Lexington chef joins heated competition on “Hell’s Kitchen”


LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – This season, the theme on the Fox hit show “Hell’s Kitchen” is Young Guns, with all of the contestants in their early 20s. Among the group is Payton Cooper of Lexington who applied for the show on a whim a couple of years ago while in culinary school at Sullivan University.

He thought it was spam when he got the call.

“I listened to the voice mail. ‘What?!’ The call said they wanted to meet me, do interviews and all that. So, we just got that set up and it’s been mind-blowing ever since.”

Payton Cooper

Cooper said he’s wanted to be a chef since he was eleven years old, becoming interested because his mother was in the food industry. He’s been in busy kitchens all his life, certainly enough to know to not to get rattled when things go wrong. as they did in a recent episode when his team was preparing a meal for former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson.

Cooper also learned not to take Gordon Ramsey’s rants personally.

“I love the criticism,” he said. “That fact that I had Gordon Ramsey tell me whatever I did was the wrong way. I’ll never do it again. I’ll always do it his way, 100 percent.”

It will still be a few weeks before we know how this all turns out, but Cooper says he’s already a winner.

“No matter how far you make it, your name is out there. You still have amazing exposure. That’s like the golden leaf on a resume.”

Cooper described his cooking style as “rustic– meat and potatoes.” He says he was able to use Kentucky influences during his time on the show, including preparing a bourbon sauce that was well received.

This season was actually taped two years ago, before the pandemic, and Cooper has had to keep quiet about the outcome all that time. But he can say one thing to regular viewers: you ain’t seen nothing yet.

“It’s going to get rough, as far as drama and everything. It’s gonna be intense, that’s for sure.”

“Hell’s Kitchen” can be seen Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX 56.

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