Hell’s Kitchen has broadcast more than 100 episodes, but still hasn’t gotten the prize structure right. The latest snafu: the UK’s Home Office denied a visa to Season Seven winner Holli Ugalde, so she won’t be able to collect her grand prize—a chef’s job at show host Gordon Ramsay’s The Savoy Grill in London. Wouldn’t you think the producers would think of this detail earlier in the process?
Ratings remain strong for Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen, which cruised past the 100-episode level in the middle of its most recent full season, its seventh. The eighth season is now well underway on Fox, where the show has become a reliable prime time fixture. Because it racks up big ratings, it’s easily the most-watched cooking competition show in history.
Everything is good at Hell’s Kitchen, except the ending.
We’ve reported previously on the switcheroo laid on Season Two winner Heather West (“The Reality: Only The Host Wins on Hell’s Kitchen”) and what happened to Season Six champ Dave Levey (“Hell’s Kitchen Winner Gets Cool Reception Up North”). Now Ramsay has stiffed a third winning chef.
This time, it’s Season Seven victor Holli Ugalde. She and the other contestants battled their way through a series of grueling episodes, with the winner’s prize being identified multiple times on each show as a job as “head chef at London’s Savoy Grill.” Which is also what Ramsay told Ugalde she was going to get on the show’s finale.
So how come we find the 26-year-old Ugalde now living in Beaumont, CA, instead of behind the stoves at London’s iconic Savoy Hotel?
“I was so excited to win the competition, and crushed when told I wasn’t going to the Savoy,” she tells British newspaper The Daily Mail. “But I’m more upset that that I’ve heard nothing from Chef Ramsay. All I’ve seen is his press release saying I’m not going to London after all.”
That’s no way to treat a winner, but the official explanation is that the decision was out of Ramsay’s hands. Blame it on the Home Office, which denied Ugalde a work visa.
Wait a minute, she says.
“My winning season finished filming in February 2009 and Chef Ramsay and his people have had almost two years of planning for this. I would have thought they would have asked me to fill in some paperwork to apply for a visa, but I’ve never once filled in one single piece of paper. I don’t know how the immigration policy works, but I’m betting there’s at least a few forms to fill in. I don’t know if they even applied for my visa.”
Ugalde didn’t come away completely empty handed, receiving a cash prize, amount undisclosed, instead. But there are other considerations.
“I was preparing to move my family for at least a year,” she says. “My six-year-old son Dylan told his friends that he’s going. He’s upset. He’s so embarrassed now that we’re staying in California.”
Ugalde has an agent and a website now (www.chefholliugalde.com) and should go on to have a nice career. Meanwhile, Hell’s Kitchen Season Eight is underway. The grand prize this time is, wouldn’t you know it, “head chef at the L.A. Market at the JW Marriott Hotel at L.A. Live in Los Angeles.” Our advice to the eventual winner: Get it in writing.