Albuquerque’s own Chef Marc Quiñones made his debut as the first New Mexican Chef on Hell’s Kitchen’s nineteenth season.
The tension was high as the first episode of the season came to a close, when two teams of chefs faced off for the first time. With his team down by four points, Quiñones presented his dish to Chef Gordon Ramsay. Chin raised, he watched Ramsay as the 16 Michelin-Starred Chef sampled his dish, ready to award him a score that could cement his team’s loss or lead it to victory.
Seconds that felt like hours passed before Ramsay lifted his chin with a smile awarding Quiñones a perfect score on his dish.
“I was never nervous,” Quiñones told the cameras after. “I cook with conviction, and I made a statement from day one. I’m here to go the distance. But most importantly, Chef Ramsey knows that I’m his guy.”
As a New Mexican chef for 14 consecutive years, Quiñones said he took pride in representing the Land of Enchantment.
“I hope that everyone is proud of my efforts on the show,” Quiñones said. “I fought my hardest, and I truly went in there with the spirit of our entire community and our beautiful people. I can’t stress enough how blessed I am to be an ambassador for the great state of New Mexico.”
Growing up with Latin roots, Quiñones said he was raised with a foundation of flavor and love for all the food he makes.
“If you want to talk about culture, it’s a 24-hour a day, seven day a week situation for me,” Quiñones said. “I don’t come to work – this isn’t a job, this is my lifestyle, this is my culture.”
While Hell’s Kitchen was Quiñones latest reality show appearance, it wasn’t his first. He has made appearances on both the Food Network’s Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen. Despite his previous experience, Quiñones said he couldn’t compare anything to his time on Hell’s Kitchen.
“It’s not called heaven’s angels; you got to understand it’s not a gimmick; some people laugh when they see Chef Ramsay losing his mind until they are there in that situation, then they’re not laughing because then it’s very real,” Quiñones said. “I had to remind myself constantly, ‘it’s not about you Marc, remember who you represent remember how this will be the first Chef ever to come out of New Mexico on this platform. What are you going to do with that opportunity, Marc?’ I remember that, and I keep that in front of my mind every day that I’m on the set, and that comes across every week in my behavior and my actions throughout the course of the season.”
Every day that he was on set, Quiñones prepared himself to expect the unexpected.
“When they say ’Welcome to Hell,’ it’s an understatement,” Quiñones said. “You have no idea how bad it can be there. It’s absolutely diabolical. It’s a no-holds-bar there.”
Despite the difficulties he faced, Quiñones said he knew with every fiber in his body that he belonged in the competition. Quiñones took pride in showing that his community was a force to be reckoned with.
“We can go anywhere,” Quiñones said. “We don’t have to be afraid to go against somebody in a big city. They need to be respectful of us and understand that we’re going to bring it and that we’re going to compete and that we’re going to be fierce when we have to be fierce.”
Quiñones felt the support of his family along with his team members from the Hotel Andaluz, who have stood strongly side-by-side with him for four years.
“I would not be here today without the team that we have here as firmly in my corner as they’ve been, and it’s very important that I say that I call them the engine because it’s just the truth, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge them,” Quiñones said.
Additionally, Quiñones felt support from all of New Mexico, making it a privilege and opportunity to compete and represent his state.
“I always say what’s relevant is whether you make an impact, and I’ll always do everything I can to make an impact for us,” he said. “Any chance I get to be on this platform, you better believe that I’m going to talk about all of you, all of us, and all the great things we have offered here in this beautiful land of enchantment.”
Quiñones appreciated the opportunity to cook side-by-side with Chef Gordon Ramsay, an experience he said that felt like something he dreamt up and never knew was possible.
Looking back on his journey through the first episode, Quiñones said he appreciated the opportunity to represent his state with the iconic Chef Ramsay. The memory of Ramsay trying his dish and awarding him the winning points is one that will be with him forever.
“That right there was such a defining moment in my career and my life because it immediately put us on the map as an absolutely formidable threat,” Quiñones said.
Quiñones currently has eyes on a bright future and looks forward to embracing it with no hesitation along with the city and state he holds dear.
“When I think of Albuquerque I think of the great people here and the culture right here and how for 14 consecutive years now they have essentially adopted me as their own son and have been so good to me and my family,” Quiñones said. “I have had so many opportunities that have happened to me as a result of Albuquerque, the 505, the Duke City – I feel like we’re just getting started! There’s so much more to come, there’s so much coming down the pipe it’s an absolutely tremendous and beautiful thing!”
Photo Credit: Marc Quiñones via Instagram