Winning a season of "Hell’s Kitchen" doesn’t come naturally, and anyone who has made an appearance on the show can attest that it takes a ton of hard work to make it into the final round. Meghan Gill had the perfect combination of skill and dedication that helped her win Season 14 of Gordon Ramsay’s iconic cooking competition. This chef, who cut her teeth in the kitchen when she was 19 years old, studied French cooking techniques at L’Academie de Cuisine and worked at a top D.C. restaurant before making an appearance on "Hell’s Kitchen" (via Dormie Network).
After coming out as the Season 14 winner, Gill eventually went on to work as a chef for the Dormie Network, a U.S. network of golf clubs that offers up a luxury experience. Through this role, Gill continues to craft mouthwatering dishes built on the experiences she gained competing under the gaze of Gordon Ramsay. The iconic chef sat down with Mashed in an exclusive interview and delved into what "Hell’s Kitchen" looked like behind the scenes, what Gordon Ramsay was actually like, and her favorite pranks she played on the show.
What Gordon Ramsay was actually like
What was it like working with Gordon Ramsay?
Well, I’ve worked in that environment before, so I kind of knew what to expect. The kitchen brigade, even the way it’s set up, I had worked on a line like that before. Most cooks haven’t or chefs haven’t, so that was probably a big learning curve for them. But working with Gordon, it was just like … I mean, it’s professional, so you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, and you’re a wheel in the machine.
I want to say it was … What’s that word? Reassuring … Yeah. Reassuring that all that work that I had put in for all those years in training and stuff, that it was right. I did the right thing. Putting food up and him being like, "Yeah. Good job," was like, "Okay, I know what I’m doing." So it was kind of that reassurance that sometimes you just need, and it helped me throughout the rest of my career.
Meghan Gill’s heartfelt interaction with Gordon Ramsay
The pressure, I guess, was getting to me, and we had lost a bunch of things and we lost a bunch of tech challenges, and I was on the girl’s team and I took him into the dry stock, and I just lost it. I was like, "I’m not doing this anymore. I’m sending myself home." Went through the roof. And then later on that service, Chef Andy came up to me, and she taps me on the shoulder and she’s like, "Chef wants to see you."
And I was like, "What? Do I have to go?" She’s like, "Yes. Go." And she pushes me. I’m like, "Oh my God, this is going to be crazy." And I get in there and he’s like, "Look. You know what you’re doing. I trust you. I believe in you. Do what you do. I want to see it. You’re holding back. I want to see it." And I was like, "Okay." And as we’re walking out, he pats me on the back and says, "Now go be a badass like I know you know how to be." And I was like, "All right. I got it." And I was like, "Yes, Chef."
Meghan Gill discusses Gordon Ramsay’s expectations of chefs
He always seems like a very intimidating presence and always very angry. Was that your impression, as well?
Well, in that environment, if you’re reaching for perfection, and perfection is impossible, you have to focus, you have to hone in. If I can do it, you can do it. Right? So if you don’t do it, that means that you’re just not paying attention or something. You’re not into what you’re supposed to be doing. So I think that his demeanor is … I mean, he’s earned that demeanor. If we didn’t have people like Gordon Ramsay, if we didn’t have chefs like Gordon Ramsay, we wouldn’t have good cooks. We wouldn’t have new chefs. The standards would be gone. So he keeps you to a standard.
And I think that in that discipline, discipline has been the thing that has gotten me through everything, in life, and in cooking. And you stick with that and you’ll be good. And he enforces it and he wants to have it, but he’s not mean or angry or anything like that. He’s just like, "Oh my God, get it together." Like, "Geez. Guys, come on." He’s kind of a jokester. Kind of a prankster.
Some of the TV shows — he has like 4 million — have where he’s pranking somebody or he’s dressed up. He has that spirit that chefs kind of have in general, that nostalgic kind of childlike that goes into the food. And I think that you have to have that to be able to relate to all people because nostalgia is something that we all kind of share, it’s kind of an unspoken thing, but we all share it and we can all tap into it.
I can say to you something about "Saved by the Bell" and you’re going to be like, "Yeah, I know. Zach Morris. Come on." Right? We all know that. It’s like a language that we don’t have to say, and that food taps into that, and then it taps right back into the passion that people have and who they are.
Working under Gordon Ramsay
After you worked with him, too, you got placement at the Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace. How was that transition?
So I started on like the busiest day of the year, the 4th of July, and I was like, "What’s happening right now?" And there were like 1200 orders. I’m like, "What does that look like?" And it was like … Oh my God. I had never seen anything like it. But, I mean, I went in there … And my personality is a little bit challenging at times I want to say, for lack of a better word, but I went in there, and I feel like I was doing what I was supposed to do and raise the bar. And there was one time when … The first time the U.K. team came. That was terrifying. And so, it’s basically Chef’s [Ramsay] right-hand guy coming down, coming from the U.K., and Christina Wilson and David Martin, like the whole crew. And they come in, it’s the first time I meet them, and the chef, the second hand to Gordon, he terrified me.
I almost started crying. He got in my face and he’s like this close to me, and I just said, "Chef, I’m really nervous right now. I don’t know what to say." And then he just backed off, chilled out, and then we cooked together, and then that was that. So I have so much knowledge, I pulled so much from that experience, and they were just really crazy experiences. You’re in Atlantic city, number one. You’re in a casino. And then, you’re working for Gordon, and it’s the most popular restaurant on the Strip. And you have fans and your face is everywhere, and you’re like, "Okay." It’s an adjustment, for sure, but, yeah, it was crazy.
Meghan Gill discusses what it’s like dealing with cameras 24/7
Is it true that with "Hell’s Kitchen" there are cameras on 24/7, literally everywhere you go?
How did that go? Do you have to adjust to that?
I decided in the beginning of the whole thing that my mentality was, "Don’t overdo it, don’t underdo it, be yourself in every single decision that you make, because this is just a big job interview, and if you are doing something that’s really out of character, then maybe he’s going to hire you, you’re going to get there, and you’re not going to do what he thought you could." Right? And then that’s a problem. So I think that just being true to yourself … and having that discipline, again, on the food and not worrying about what was going on around you and just moving forward through it … They had two-way mirrors everywhere and the guys are checking their hair out, and I’m like, "Guys, it’s a two-way mirror. What are you doing? What are you doing? There’s somebody on the other side or there’s a camera right there, dummies." So I just centered and I didn’t think too much and I just did what I knew how to do. [I] put my head down.
Meghan Gill was a prankster on the Hell’s Kitchen set
Were there ever any moments that really stood out to you that didn’t make it onto the show or they cut it out during editing?
Yeah. I put gummy bears in people’s shoes. I did all this prankster stuff and nobody saw it, so I was just like the villain the whole time and I’m like, "I did funny things, okay?"
What kind of pranks did you do?
Yeah, exactly. And I was solo on doing it. Maybe I’m the only one that thought it was funny, but I took gummy bears and filled people’s shoes and pillowcases. One time with Josh and … What is his name? Nick. I wanted to do this thing before I came on the show, but didn’t get a chance to do it. I took Greek yogurt and red wine and we mixed it up and we did facials and stuff. They didn’t show that. That was pretty funny. When we were drinking those milkshakes, the ostrich milkshake … Which was horrifying. It was maybe one of the worst things in my life …
What’s the other? I mean, there was a boa constrictor … There was an episode where they had snakes and spiders and whatever, and at the end of that, we went up to the dorms and it was in the dorm. And Milly, who is huge, he has me in front of him and he’s like, "Get it away from me." And I’m like, "Oh my God." And we’re both screaming bloody murder. And that night, Chef had taken all of us, one by one, in the office, and it was kind of a serious talk. And then, as I left, he’s like, "So how about that snake?" And I was like, "You know what? F off, guy. What the hell?" And he starts laughing, and I was like, "Oh my God. That was you? That’s not funny."
Meghan Gill discusses the Season 14 event that really caught her off guard
Would you say that’s the most unexpected thing that happened in the show?
Oh, there was one thing that was kind of, I guess, like an intricacy more so, that whenever you talked about something that was like a past experience. Like I had said that my chefs used to make me take the peppercorns and peel the skins off the peppercorns. Right? And it was a tedious task, and I’m just sitting there talking with someone and saying that. The next day, well, I get the punishment and guess what my punishment is? To separate peppercorns. So I’m like, "Oh my God. Don’t say anything anymore." It took me a couple of times to figure out that whatever I said was my punishment the next day. So that was a thing. I mean, all of it, you never knew what was going to happen.
You were always in the dark. You were always just on a whim. Just be ready. Maybe the biggest surprise was when T and I were coming back from the Vegas trip, we were exhausted. Hadn’t slept in like two days kind of thing. And we’re like, "Oh my God, we get to sleep." But we get down the elevator at the airport and there’s a guy there with a sign and he’s like, "Meghan and T." And we get into the car and we’re going to Gordon Ramsay’s house, and we get there. And as we’re both about to knock on the door, we stop, and we look at each other and we go, "This can’t be good." And then, the door opens and then it’s Gordon’s wife and daughter. And we talk. Whatever. And we’re just kind of like, "Okay. I don’t know what’s happening." But then, when she took us to the balcony, she opened the door, and there was a bunch of people and Gordon, and we had to cook. And that was pretty surprising. That was shocking. I was like, "What is going on? I’m so tired right now."
Meghan Gill reveals her favorite Hell’s Kitchen challenge
Out of everything that you had to cook, do you remember what your favorite challenge was or your favorite meal that you cooked was?
I think the first one, the first meal that I cooked … I forget what the name of it’s called. The first show. Your signature challenge or whatever. I think that was probably my favorite because it is my favorite thing to cook. And as I’m standing there, Gordon, he tastes it, and he’s tapping his foot, and I’m like, "Oh my God, he’s either going to hate this or he’s going to love it. One or the other. No in-between." And when he kind of looked at me and was like, "Stunning. That’s five out of five," and I think I was the first person …
I’m not sure, but I think I was the first person to get a five out of five on a signature challenge within the whole series. And that alone, I could have gone home right there. I was done. I got what I needed. I just needed that, "Okay. You know what you’re doing." I would have been good. It was my favorite dish. Apparently, he enjoyed it, as well. And then, he actually asked me later, when we were on a yacht … He asked me about the recipe. And I was like, "That’s pretty cool," because I mean, it just showed the chef in him, not just the television.
Why candy is Meghan Gill’s breakfast of choice
And on the flip side, what do you typically like to cook in a day?
I like searing steaks. I like cooking fish. It’s challenging. I like to think that I’m good at it. When people say "I like to cook," that’s kind of a broad thing. I like to use techniques, and I like to do them properly. I like to have discipline in my cooking. It doesn’t really matter what I’m cooking, but having the discipline and being able to cook properly is what I enjoy. Sometimes you can’t cook properly. You don’t have the right tools.
So no trouts on a daily basis?
Not on a daily basis.
Fair. Run us through what breakfast, lunch, and dinner look like for you on a regular day.
Gummy bears and … Oh, this is terrible. And on the show, too, it was terrible, and Gordon called me out on it. He was like, "You need to eat better. What are you eating for breakfast?" And I was like, "Gummy bears?" And I mean, that’s what I eat. I eat candy. I eat junk. I eat Hot Pockets. I wish I could say something better right now, but I can’t. Sometimes I’ll cook myself a steak, and it’ll be steak basted in brown butter and garlic and thyme. But as a chef, it’s hard to keep your refrigerator stocked with anything because it’s going to go bad. I end up going to the grocery store and get all these grandioso ideas of, "Oh, I’m going to make this and this," and then I’m like, "Nope. Don’t have time." And then I’m like, "Great," and then I eat gummy bears. I graduated from the ramen … Slurpees are a big thing, too. So sugar.
When chefs eat sugar, then they’re happy. Cooks bring me bags of sugar and bags of candy, and I’m like, "Okay, good. Thank you." To keep me calm or something. Keep the animal tamed.
How Meghan Gill’s Hell’s Kitchen experience shaped her career
How do you think your time on the show affected you as a chef now, and also your experience with the Dormie Network?
Being on the show, I realized that … I wasn’t an executive chef at the time and I had been an executive chef, but sometimes you don’t believe the people when they tell you that you’re good at something. You’re just like, "You’re just fluffing me." Whatever. So I think that what happened, the transformation that I had, was realizing that I was teaching and I was wanting to bring people to my level instead of competing. I don’t think I competed in that. It wasn’t really a competition so much for me.
I helped people get to my level. I wanted the whole thing to work. So I realized that I was a chef… and I wanted the whole thing to succeed. I mean, I think that’s the answer. Something else I learned was when a chef is screaming and yelling during service or whatever, that’s usually me. So in this instance, I saw when the yelling was happening, and then I saw what happened after to the people and how they broke down, and it opened my eyes to how I operate in a kitchen, and it gave me more insight of how to motivate people even more and what really affects people.
Staying in touch with the competition
Are you still in touch with anybody that you competed against or with?
I texted T yesterday. Yeah, me and her go back and forth all the time. I love T. And Michelle. I called her "Little One" during whatever, but she’s one of my closest friends. And "Little One" was basically me calling her a little version of me because she was … I mean, not so… Whatever. But she was on point all the time and she didn’t back down, and I was like, "This is karma. I’m dealing with myself right now. This is okay. I have to deal with myself."
I love her. T and Michelle and I, we’ve come together a bunch of times. And then, Milly as well. Milly worked for me for a little while. I hired him. He worked for me at Gordon’s in Atlantic City. And I had the Hell’s Kitchen Takeover stuff when I was in Atlantic City, and those were really crazy. [And] those were happening prior to Hell’s Kitchen restaurant opening. So it was kind of like a, "Is this going to work?" type deal.
Meghan Gill says she wouldn’t change anything about her Hells Kitchen experience
If you could go back and do it all over again, is there anything that you would change or do differently?
No, because I won. I wouldn’t touch a thing. I wouldn’t want to mess anything up to where I didn’t get the prize. Wouldn’t touch a thing.
Would you ever do another cooking competition show just in general?
I’ve thought about this. I mean, I think my ego would get in the way and I would do it. I’m not worried about anything. I don’t worry about losing.
Is there a particular show that if they called you up tomorrow, you’d be like, "I’m in"?
Yeah, my own show. I would do "The Meghan Show." It would be fantastic. Yeah. That’s what I would do.
You wouldn’t want to be a competitor again?
I mean, maybe … I don’t know. It’s hard to watch cooking shows. "Hell’s Kitchen" is the first and only show that shows the service aspect of it, or even has the service aspect of it, and that’s the most important part. If you watch shows like "Top Chef," what is the worst terrifying episode? It’s the restaurant episode, right? That’s that one that everybody screws it up. Well, in "Hell’s Kitchen," you do that every single day and you have Gordon Ramsay there. So if you kind of parallel those, I think that "Hell’s Kitchen" should get a little bit more respect from that end of it.
In your opinion, what makes service the hardest part?
Well, you have all of your preparation. It should be the easiest part. Should be. But that is when you have to communicate with people, and people’s communication skills are not all the same. What I saw the service that we had, I was like, "Whoa. Okay. We’re speaking different languages." When I say "fire" something, they don’t know what that means. I am assuming that they know, but their fire is a different fire, so we had to sit down and break down and say, "Okay, this is …" We had to get on the same page with the language.
And then, the communication, when people get stressed, it breaks down. Everything starts to break down. And if you don’t know what you’re doing physically with the techniques, you’re going to pay more attention to that, and then you’re not going to communicate and that’s what you need to do. So if you don’t know how to cook, we’re going to have a problem. You have to be able to cook with your eyes closed first, and then you can actually make the machine work.
Why food trucks are so appealing to Meghan Gill
Is there anything that you want to do in the future that was inspired by your time on the show?
I’ve always thought about a food truck … What I find myself doing in the kitchen is you create a menu and you train everybody on the menu in a regular restaurant and you go, go, go, and the food’s good and it’s great, and you’re like, "Okay," and whatever, but then you get a VIP in. Well, then I go from just doing that, the normal day-to-day, to, "Okay, great. I’m excited." And then, the creativity starts and it’s like, "Okay, I’m going to do this, this, this, and this."
And it’s very specific. And it’s not a lot. It’s a bunch of little things, but not a lot of them, if that makes sense. And I think with a food truck you could do something like that, where you’re changing it all the time instead of having this consistent restaurant … I think it would lend for creativity. And you could … go to concerts. You could actually enjoy life, and you could be outside. You wouldn’t be in a restaurant with no windows and no doors. It’s a little bit of freedom.
So could you walk me through your perfect food truck and what your ideal scenario is?
This is my ideal plan. I’d have a food truck. And it would be an event food truck kind of thing, so bear with me here. So I would have tables and chairs set up outside, or someplace … People sit down, you get a tasting menu out of the food truck, and it’s just one shot. And then, at the end of it, you have an ice cream truck, too, and then you’re done. But I have lots of ideas with the food truck. I have an idea of the double-decker food truck. We have the kitchen on the bottom. And then there’s a seating up on the top. So that’s one of my other crazy ideas. But I don’t know when that’s going to happen. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but it’s a thought.