When the door opened on the finale of Hell’s Kitchen Season 19, Kori Sutton received the ultimate acknowledgment of all her hard work and dedication to her craft, the Hell’s Kitchen winner title. While the chef has years of experience, this culinary competition has capitulated her into a special group of chefs. As one of 19 chefs who have earned the title Hell’s Kitchen winner, many opportunities are available for her in the culinary world.
Recently, I had the pleasure of chatting with Chef Kori Sutton. Over the phone, the determined chef showed the same passion, drive and humility that Hell’s Kitchen fans have seen throughout the season 19.
Although few people have had the pleasure of stepping into that particular Hell’s Kitchen culinary restaurant experience, those dinner services are more fast and furious that any food TV moment can convey. There is no pause, do over or crying in the walk-in time out moment. The chefs are put to the test and they need to prove their worth.
When asked about her time on Hell’s Kitchen, Kori was clear that the whole process is like a “boot camp.” The challenge isn’t meant to be easy. She shared that Gordon Ramsay wants to test “every aspect of the culinary world.” From an amazing palate to leadership to everything in between, the winning chef is a sum of all those necessary ingredients.
At the same time, Kori did have an approach to the culinary competition. Having previously competed on Top Chef Mexico and Cutthroat Kitchen, Hell’s Kitchen is a unique environment.
Kori shared that at first she “stayed quiet and observed.” She wanted to see who was a threat, who might be less competitive, and where she stood in the group. Toward the black jacket milestone, she took that knowledge and those observations to push herself to the end goal, Hell’s Kitchen winner.
Still, not every moment on Hell’s Kitchen Season 19 was a high point. Kori recalled the Latin dish that she made with Mary Lou. The pair thought that the dish was going to be a huge success only to have that concept shattered.
She said that she “walked up with her head held high only to have that dish destroyed.” But, she revealed that “you have to take those losses and really learn from them.” Whether or not tears were shed in the walk-in doesn’t matter, it is about how a chef recovers, learns, and grows from those experiences.
Chef Kori shared that her early culinary training Mexico was formative. At the age of 16, she stepped into the kitchen started her path to success. She mentioned that there were times where she was “irritated and frustrated” but she used those emotions to work harder and smarter.
During those moments, she wanted to prove to others in the kitchen that she “was worthy enough,” “had a voice” and deserved their respect. In many ways, those same ideas were shown during the Hell’s Kitchen finale dinner service as she ran the pass. Even though Kori might be mama, this mama was in charge and no one was going to get on the wrong side of mama. While she might have patience and strength, no one would be walking over her.
While the final two Hell’s Kitchen Season 19 episodes had Kori’s family in dining room, those moments bring up another aspect of a chef’s life. The culinary world is full of sacrifice.
As Kori commented, chefs are the ones who are working at a restaurant on a holiday and gone many long hours. Said in a very poignant way, when a person is celebrating a special occasion at your restaurant, the chef making that memorable meal might be missing a special moment in her own life.
In some ways, Kori’s strength is what gives her an advantage in the kitchen. Those sacrifices are hard in the moment but can reap rewards. She does everything she can and holds her head high.
Still that culinary passion drives chefs, like Kori Sutton. Although some chefs have big egos, sometimes too big for the kitchen, Kori believes it is better to be humble. And, she gave Gordon Ramsay as an example.
Putting aside the yelling and the firm hand, he is humble, a characteristic that Kori also possesses. That characteristic cannot be taught, it comes from within.
Successful chefs can listen to others and appreciate when a change needs to be made. Being confident in the kitchen is a requirement but being humble is a characteristic that sets a good cook apart from great chef.
During her finale meal, Kori said that her menu was her on a plate. Each dish was flavorful, composed and creative. She brought out the best in her team. No one was going to take her away her moment.
Now that Kori Sutton has been crowned Hell’s Kitchen winner of Season 19, many opportunities are ahead of her. And, if you want to get your own taste of her food, check out Mama Kori Salsas, which are sold online.
Like many Hell’s Kitchen winners, Kori Sutton is a multi-talented chef who sacrificed to earn the ultimate reward. Now it is time for her to bask in the glory of her success.
Did you think that Kori Sutton would be the Hell’s Kitchen winner at the beginning of Season 19? What do you think set her apart from the other chefs?