Cody Candelario, like many chefs, had something of a secret.
But not as a stealthy spice or a secret sauce.
The Aspen-based chef didn’t want Gordon Ramsay to learn about his inability to taste or smell food while filming season 19 of Hell’s Kitchen – which airs tomorrow at 6 p.m. on Fox.
While Candelario isn’t generally so careful about his most recent loss of his senses, the 28-year-old didn’t want Ramsay or the production team to use the information against him and create specific challenges despite. The premise of the fiercely competitive culinary boot camp, after all, is to eliminate chefs are fighting to become America’s next culinary star. The rigorous culinary challenges are led by none other than the multi-starred Michelin chef and restaurateur Ramsay.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Candelario said of Hell’s Kitchen. “It’s crazy. They’re trying to break you down.
Seasons 19 and 20 were filmed in Las Vegas at Caesars Entertainment Studios, just off the Strip, in the spring of 2019.
The days started between 5 and 7 a.m., when producers turned on the lights, blasted the music and “aggressively pushed” contestants from their dorms to challenge the number 1 of the day, Candelario said.
With no good cup of coffee or food, the 26-year-old taped cans of Red Bull to the bottom of his bed. He recalls that the cameras were generally running for about 20 hours a day. Spoiler alert: In addition to the series eliminations, one contestant immediately left, one left halfway through filming, and another was hospitalized.
That being said, Candelario called it one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. “I felt so alive… and just ready to work as hard as possible,” he said, adding that Ramsay’s presence was also deeply motivating.
Although Candelario knows his lack of taste and smell has not been openly addressed in competitions, he is not sure if it was shared elsewhere during the show as he has yet to watch the product. final.
In other words, the local chef’s inability to taste or smell is part of the show’s narrative – or even mentioned at all – remains a mystery to Candelario.
Candelario lost his smell and taste after falling ill (unrelated to COVID-19) four years ago while living and working in Germany.
“In the first six months, I cried a lot, didn’t know what to do and wanted to give up,” he recalls. “But finally I was like, ‘Come on man, you don’t act like yourself. You understand everything else, it’s just one more thing. ”
While certainly a tragic circumstance for someone whose passion and livelihood revolves around sampling, smelling, and making food as an art form, Candelario refused to let his senses go. hampered hamper his skills as a leader.
Yet, how exactly do you prepare food without taste or smell?
“I relearned everything,” Candelario said. The son of a hardworking single mother who happened to be “a terrible cook”, Candelario began cooking meals at the age of 8.
“I started young and I’m lucky to have arrived where I did mechanically with cooking because if I wasn’t at the level I was, I don’t know how I would have continued, ”he said. After losing his sense of smell and taste, Candelario changed his perspective and approach: “I created this type of 3D mapping modeling to think about food… there are keys and clues to how things taste. that have nothing to do with it. with real taste.
Candelario continued: “I see things at the mechanical level. I am now preparing things that I had not thought of before. Before, it was about giving taste. But now, instead of achieving flavor as part of an end goal, it’s about understanding the mechanisms to achieve it.
“I would never choose to do this again,” he joked. “But damn it really opened my mind.”
Over time, Candelario hopes to be able to regain said senses, which is already starting to happen – albeit weakly. He still cannot distinguish parsley from cilantro, but he can slightly detect the smell of strong chemicals if they are near him.
Originally from California, Candelario moved to Aspen last year to lead a project suspended due to COVID-19. The newly created Aspenite is currently working as a private chef but has plenty of cooking ideas.