They say that less is more — and for Christina Wilson, her value of simplicity may have been her biggest help in becoming the winner of “Hell’s Kitchen.”
“You don’t always have to make it complex,” Wilson said about her cooking strategy. “And I’m not that way. All the people that know me know I’m fairly simple.”
Wilson graduated from high school in Phillipsburg, N.J. She first attended West Chester University before transferring to Temple. After completing some coursework at Temple, she worked at Lolita on South 13th Street before “Hell’s Kitchen” came calling.
Besides the title of champion, Wilson earned a head chef position at Gordon Ramsay Steak in Las Vegas. Now she is working to complete an intense six-week training program before she becomes head chef — a detail that speaks volumes to Ramsay’s standards.
“[Ramsay] is so thorough,” Wilson said. “The restaurant is so consistent. It’s been the most successful opening he’s had.”
Wilson’s first training shift was Sept. 13.
“Before my first shift, I had only been in Vegas for not even 48 hours,” Wilson said.
Despite the speedy beginning of her new job, Wilson still exudes the same confidence that steered her to victory throughout the competition.
“I think [my new coworkers] were kind of expecting me not to really know what I was doing,” Wilson said. “I worked under one of the sous chefs last night and I think I kind of surprised him [by] asking appropriate questions. I think I’m starting to prove myself already.”
Never one to complicate things, Wilson’s simplistic nature is proving to be the best strategy in coworker chemistry.
“I think they’re professionals, and I let my professionalism lead my way. It worked out nice,” Wilson said.
Since her on-air victory, rest has been elusive to Wilson.
“I haven’t really gotten more than four hours of sleep since the two days before the [Sept. 11] finale,” Wilson said.
Seventeen-hour days are fairly common to Wilson post-finale.
Regardless of her sleep deprivation, Wilson is ecstatic to be relieved of the secret of her victory. Because the show was previously filmed, Wilson was only allowed to tell a few individuals of her success until Sept. 11.
“It’s honestly such a relief,” Wilson said. “It was really difficult for me because, you know, I can only tell people that are my ‘people people.’ You know, the people that I would trust with my life. And essentially, I did. Because if any one of those five or six people leaked, I would lose my pride and everything I worked for and it would by default go to [runner-up] Justin [Antiorio].”
Although Wilson was relieved after the finale, her curiosity about what people were saying online grew — and she didn’t like everything she saw.
“It was a little bittersweet, that first night after the finale aired,” Wilson said. “I tried to stay offline. If I get five positive comments, there’s always one negative comment.”
However, Ramsay offered some words of wisdom regarding dealing with those in opposition.
“I was lucky enough to meet [Ramsay] on set that day,” Wilson said. “He gave me such a big hug and he said, ‘Darling, if that’s what they’re saying about you, what do you think they say about me?’”
Ramsay also assured Wilson by saying he’s confident he made the right decision by choosing her, she said. Wilson’s passion and sense of self were prominent throughout the entire competition, down to the last meal. Her strategy for the final challenge? To “put her heart out on the plate,” as she said on the finale.
For Wilson, that meant to stay true to her East Coast roots while keeping a West Coast menu in mind.
“My roots are very deep in New Jersey and Philadelphia,” Wilson said. “I know how we eat, and I think we’ve all taken a look around at the people in Philly. We’re all a little bit husky. I tended to cook that way — slow and low and a little bit heavier.”
Although her background is anything but Pacific, Wilson drew inspiration from Philadelphia summers to cater to a West Coast palette.
“I just pictured myself on a 100-degree Philly day,” Wilson said. “What would I want to have? What would be refreshing for me? I just wanted to stay true to my heart.”
Staying true to herself seems to be a vital aspect in Wilson’s life. Wilson’s in and out of kitchen personas are meshed with the same intention — to provide comfort.
“Most people that know me know that I give really great hugs and you can call me at three in the morning and I’ll listen to you cry your heart out. And I feel the same way with cooking. I’m always going to do my best to give you a little bit of comfort in my food. “
Wilson’s clean logic and self-confidence are undisguisable.
“I never meet people trying to impress them,” Wilson said. “I’m trying to be myself. And I feel the same way with cooking. I’m not trying to impress you. I’m trying to give you a really great meal so you can walk away and say, ‘I’m really glad that I sat down at the table tonight.’”
Jenelle Janci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.