On season 18 of Hell’s Kitchen, the contestants were selected as a mix of rookies and veterans from previous seasons of the show, all competing against one another for the chance to earn the title of head chef at Gordon Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen Restaurant” in Las Vegas. One of the final three contestants is Mia Castro; while she is categorized as a “rookie,” this was not her first time participating in a televised cooking competition.
Mia Castro on Season 13 of ‘Chopped’
28-year-old Mia Castro competed on season 13 of Food Network’s Chopped when she was only 23. According to her website bio, Castro “made it to the final round where she was barely defeated by the Executive Chef of Sensi at The Bellagio.” The three other chefs on Castro’s episode of the show were Mike Minor, Saul Ortiz-Cruz, and Royden Ellamar (who beat out Castro in the final round of cooking to win the cash prize); all four chefs were from Las Vegas. Castro was the only female competitor in her episode, and the three men were all Executive Chefs.
According to Cooking Contest Central, “Latin ingredients” was the theme of Castro’s Chopped competition’s secret basket items. The first round of competition challenged the four chefs to create a cohesive appetizer dish in a race against the clock, incorporating pickled pigs feet, a tres leche cake, jicama, and culantro. Mia made an arugula salad with crispy pigs feet and a crouton-like cake crumble. In the entree round, Castro had to cook using goat chops, churros, tequila, and huitlacoche. She used the churro to crust the goat chop and paired it with a savory bread putting that utilized the huitlacoche; the chefs praised her creativity, and it advanced her to the final dessert round.
With the mandatory basket ingredients coconut, pepitas, piloncillo, and yucca, she made a cake from scratch, as well as a yucca custard and piloncillo caramel. Although what she was able to achieve in just 30 minutes was extremely impressive to the judges, they chopped her when comparing her overall performance during the competition against Royden. Cooking Contest Channel said that they believed she should have won, as her dessert round dish was superior to Royden’s donut.
Mia Castro on Season 18 of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’
Mia Castro grew up in Puerto Rico, but moved to the US to study at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Before she went back on television to compete on Hell’s Kitchen, Castro was working out of New York City as a private chef for clients around the country.
Based on promo video released before the season finale, it appears that Mia Castro and Ariel Contreras-Fox (a “veteran” contestant) are the final two competing for the prize and head chef position. After their final dinner service, José said in a video interview “I’m proud of Mia, coming in as a rookie and proving to the veterans that we were stronger than they imagined, I definitely feel like Mia is taking this ‘W’ home.”
Watch the season finale of Hell’s Kitchen tonight on Fox, starting at 8/7c.