For winning “Hell’s Kitchen” this past season, the winner received what has to be a pretty special opportunity: Getting to work in the Head Chef position at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Las Vegas, Nevada, with a $250,000 salary attached to it. While there have been times where a “Head Chef” is hardly running the kitchen in certain restaurants (we’ve heard a few stories over the years), the reality is also that several recent winners, in particular Nona and Christina , are still employed at the establishments in which they were sent to after winning the show. In the end, it typically remains a win-win for these chefs to continue working at a place where they will be recognized, and the restaurants like the extra publicity.
And now, we turn to Ja’Nel Witt, who will be the first chef since Holli back in season 7 not actually work in the restaurant in which she was meant to following her time on the show. Why? The answer depends on who you believe.
The story broke earlier this afternoon, when the show announced in a statement via ITV studios that Ja’Nel was not accepting the job at Ramsay’s Vegas restaurant, citing personal reasons:
“The team at “Hell’s Kitchen” was incredibly excited about Ja’Nel Witt’s season win, and her opportunity to move in to a head chef position at Gordon Ramsay Pub&Grill in Vegas. Recent unforeseen personal circumstances will now unfortunately prevent her from accepting the position, which is a huge disappointment for Ja’Nel and all of us. She’s an incredible talent, and we all wish her much success with the next chapter of her career.”
However, things got much more interesting a few hours later, when TMZ claimed that Ja’Nel did not earn the position after Caesar’s Palace, home of Ramsay’s restaurant, determined that she had failed a drug test after testing positive for cocaine. It is reported that she is still expected to receive the $250,000 salary that she got for winning the show. This simple fact here in the end makes this story both strange and a little sketchy, mostly because we don’t understand how there could not be a clause in the contract that states that there are only certain reasons you can turn down the position.
Finally, we turn to Ja’Nel herself, who posted the message on Twitter an hour after the TMZ report suggesting that it could be inaccurate:
“Thank you for the kind words, and the rumors are very entertaining, but I won’t address the negativity or ridiculous headlines #celebstatus”
Okay, so that hastag is a little self-indulgent, no? The idea of all of this happening is surprising to us, given we’ve done over 100 “Hell’s Kitchen” interviews over the years (including a few crazies), and we thought that Ja’Nel seemed to be one of the most level-headed people out there. But, we also suspect that TMZ also didn’t pull their story out of their rear.
So take all of the reports with a grain of salt, but what you should really know for now is that if you go to Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill on vacation in Vegas, don’t expect Ja’Nel to cook for you.