Alex Belew has made history as Hell’s Kitchen’s oldest winner, but it turns out that all of his punishments may have just helped him to win the competition.
Cooking in a new kitchen with a team of strangers duking it out to win the competition, not to mention competing in a variety of out-of-the-box challenges, all while being berated by the notoriously sharp-tongued chef, Gordon Ramsay, in the middle of a dinner service, is certainly not easy.
But Hell’s Kitchen season 21 threw yet another spanner in the works by pitting a group of 40-somethings against a group of 20-somethings in a battle between the ages.
What helped Alex to win season 21?
Many fans discounted the restaurant owner, Alex Belew, early on in this season, given the fact that he was much older than any of the previous Hell’s Kitchen winners and probably ended up facing more punishments than any other chef in Hell’s Kitchen history. But it turns out that this may have been the secret to his eventual success.
Obviously, Alex’s more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry helped him at many points both inside and outside of the kitchen.
But according to Alex, his many, many punishments may have actually carried him all the way to the end.
Alex actually shared in an interview with Flynn Masters that while he understands the drive to win the rewards, leaving the kitchen can really take a chef’s mind off the competition.
As a result, having to work all of those punishments may have just kept him focused enough to get through every new dish and to ultimately double-down with his signature southern cooking style.
Alex’s run on Hell’s Kitchen
Alex’s run on Hell’s Kitchen season 21 can only be described as a rollercoaster ride. And although he was in the losing team six times, he still managed to come out on top in the end, as follows:
|Season 21 episode||Alex’s progress|
|Episode 1||Best of the Best|
How Alex got cast on season 21
If you have been keeping up with all of the behind-the-scenes Hell’s Kitchen lore, then you will know that Alex had actually applied for season 13 of Hell’s Kitchen back in 2014.
And while Alex confirmed that he went pretty far in the interview-stages of this first round, he was apparently cut because the production team thought that he was “too nice”.
However, by the time that season 21’s casting rolled around, Alex decided to fill out a one-page application for the show, in which he confirmed that he was ready to be less nice in this season.
He received a call back from the Hell’s Kitchen production team almost immediately.
So it seems like the ten years of life-experience between his first application and his second is what ultimately got him cast in season 21 (alongside the medical tests, questionnaires, interviews and screen-tests, of course).
Alex’s take on Gordon Ramsay
Having Gordon Ramsay scream at you for months while you are filming one of his shows must be incredibly difficult.
But it seems like Alex genuinely appreciates all of the things that Ramsay taught him during the five months that they filmed for the series.
In fact, Alex shared with Gold Derby’s Denton Davidson that Ramsay was so busy managing both the red and blue kitchens during their season that he would often teach him two different ways to complete a dish.
This is because he had forgotten the first lesson by the time he returned to Alex’s kitchen during service.
Alex’s plans for the future
Whilst Alex is likely still on cloud nine following his victory, this established chef had been struggling before he signed up for the season.
Alex has been fairly open about the fact that he was feeling unfulfilled creatively before he signed up for Hell’s Kitchen season 21, as he had been forced to shut down his restaurant and convert it to a meal-prep company in 2020.
Alex even decided to sell the restaurant just days before heading to Las Vegas for the series.
However, Alex has broken out of this rut completely and now balances his part-time role at the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant with special pop-ups and media events throughout the country.
Alex has also actually teased the idea that he may be returning to our television screens sooner than expected, with some sort of show which combines music and food.