Mia Castro, Hell’s Kitchen finalist, shares her experience and a winning recipe


Mia Castro made her mark on Hell’s Kitchen Season 18. This year’s finalist proved that her culinary talent is a force in the kitchen.

Throughout Hell’s Kitchen Season 18, Mia Castro, part of team rookies, proved to Gordon Ramsay that she has the talent, drive and determination worthy of earning herself a spot in the final two. While that final dinner service didn’t earn her the win, her accomplishments throughout the season were astonishing.

In this season, Castro became the most winningest contestant on Hell’s Kitchen. Astonishing her fellow chefs with her impeccable palate, many of her winning dishes made foodies at home drool. With layered flavors, robust combinations and impeccable plating, each dish was truly impressive.

Although she had much success on the show, Castro did face some struggles. Sometimes she was portrayed as arrogant. Other episodes had her feeling  slightly undervalued by louder, potentially intimidating male chefs. Still, she stayed true to her culinary point of view.

While Hell’s Kitchen fans know her from the show, Castro has a long, varied culinary career. Beyond training at the Culinary Institute of America, Castro had the pleasure of apprenticing with chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller and Jose Andres. Now, a private chef, Castro uses those experiences to dishes that are elevated yet still stay true to her roots.


Now that Hell’s Kitchen Season 18 has ended, Mia Castro took the time to answer some burning questions that I had regarding Hell’s Kitchen, her culinary career and a delicious recipe that I could make at home.

Below is a transcript of that interview.

Cristine Struble: Why did you want to be on Hell’s Kitchen?

Mia Castro: When I learned about the opportunity I immediately jumped on it. I knew Chef Ramsay was a world-renowned and well respected Chef and I figured I had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain: experiences, knowledge, exposure. I always aim to better myself, and I saw this as a chance for self-improvement and growth. And that’s exactly what I gained and more.

CS: Did you have a challenge on this season? Why was it your favorite?

MC: The first challenge was the best one. I was able to prepare my signature dish which was reflective of my upbringing in Puerto Rico and my formal culinary training. Winning that right off the bat established me as one of the strongest in the competition for those that may have underestimated me.

CS: You were extremely successful showcasing your amazing palate and cooking creativity. At any point did you feel that the Hell’s Kitchen menus were contrary to your personal culinary style?

MC: Definitely. The Hell’s Kitchen menus were all about Chef Ramsay’s culinary style, and that’s what made them unique and amazing. Executing that food to the best of my abilities is what I did during services. I used those services as an opportunity to showcase my leadership skills and ability to adapt. I used the challenges to show MY personal culinary style, which is when I believed it was appropriate.

CS: Women chefs walk a very fine line in the culinary industry. Women chefs are sometimes overlooked, sometimes called “bossy,” and occasionally bullied in the kitchen, do you feel that your appearance on Hell’s Kitchen can help forward the conversation about women’s role in the culinary industry?

MC: I believe that I represented myself and women well in the kitchen. Often underestimated (throughout my career) I was able to prove that what some call “bossy” others call leaders and that what some call “arrogance” others call confidence. I went in it fearless, confident and I didn’t let anyone put me down (though they tried) or walk all over me.

CS: Thomas Keller, who you worked for, is known for mentoring and promoting the chefs in his various restaurants, how can you use your role to mentor aspiring women chefs?

MC: I try to lead by example and though I don’t currently work with a team (I’m a private chef), I want other women to watch me and be inspired. I have a niece and I want her and other girls to know that the sky’s the limit, that hard work pays off, and that the only one who can stand between you and your wildest dreams is you. Always humble, but confident, aware of your roots, with integrity, and without walking over anyone to get there. Just do your best and let your work speak for itself.

CS: Many home cooks watch Hell’s Kitchen and other culinary shows for inspiration in their own kitchen, what are some easy cooking tips that any home cook can master?

MC: -Keeping your knives sharp reduce prep time, makes for beautiful cuts, and are safer than dull knives.
-Seasoning food at every stage (rather than just at the end) is key to develop flavor.
-Splurge on good ingredients. It’s easier to produce delicious food when you have high quality ingredients because you just need to let them speak for themselves. Less is more.

CS: If I wanted to make one of your top dishes from this season of Hell’s Kitchen, what would it be and why?

MC: The Hamachi tiradito (Peruvian-style sashimi) with Cucumber leche de tigre I made for my final challenge and for my final HK service. If you have access to hamachi, it’s very easy to re-create, it’s visually appealing so it can be impressive to make for guests, and it’s light and refreshing.

For those foodies ready to push their culinary creativity, Castro has shared her recipe for Hamachi Tiradito with Cucumber Leche de Tigre. While this title might sound intimidating, this recipe is quite approachable and extremely delicious.

Hamachi Tiradito with Cucumber Leche de Tigre, photo provided by Mia Castro

Here’s how to make Hamachi Tiradito with Cucumber Leche de Tigre by Mia Castro.

"Hamachi Tiradito with Cucumber Leche de TigreYield: 4 servings8 oz. hamachi, fresh (never frozen) sushi-grade, cleaned, sliced into 1⁄6“ pieces, (reserve white scraps) – ALWAYS KEEP VERY COLD*For leche de tigre:• Hamachi scraps (white, no blood line)• 3⁄4 ea. English cucumber• 1 ea. Lime, zest and juice• 2 ea. Scallions, chopped• 1⁄2 ea. Jalapeno (no seeds)• 2 ea. Garlic cloves• 1 T honey• 2 T extra virgin olive oil• Salt (to taste) *For garnish:• 1⁄2 C – 3⁄4 C leche de tigre• 1 T extra virgin olive oil• 1⁄4 ea. english cucumber, sliced paper-thin• 1⁄2 ea. Jalapeno, sliced paper-thin• Flaky sea salt (to taste)• 1⁄2 C salted cancha corn or plain, salted corn nuts, coarsely crushed• Mild tasting mico greens (ex. Micro cilantro, micro broccoli, micro basil, etc.)Directions:*For leche de tigre:1. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender. Blend on high until completely smooth (30 sec – 1 min.). Adjust flavor with salt and acidity level with honey. Use your judgement.2. Strain through a fine mesh sieve. Chill.*Assembly:1. On a cold, round plate, assemble 2 oz. of hamachi slices flat.2. Spoon 1-2 tablespoons of chilled leche de tigre directly over the hamachi and spread it evenly with the back of your spoon.3. Drizzle droplets of olive oil onto the leche de tigre (so it’s visibly suspended over it).4. Arrange 5 slices (each) of cucumber and jalapenos flat over the hamachi.5. Sprinkle flaky sea salt over every piece (to taste).6. Sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons of crispy corn over everything.7. Garnish with 5-7 micro green leaves.8. Serve cold."

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I would like to thank Mia Castro for taking the time to chat with me and for sharing her recipe.

While I am not a professional chef, I think that Castro is a great example of a strong woman chef who can push the culinary industry forward. By blending strong culinary techniques with her personal flair and cultural influences, her culinary point of view should be celebrated. More importantly, it is refreshing to see a woman chef who is confident that that her voice is heard.

Mia Castro was a contestant on FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen Season 18. She is a private chef. For more information about her please visit her business site, Chef Mia Castro, LLC.