'Hell's Kitchen' winner tells all
The new executive chef tells all about dealing with Jen and Matt, buying dresses with Gordon Ramsay, and just knowing she would win
After weeks of fielding insults and abuse from Hell’s Kitchen star Gordon Ramsay, which promising chef was crowned the master of cooking #@%&! risottos and $%@#% beef Wellingtons in the season finale? Why, that would be 25-year-old Christina Machamer, a culinary student who impressed the hotheaded chef by winning a record-breaking nine challenges during the season and leading a relatively seamless final dinner service. The morning after watching herself nab the executive-chef position at Ramsay’s London West Hollywood, Christina took the time to call EW.com and talk about her friendship with Corey, why Jen went over the line, and who really was the fashionista of Hell’s Kitchen.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Are you glad to be able to finally tell people you won?
CHRISTINA MACHAMER: It’s nice. It’s nice not to have to find a secluded area to talk on the phone. It’s a new feeling.
Your family knew too. Was it hard for them to hide it?
I don’t know if it was as hard for them. It was definitely nice that they were under the same contract that I was, so I did have some sort of a confidant along the way.
Really, did you think you had it in the bag last night? You were the ultimate challenge winner after all….
I honestly didn’t watch very much of the episode last night. We had a big party and so my attention was sort of drawn. But the day of, I definitely felt like I had it in the bag. I was definitely very confident with the way my restaurant finally turned out and the venue and the team that I had, so the stars were sort of aligned.
I can’t think of a better final two than you and Petrozza. It seemed most of the drama went out the window once it came down to you two.
I loved it when it was just the two of us, because Petrozza and I had sort of bonded once we got into the final six, once we were on the same team. Not really over food or Hell’s Kitchen, but talked about our personal lives. We both came from the same school, so we had a lot of that to talk about, a lot of the same instructors. And so sharing the final two with him, by then, we had formed a friendship. It was definitely competitive, don’t get me wrong, but it’s one of those situations where both of us were wholly deserving of the prize, so working with him was an honor.
NEXT PAGE: ”What did I get myself into?”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How stressful was it leading up to that final dinner service?
CHRISTINA MACHAMER: It was really stressful, especially because by now, you’ve sort of got the swing of challenges and the swing of dinner services. But running the pass is a totally different job, and you don’t get very much practice, and I was fighting a horrendous cold during that very last part. I was like, Oh, God, just please let me get through that.
You couldn’t take anything to help you get over the cold?
Not much more than pain relievers, because you can’t take a throat lozenge or anything because then you can’t taste anything.
Did you expect to win going into the show, seeing as you had the least amount of experience?
You know, it’s weird, because when I first stepped onto the studio day one — the signature dish day — I looked around and I said, ”Oh, s—. What did I get myself into?” And if they would have given me an option to go home, I probably would have run back with my tail between my legs, because it’s intimidating. And you don’t know anything about television or Gordon or your competitors. But after a while, you get used to it, and it makes it a lot easier.
Were you happy with the way you were represented in the show?
I think for the most part, yeah, absolutely. There was nothing that was edited that didn’t happen, or any of that. It was funny watching the episodes for me. There were a lot of [unseen] character exchanges that were important to me but maybe not important to the big picture. So for me, it was like participating was so much more interesting.
What character exchanges?
Oh, gosh, well, you know, throughout the whole thing, everybody’s point of view of everyone changes. So you really didn’t see the buildup of the friendship between Corey and I, for example. It was just all of a sudden, we hate each other, we like each other. So that was an interesting one to live through, where we don’t really like each other in the dorms, but we work well [together]. And we’re like, what the hell is going on? How come we work so well as a team? Those kinds of things were really fun to be a part of.
What exactly happened between you and Corey? You were butting heads so much at the beginning, and then at the end, she was really rooting for you. What was the turning point?
I don’t exactly know what the exact moment was. But Corey and I are very similar, and I think that’s why we maybe met at an impasse in the beginning. But we just work so well together. I remember when we were doing the timing challenge — the relay race — and we switched positions in the kitchen, we hardly had to say a word. We just knew. It’s freakish.
NEXT: Playing Matt
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you still keep in touch with Corey, or anyone else for that matter?
CHRISTINA MACHAMER: I try to. It’s very difficult because we’re all so busy and moving in our own directions. But I have received a couple of e-mails from her. I know she’s leaving the country in the fall. I’m flying out to New York this morning. Maybe we can get in touch then.
Which contestants came off better or worse on screen than they were in real life? Hint: Matt and Jen?
I don’t think that anyone on the show was portrayed differently than how they actually were. Because the episodes that you see are so condensed, it might seem a little bit worse than what it was, but it’s not like we were forced to say anything. There was no script. I think everybody was portrayed pretty accurately.
So how hard was it working with Matt in that final dinner service?
That was extremely hard, because I needed Matt as part of my team, but I couldn’t let him bring my team down. And working with Matt in the past, I knew that yelling at him doesn’t work. The moment he gets yelled at, he’s going to break down. So it’s hard to communicate with him in Gordon Ramsay style but still build him up. The moment you compliment him, everything comes out perfectly.
Can you believe that he bought that you created a risotto line just for him?
Which of the contestants did you like the most?
When it got down to the final three between Corey, Petrozza, and I, those were probably my two favorites. We spent a lot of time together, and they’re both very professional and talented, so it was so kumbaya once we got down to the final three. The only other person would be Vanessa, who burned her hand. She was really cool, and we had sort of formed a friendship there in the beginning, so it was horrible when she left and that we didn’t get to work together longer, because she was my only friend at the time.
How did it feel to watch Jen rip on everyone in the confessionals?
At first [during] episode 1, I’m watching Jen and I’m like, ”This girl’s hilarious!” But sometimes it goes over the edge, I think. I specifically remember a comment about Gordon Ramsay being on his period. And I’m like, man, really? And you want him to hire you? She’s a character.
So is she really more of a fashionista than you, as she claimed?
Oh, God, isn’t that cute? I don’t think so. Our styles are definitely very different.
Speaking of fashion, was it weird shopping with Ramsay for your reward challenge?
It was a little weird. You know, Gordon is quite the fashionista. I didn’t realize that until we got there to Lisa Kline, and he knew all about [fashion]. And I was like, ”Gosh, that’s kind of weird, Chef. I wouldn’t imagine that.” But every time I tried on the outfits, he would have a comment. I remember I was trying on this green dress and it was this great dress and he’s like, ”Oh, you look just like a little pea pod.” And I was like, S—. Now I can’t wear this dress ever, because that’s all I’m going to think about.
NEXT: What is Chef Ramsay really like?
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So you’re dealing with two totally different Ramsays during dinner service and outside the kitchen.
CHRISTINA MACHAMER: It’s definitely two different roles. In the kitchen, he’s the boss. Outside of the kitchen, he’s like, ”I want you to call me Gordon.” We talk about our personal lives, and that’s kind of nice to be able to see that other side of him — the more human side of him and not just the chef tyrant that everyone knows.
Does he play it up in the kitchen?
I don’t necessarily think he plays it up. But it’s so condensed in what you see of a four-hour dinner service, only the really good parts make it in there.
So he’s not as much of an a–hole as we think at home?
Not at all. I think he’s more funny than anything. In the kitchen, if he’s yelling at someone, you cannot laugh or automatically you’re going to get the brunt of it. I think somebody laughed at the beginning, and they really got it. Some of the things he says are just hysterical. When he’s talking about rubbish and donkeys and toilet brushes, I was like, S—, please don’t laugh!
Have people on the street recognized you at all?
Really just since the final two. And it’s kind of creepy, because usually they’ll just look at me funny and then keep walking. So I prefer it when they say something. That way I know I don’t look weird or have toilet paper hanging anywhere.
What does your job at London really entail?
Not sure yet. I’ll doubt I’ll know until I get there.
When do you start working there?
That I’m not sure. I’m on my way to New York now, so I’m actually moving farther away from L.A., but hopefully soon. My bags are packed.
A few months’ time? A few weeks’ time?
Definitely sooner than later.