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Hell's Kitchen Contestants You Might Not Know Passed Away

For more than 20 seasons and 300 episodes, "Hell's Kitchen" has proven to be a wildly-popular reality TV show focusing on a group of aspiring chefs who compete for a huge cash prize and position as head chef at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants. Throughout each season, the competitors are subjected to various challenges — from preparing their own signature dish to participating in blind taste tests to doing a whole dinner service — to prove to Ramsay that they have what it takes.

While "Hell's Kitchen" had previously existed in the United Kingdom, it was the American version of the show that exposed the world to Gordon Ramsay and his fiery temper. In fact, there's even a strong case to be made that his near-constant barrage of profanities and insults is in itself a challenge competitors must endure, as well. As one would expect, Ramsay's explosive outbursts have led to all kinds of drama and personality clashes on the show, which only makes it all the more addicting.

Going strong since 2005, "Hell's Kitchen" was recently renewed for its 21st and 22nd seasons, so there are plenty more food and F-bombs to look forward to. 

But while the show has done much to popularize the art of cooking, it has also had some tragedy associated with it. Several memorable series personalities have died since contending for a chance to become a renowned chef, many you might not know about. With that in mind, below are some "Hell's Kitchen" contestants you might not know passed away.

Rachel Brown (Season 2)

From her very first appearance on "Hell's Kitchen," Rachel Brown made an impression. 

"I am proud to be a redneck," was one of her more memorable quotes, making the proud declaration before Gordon Ramsay criticized her butterfly shrimp in chocolate sauce. "I don't have to be the big dog, but I'm not gonna let anybody run over me."

After some strong performances early on, Rachel faltered on several dishes, having trouble with the risotto, leaving bones and wing on a quail, and overcooking Beef Wellingtons during service. Rachel nominated herself for elimination in Episode 4, but was given one more chance by Gordon. But her time on the show didn't last much longer, as she was then eliminated in Episode 5, which was particularly hard on teammate Heather West, as the two had grown close over their dislike of Sara Horowitz.

Before Rachel left, she told Heather that she hoped Heather would win if Rachel had to go home. However, Rachel returned for the final service when Heather got to draft a team of previously eliminated competitors. Heather ended up winning, which was all the more heartwarming considering Rachel's words to her before going home.

Unfortunately, Rachel has the sad distinction of being the first competitor on the show to pass away. Rachel Virginia Lianne Brown died on Wednesday, May 9, 2007 in Dallas from a gunshot wound, with her death being ruled a suicide by a representative of the Tarrant County medical examiner's office.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Keith Greene (Season 2)

Keith Greene, aka "K-Grease," made an unusual first impression on Gordon Ramsay at the beginning of his season; as Gordon is looking over the competitors' profiles before meeting them in person, he's immediately startled by the boisterous confidence on display in Keith's picture, exclaiming "Oh dear. Slightly demented." Keith didn't do much to win over Gordon when he presented his signature dish, "Cha-Ching" sesame crusted tuna; in addition to being hilariously confused by the "Cha-Ching," Gordon then had Keith remove his and promptly dumped the dish's copious toppings into it.

During some of the services he cooked his dishes perfectly and stepped up to make sure his teammates were doing their jobs correctly, which Gordon complimented him on. However, there were plenty of missteps on his part as well, including handling rice with his hands, not pulling up his trousers during a service, and for displaying poor leadership and a hostile attitude. He was eliminated in the ninth episode, but he did return for the final service as part of a team picked by finalist Virginia Dalbeck.

Keith passed away at the age of 35 on August 15, 2012. His cause of death is drowning; he went for a swim at Wyandanch Beach before he was found face down in the surf by a father and his daughter. Having grown up in the restaurant business, Keith was the head chef at Schmidt's Seafood Market in North Sea and Schmidt's Market in Southampton Village at the time of his death.

Aaron Song (Season 3)

Aaron Song started off his time on "Hell's Kitchen" confusing Gordon with his cowboy outfit. However, he was able to save face a tad with his signature dish, which Gordon generally liked, except for the needless garnishes. Things only got worse for Aaron, though, when he started crying from the stress of their first service in front of Gordon and the other competitors. While he did eventually regain his composure, service had to be delayed.

In the third episode, both teams were challenged to make breakfast for members of the Army and the Navy, with the male team losing, largely due to Aaron's struggles preparing omelets. While the female team got to enjoy their reward in the form of a helicopter ride and a meal with Gordon aboard the USS Midway, the male team was punished with preparing a thousand pounds of potatoes and onions for a military base. This was when Aaron fainted from the strain of the task and was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where Gordon called Aaron to tell him that, because of his condition, he could no longer participate in the show.

Aaron Song passed away on November 30, 2010 due to complications with diabetes at the age of 51. His illness and death were tragic, but he was always kind and lovable towards those around him. He made a cameo in the first episode of Season 6, where he gave the competitors some sage advice: "There's no crying in Hell's Kitchen."

Louis Petrozza (Season 4)

Louis Petrozza will go down in "Hell's Kitchen" history as being one of the sweetest competitors the show has ever had, and the fact that he finished in second place in a contest that inspires plenty of backstabbing and manipulation proves that nice guys don't always finish last. Another one of Louis' more memorable qualities was his habit of always having a messy workspace, which really just makes him all the more relatable.

His time on the show got off to a ... less than auspicious start, what with his Cornish-game-hen-stuffed-in-a-pumpkin confusing Gordon Ramsay more than impressing him. Things didn't improve much after that as, in Episode 2, he was faced with the possibility of elimination for his inability to remember the appetizers to be served that night, undercooking a steak, and getting several orders mixed up. However, his performance in the kitchen improved, and for the first time in "Hell's Kitchen" history Gordon declared both teams winners for their successful completion of Episode 5's service. Even when the stakes increased and tensions rose during the middle of the season, Louis never lost his humility, even nominating himself for elimination, which impressed Gordon enough to eliminate Ben Caylor instead.

Louis Petrozza died on November 15, 2019 from complications with lung cancer. He had the unique distinction of being not only the oldest competitor of the season, but also the oldest contestant to make it to the black jackets, as well as the oldest finalist on "Hell's Kitchen."

Jessica Vogel (Season 12)

Jessica Vogel made a strong debut in the first episode of Season 12; during the signature dish challenge, she was one of the last two competitors to be judged by Gordon Ramsay, and her rosemary-crusted venison loin with goat cheese polenta helped her team win and marked the third consecutive season that the female team won the signature dish challenge. Her win was particularly special, as it also happened to be on her birthday.

Season 12 was the first to feature the "Cook For Your Life" challenge; instead of the teams participating in a dinner service in the middle of the season, each competitor instead would be called into a private meeting with Gordon where he would assess their progress so far and ask them who they think is the weakest chef on their team. The chef with the most votes from each team then must partake in a challenge to determine whether they'll be eliminated or be allowed to stay. For this season, Jessica and Richard Mancini received the most votes from their teammates, and were given 30 minutes each to cook three dishes — risotto, scallops, and halibut — that were then judged by Gordon. Jessica lost the challenge for undercooking the lobster in the risotto and overcooking the halibut, and became the first competitor to be eliminated from the "Cook For Your Life" challenge.

Jessica Vogel passed away on July 30, 2018 when her heart gave out while being treated for chronic inflammatory bowel disease.

Paulie Giganti (Season 16)

Paulie Giganti was one of the more inconsistent competitors on "Hell's Kitchen," performing fairly well during challenges but having trouble when it came to participating in services; he was nominated for elimination multiple times, but nevertheless managed to make it to fourth place. His time on the show got off to a strong start when he impressed Gordon Ramsay with his biscotti-crusted scallops over a crispy polenta with a basil curry cream sauce in the Signature Dish Challenge, becoming the first male contestant ever to score a perfect five on the new format of this challenge.

However, the rest of his time on the show was marked by numerous mistakes, including serving raw bass, burning scallops, cooking too many risottos too early, and more. This all came to a head in Episode 9 when, after Paulie sent up a raw lamb during service, Gordon flew into a rage and sent out him and his team, marking their series-record sixth time ejected from the kitchen. After more shaky performances, Paulie was eliminated by Gordon for his unreliability, arrogant behavior, and inability to own up to his mistakes.

Paulie Giganti died of an accidental drug overdose on Thursday, April 20, 2017. While his time on "Hell's Kitchen" was fraught with countless ups and downs, he had no regrets about it, stating, "I'll look back on things with a smile. The whole experience was a good life experience. I was happy to do it, and it was cool."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Genaro Delillo (Season 16)

Genaro Delillo failed to blow Gordon Ramsay away with his duck breast dish during the Signature Dish challenge (Gordon said Genaro completely "ducked up" his dish). Life didn't get much better for Genaro on "Hell's Kitchen" as he, along with Matt Hearn, got kicked out of the kitchen during the service challenge for sending up an overcooked and an undercooked sea bass. While Genaro was considered for nomination during his team's deliberation, he was not nominated and was able to stick around a bit longer.

In Episode 2 of Season 16, the men's team performed so badly during service that Gordon kicked them out of the kitchen to let the women's team take over. This was the men's team's second time in a row getting kicked out by Gordon, and their punishment was largely due to Genaro sending up raw New York strip steaks twice. Genaro and Aaron Smock were both nominated for elimination, with Genaro ultimately getting picked by Gordon for his poor performance in the kitchen and a general lack of passion. However, Genaro still thought he was the winner in his own mind, stating: "I know I'm a good cook and my fiancée knows I'm a great chef, and I tried. You know, that's all that we can ever do. I'm a winner in my eyes."

Genaro passed away unexpectedly at the age of 32 on August 7th, 2020.