable following on social media. Having risen from a humble "Hell's Kitchen" contestant to a cornerstone of Ramsay's expansive range of culinary businesses, then, Wilson's career trajectory serves as an example of the potential for a win on "Hell's Kitchen" to blossom into long-term success on a national scale.