MSU alumna wins latest season of Hell's Kitchen
MSU alumna and Hell’s Kitchen contestant Kimberly Ryan stood behind the door that would determine her destiny during the show's season finale.
During the episode, which aired on Feb. 2, the two remaining contestants out of 18 each stood behind a door, one opened and one didn’t. The one that opened also opened new opportunities, which included a head chef position at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian Las Vegas.
After what seemed like forever, Ryan nervously turned the doorknob and opened the door to her future. She became the winner of Hell’s Kitchen season 16.
Ryan is originally from Traverse City, where she became fascinated with cooking at a young age.
“I got into it kind of late in high school and it kind of wasn’t an option for me with my family,” Ryan said. “They didn’t really think that culinary school was the best option for me and that I needed to go get a proper real education.”
To obtain that proper education, Ryan started at MSU in 2003 and studied hospitality business. During her time at MSU, Ryan said she paid for her rent one year by cooking for her roommates every day.
“I love MSU and I did get a real education, but I kind of always felt like I was just going through the motions and all of my other friends had a plan,” Ryan said.
From feeling like she did not have a plan to being the winner of Hell’s Kitchen, Ryan has defied all odds.
Hell’s Kitchen finished taping at the end of December 2014, she said. She had to spend almost two years keeping her big win secret from the public.
“It was hard ... I had to put my life on hold for almost two years,” Ryan said. “I didn’t really watch the show so I didn’t really know what to expect at all even going out there. I didn’t want to be the first person sent home and then every week I was like, ‘OK, wait a second maybe I actually have a shot here.’”
During the show, Ryan spent countless hours cooking competitively among the 18 contestants. She was challenged with dishes that included everything from dinners to desserts. She also had to deal with the stress of head chef Gordon Ramsay and his harsh behavior in the kitchen.
“I have worked for a lot of chefs like him though and it doesn’t really phase me as long as I am not being insulted or called a name,” Ryan said. “Outside the kitchen he is very great. He is a really really awesome guy. I am pretty sure he is a robot. I don’t think he sleeps. He has shows, a million restaurants and it is really cool to learn from someone who has really built such a mogul.”
Ryan said she worked to set herself apart from the rest of the contestants early in the competition.
“I really tried to cook with a lot of flavor and never do anything plain,” Ryan said. “I just tried to stay out of the drama. I wasn't there to be a reality star, I wasn’t there to get screen time, I was basically there for a job interview ... I am super super shy like I am in the kitchen for a reason ... I tried to let my cooking do the talking for me.”
Ryan said she has been spending a lot of time with her family before her big move to Las Vegas for her new job. As a single mom with two kids, she said she is nervous to move.
“I have never been able to travel, but this paycheck that they are offering me I finally have a chance to justify it and to kind of pick up my family and move out there,” Ryan said.
Ryan encouraged students to pursue their dreams even if they might seem impossible.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat, I mean especially with some of the chefs we got to meet and things we got to cook, I would never be able to experience any of that,” Ryan said. “Overall it was a really fun experience and it proved a lot to myself that I shouldn’t second guess myself or doubt myself.”