WOLFEBORO — A local woman will be on the FOX reality series 'Hell’s Kitchen' when the new season premieres tonight. She is the second person from New Hampshire to be on the show.
Line cook Nicole Hanna, 27, who grew up in Wolfeboro and moved to Stony Point, N.Y., in August will be appear on the 19th season of the show headed by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who puts aspiring chefs through their paces in the heat of his kitchen.
“I just want people to watch and enjoy the show and feel proud that somebody from our little community in the mountains is doing something big and crazy with an angry chef,” Hanna told the Sun in a phone interview on Tuesday.
Season 6 featured Jim McGloin, a sous-chef from Nashua.
Unlike most seasons, which are filmed in Los Angeles, Hanna’s season was shot in Las Vegas. It took place in 2019 before COVID-19 took hold across the country.
The hourlong show starts at 8 p.m. EST tonight and will post to Hulu and FOXnow app on Friday.
“For the first time ever, 18 aspiring chefs from around the country will roll the dice and head to Sin City in the hopes of winning big,” says FOX’s description of the show.
“Each week, the competition will get hotter as the chefs are put through rigorous culinary challenges — reaping high stakes rewards and punishments ... At stake is a life-changing grand prize, including a head chef position at Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen Lake Tahoe at Harvey’s Hotel and Casino, and the title of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ winner.”
Hanna attended Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro and graduated in 2011. At the time the show was filmed she had been cooking for two years at Wolfe’s Tavern, a New England pub at the three-star Wolfeboro Inn located at 90 N. Main St. in Wolfeboro. It was her first restaurant job.
Hanna was the least experienced cook on the show. “In the beginning, I felt very much like a fish out of water and kind of struggled with the idea that I even belonged there, just because of my background,” she said.
“I love the Lakes Region, and I love Wolfeboro and Ossipee and all the surrounding towns, but it really is kind of the middle of nowhere,” said Hanna. “So to be plucked out of that space and then transplanted into Las Vegas with one of the most famous and accomplished chefs in the world, it was a lot. It was culture shock.”
However she soon acclimated to her new surroundings. “I realized that I was surrounded by a bunch of really, really incredible chefs and that I was a part of that group,” said Hanna.
“Somehow, I started to get more comfortable, and it really was empowering and a very validating experience that you can have, you know, to overcome your your small town status, and it doesn’t matter where you come from, or how many people live in your town, you still are able to do big things,” Hanna said.
Right now, she’s cooking at the 159-room MC Hotel in Montclair, N.J. She got the job through fellow 'Hell’s Kitchen' contestant Amber Lancaster.
Hanna, who said it was “cool” to be mentored by Ramsay, said she now considers herself to be a “master” at risotto and scallops, two signature dishes on the series.
Asked how she got to be on 'Hell’s Kitchen,' Hanna said the show reached out to her via Facebook Messenger, and to this day, she has “no clue” how they found her in Wolfeboro.
Competing “wasn’t even on my radar,” said Hanna. “It was just a random Tuesday in February, and I was, like, ‘What the heck is this?’”
Hanna thought it was a scam, but her mother, Katrina Brewster of Ossipee, encouraged her to respond, “and the rest is history.”
Other family members of Hanna’s include stepfather Dennis Brewster, sisters Kristen Hanna and Jamie Hedbor, brother Tyler Hill and stepbrother Conner Brewster.
Her mother messaged the Sun on Tuesday to say, “We are very proud of how far Nikki has come since she was chosen to participate in ‘Hell’s Kitchen.’
“Between the taping of the show nearly two years ago, and now, her life and career have really taken off, and her skills and confidence have grown exponentially, allowing her to really explore all of the possibilities available to her. The show and the experiences she had were the opportunity of a lifetime for her, and we can’t wait to see what she does next,” Katrina Brewster said.
Hanna, who is single, has a “wonderful” boyfriend named Nick Apicella. She said she hopes the show, which was unscripted, will depict her as “driven tenacious and passionate.”
Hanna will watch the show from New Jersey.
“I know my mom’s going to be watching, and then we’ll have a big video chat and talk about it after,” said Hanna.
The Wolfeboro Inn/Wolfe’s Tavern General Manager Nas Jenulevich told the Sun on Tuesday that although they are not having a watch party they will be cheering her on.
“We are delighted and so very proud of her. Nicole worked in the kitchen of Wolfe’s Tavern for several years and made quite a positive impression,” Jenulevich said. “Our Hay Creek Hotels Corporate Executive Chef Hoke Wilson is quoted as saying, ‘Nicole has an extremely bright future.’”
Hanna isn’t the only local chef to appear on primetime TV. Danny Rassi, chef/owner of Wicked Fresh Craft Burgers and Fire by Wicked Fresh in North Conway, recently competed on “Chopped” on the Food Network.
For more about 'Hell’s Kitchen,' visit fox.com.