Gordon Ramsay is one of the best chefs around, and also one of the most popular thanks to his many television competition series, including Masterchef and Masterchef Junior, 24 Hours to Hell and Back, and, of course, Hell’s Kitchen.
Hell’s Kitchen rose to popularity after airing in 2005, a year after the U.K. version debuted, thanks to Ramsay’s foul-mouthed way of dealing with contestants. Season after season, he is seen screaming expletives, throwing raw pieces of chicken against the wall, and calling competitors “donkeys” or telling them to “wake up” as he tosses what they try to pass off for food in the trash.
Through its 18 seasons thus far, with a 19th planned for this year to be filmed at the new Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Las Vegas, there have been many fantastic and deserving winners, some of whom continue to work at Ramsay’s restaurants.
But who have been the best? Here’s a ranking of the top 10.
10 Michael Wray
It seems fitting that we kick off the list with the original winner of season 1 of the series. Somewhat of an underdog, the tattooed bad boy wowed his competitors and Ramsay with his tremendous talent and palette.
While he had the opportunity to work with Ramsay as part of his prize, he declined due to family reasons, and served as head chef at the Standard in Los Angeles, after which he ran a knife company and taught cooking. Sadly, he has since fallen on hard times, outlining his struggles with drugs and addiction, divorce, and the loss of his newborn child in a GoFundMe page looking to raise money for a second chance.
9 Heather West
The season 2 winner, she was strong, confident, and instantly singled out as a leader. Consistent in her cooking and with a bubbly and funny personality, to boot, it’s no wonder she took home the top prize, even at her young age of just 25 at the time.
She went on to work as executive chef at the Terra Rossa Restaurant at Red Rock Resort Spa and Casino in Las Vegas. She even returned in season 6 to serve as a sous chef for the red team.
8 Danny Veltri
Cocky and arrogant, the 23-year-old Veltri rubbed a lot of people, including Ramsay, the wrong way. But once he got over his own ego (sort of), he quickly emerged to be open to learning and show his true talent to back up the attitude. And that eventually led him to a win in season 5.
Veltri was awarded with the job of sous chef at Fornellotto at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City. He went on to start his own catering company and work at a local bar and grill.
7 Kimberly-Ann Ryan
From season 16, this 29-year-old won the top prize, and managed to snag the head chef job at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian in Las Vegas. Funny and consistent with a great attitude, it took her a while to find her stride and voice. But when she did, Ryan was unstoppable.
At last check, she’s still working at Yardbird, and continues to be a positive role model to women as she was on the series. On HK, she constantly made it clear that she was competing for her daughter, who was 4 years old at the time, and wanted to show her that you don’t have to hate your job, but can genuinely love what you do.
6 Scott Commings
Any winner who gets a job at one of Ramsay’s namesake restaurant is worthy of being considered among the best. And Commings, 36 at the time, was given an illustrious position of head chef at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas.
Not afraid to take risks and with an impeccable palette, these qualities, and his desire to always uphold high standards, is what drove him to a win in season 12. He got off to a rough start, facing elimination more than once. But he is considered to be one of the biggest comeback chefs of the series to date.
5 Christina Machamer
One of the few winners with her own Wikipedia page, Machamer, now 37, won the fourth season of the series when she was just 25. She fought her way to the top as one of the least experienced chefs in the competition. But she also showed that she had the most potential.
After her win, Machamer began work as senior sous chef at Ramsay’s new London West Hollywood restaurant. She remained there until the restaurant was sold back to LVR hotel, after which she studied wine in Napa Valley and began working at Bouchon in Beverly Hills. She eventually relocated to Napa Valley where she works at B Cellars and manages the Caldwell Vineyard.
4 Rahman “Rock” Harper
Emerging as a strong chef right from the get-go, Harper, 30, was consistent and focused. He was prone to angry outburst, but that didn’t hinder his performance.
His natural abilities led to his win in season 3, after which he became head chef at the Terra Verde restaurant at the Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa near Las Vegas. He went on to work as an executive chef at Ben’s Next Door in Washington, and even wrote a book, 44 Things Parents Should Know About Healthy Cooking for Kids. Additionally, he taught a course at Stratford University, proving that those who can do, can also teach.
3 Dave Levey
Considering the guy rocked out a win after having to cook using one hand for most of the season, Levey is undisputedly one of the best winners of the series. He fractured his wrist early on and his arm was put in a sling, but he decided to keep going in the competition, and it was mesmerizing to watch him do laps around competitors despite this handicap. Taking home the trophy back in season 6 at age 32, he didn’t let his injury stop him.
Called the “One-Armed Bandit” by Ramsay, he continued to work furiously and through immense pain to get things done, never missing a beat. He went on to work at Araxi Restaurant & Bar in Whistler, BC during the 2010 Winter Olympics, but was given al line cook position instead of head chef. He moved back to his home state of New Jersey shortly after.
2 Michelle Tribble
If you’ve ever had the distinct pleasure of being able to eat at Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurant at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, you know that if Tribble was given the head chef job there, she earned every penny of her winnings and all of the recognition for being able to serve up such delectable food that meet's Ramsay's strict standards.
One of the most recent winners, she appeared both in season 14 where she came third and again on season 17 when she finally took home the top prize. Despite being young and inexperienced (26 when she won), she proved herself competent and strong.
1 Christina Wilson
Winning in season 10, the then 32-year-old has been a close collaborator of both Ramsay and the show since her win. She served as the head chef at Gordon Ramsay Steak in Paris Las Vegas then became executive at Gordon Ramsay Burger in Planet Hollywood Casino in Vegas. She also returned as a sous chef for the red team on seasons 15, 17, and 18, and has appeared on other Ramsay series, including Hotel Hell and 24 Hours to Hell and Back.
Being forced to deal with drama, fights, and aggressive players during her season, Wilson kept a cool head and focused on what was important, which was showcasing her talent, consistent cooking, and effective leadership. It paid off as she went home victorious not only through winning the show, but also working with Ramsay on these many other ventures.