Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Update: iTunes 9 and Windows 7

Posted in Apple, itunes by commorancy on October 29, 2009

As an update to an earlier Randosity article, I have upgraded my system to Windows 7 and then installed iTunes 9. Since making this change, I am no longer having the registry issue documented in this previous Randosity article. So, it may be worthwhile to upgrade your system to Windows 7 to alleviate this issue. Of course, it could be a fluke, but iTunes installed and started up without any issues on Windows 7. Before you upgrade, though, you’ll want to remove iTunes from your system, then run the upgrade to Windows 7, then reinstall iTunes 9. If you still experience registry issues with Windows 7 and iTunes 9, refer to this previous article for tips on what to do.

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Getting a virus: Clearing it up faster

Posted in Health, health and beauty by commorancy on October 25, 2009

I’ve recently discussed what I do to help prevent the cold and flu virus, that one is the longer of these two articles.  So, this one will be much shorter.  If you do get a cold, the flu or even a throat infection, you can help reduce the symptoms by using a simple remedy: Zinc.  But, not just any zinc.  I personally use Zicam.  The reason I use Zicam is the formulations available.  While the zinc tablets work, they taste nasty and only coat your throat.  This can work, but I find that the other Zicam formulations work much better.

Gel Swabs

The Zicam gel swabs are my favorite to use.  The way this works is to swab the inside if your nostrils and then close the nostrils just briefly after swabbing.   Apparently, as I understand how this works, the zinc in Zicam kills viruses on contact and, at the same time, prevents new viruses from taking hold.  Since the viruses apparently start and multiply in the nasal cavity, the application of zinc coats your nasal passages and prevents the virus from taking hold and building full colonies.  So, the theory goes, the symptoms are reduced and the length of infection shortened.  For me, this works.

Reduction in symptoms

Whenever I get sick with a virus, I find that using zinc (Zicam variety) reduces sore throats from 5-7 days to about 2-3 days.  So, without zinc, the cold may last 2 weeks.  With Zicam, I find that my colds are over in about 7-9 days.  For me, the symptoms of the cold are greatly reduced as well.

Other zinc formulations

You may get similar results with the lozenges, but I prefer the Zicam formulations.  If another company begins making a similar formulation to the gel swabs, I may try those out. Right now it appears that Zicam is the only brand with this formulation.  I will say that I have also tried Zicam’s nasal spray and throat spray.  For the same reason that I don’t like the lozenges, I don’t like the throat spray (it tastes nasty).  As far as the nasal spray formulation, I don’t like spraying this up inside my nose due to irritation.  So, I stick with the swabs which simply coats the opening to your nose and doesn’t have taste or irritation problems.  Apparently, though, the gel does move up into the nose through breathing, but I don’t seem to feel it like I do with the spray.

So, for prevention, follow my previous article.  But, once you get sick, try using the Zicam gel swabs (or a knock off if you can find one) and see how well they work for you.  If they do nothing, don’t buy them again. But, if they reduce the severity of the symptoms, as I expect they will, then I find that it’s well worth the $12 for a box.

Prevention: Flu Season is here

Posted in Health by commorancy on October 24, 2009

[Updated: 2018-01-30] Since this 2017-2018 flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years, I’ll update my advice.

Now that flu season is upon us, I always like to take steps to prevent myself from getting infected from other people or items they may have touched. While there is no magic bullet for this, here are some rules that I personally follow that may help you avoid getting the flu. Let’s explore.

Flu Shots

In my original 2009 article, I didn’t mention flu shots… and it was for a reason. This is intended as an everyday prevention article, but the intent was to firmly stay away from discussing medical technologies. While medical professionals often profess that a flu shot is effective, take that advice for what it’s worth… advice. While you can get a flu shot at your local pharmacy, at your place of business or at your doctor’s office, you may find that this prevention mechanism isn’t always as effective as it could be. Due to recent events surrounding H3N2, I’ve changed my stance since 2009 and that’s why I am now leading this article with this section.

During the 2017-2018 flu season, the dominant strain of the flu appears to be H3N2. This strain is particularly virulent and has resulted in a number of deaths in children and adults from complications. You may be asking, “Why didn’t my flu shot protect me from H3N2? Wasn’t this strain in the shot?” Yes, this strain (or at least the most common mutation) was included within the 2017-2018 flu shot formulation. You continue, “But, I took the shot and I still got sick anyway”. There may be several reasons for this.

  1. The flu shot may not have contained the exact strain of H3N2 that you got.
  2. The flu shot is formulated using eggs as a carrier. However, the H3N2 strain does not thrive well within an egg carrier causing this strain to be, at best, less effective and, at worst, ineffective in the shot.
  3. In flu seasons other than the 2017-2018 season, it has been known that those in charge of the flu strain lottery have guessed the wrong strains to include in the slot. This has directly contributed to the flu season because the dominant strain was not included.

If you received a flu shot during the 2017-2018 flu season and still got the flu, it may have been a direct result of number 1 and, more likely, number 2 contributing to your illness. As rapidly as viruses can mutate, it’s possible you picked up a strain that wasn’t included in the shot formulation (i.e., number 3).

For very young children or the elderly, getting a flu shot early is still a good first defense. However, don’t rely strictly on the shot to prevent getting the flu as it may not always protect you as expected. You should also consult with a medical professional to ensure that taking the flu shot is the right choice for your health as some people may have reactions to the formulation. Only your doctor can give you medical advice about your health.

As a result of this season’s flu shot ineffectiveness against H3N2, you will need to still use other preventative measures such as …

Wash your hands often with soap and warm water

Washing your hands frequently will eliminate most viruses and bacteria from your hands and prevent you getting them near your nose or mouth. If you can wash your face, you should do so as well.

During winter months, do not eat from serve-yourself open buffets

Eating off of salad bars at buffet-style restaurants or other communal type restaurants only serves to get you sick.  Instead, opt for ordering from the menu so the food is cooked in the kitchen and served to you directly. This doesn’t eliminate the risk of getting sick, but it drastically reduces your chances because the plates will be clean and the food will be prepared fresh and hot. A cook in the kitchen could be sick, but most better restaurants don’t allow sick cooks in the kitchen (it’s a liability, after all). The fewer people who touch your food, the less chance you have of picking up a virus.

For this same reason, don’t buy foods in grocery stores from open buffet fill-it-yourself containers. The reason for this rule is very clear. Most buffet style places leave spoons out all day in containers and simply switch out the food leaving dirty utensils.  Thus, spoons may have been touched by hundreds of people. By touching the spoon on the buffet table, you may be infecting yourself immediately. The food itself may also harbor the flu or a cold virus simply from someone sneezing. For sanitary reasons, avoid buffet serve-yourself meals during the winter to keep yourself healthier. This advice covers both hot and cold food bars including olive bars.

As a side note about buffets.. Buffets are extremely unsanitary. The required sneeze guards do nothing for children. The guards are designed with adult height in mind. A child can easily be face-high to the food, yet their face is under the guard. It’s easy for a child to cough, laugh, sneeze or play around or even with the food or utensils. Since children seem to be the prime carriers for cold and flu viruses, this makes buffets and other serve-yourself food tables very unsanitary. Instead, you should order from a menu at a table. You should always ask the server if they plan serving you your food from the buffet table. If they intend to serve from the buffet, ask to have the restaurant make it fresh in the kitchen instead of serving food to you from the buffet. Better still, visit restaurants that don’t offer a buffet bar of any kind.

Carry Around Restaurants

This buffet bar advice extends to all kinds of carry around small plate restaurants including Mongolian BBQ, Brazilian Steakhouse, Japanese conveyor belt, Japanese floating boat or Dim Sum restaurants. I’d even avoid company holiday parties which use servers to carry around appetizers on trays and buffet style plates (not that this food is usually very good anyway). Basically, my advice includes any restaurant where food is paraded in front of many people before you have the opportunity to grab it. To these I also say, “Stay away.”

Company Holiday Parties

In general, parties in the winter are a bad idea. When you attend, you’re mixing with a many folks that you probably don’t know. Worse, though, is the food. Many company parties choose to use carry around servers for appetizers. They also like to use chafing dishes to serve buffet style and sometimes fondue fountains for desserts.

You should contact your company’s event planner early in 2018 and request that they choose a sit-down restaurant-style waiter served meal over a buffet for all winter parties. You should mention that it is much more sanitary and more healthy for everyone involved. The last thing the company holiday party planner wants is to be responsible for making half of the company sick, especially during a particularly harsh flu season. The way to perpetuate sickness is to serve buffet style food. Inevitably, someone will come to the party sick and spread it around.

Tanning beds and UV

While this next portion may seem unusual, it may actually prevent you from getting the flu or colds. If you use a tanning bed, you may decrease your chances of actually contracting a virus or bacterial infection during the winter months. UV is known to disinfect surfaces and kill bacteria and viruses. Using a tanning bed should kill viruses and bacteria on the surface of your skin, both hands and body. You don’t necessarily need to use a tanning bed for the maximum time. It may take as little as 1-3 minutes to successfully disinfect the surface of your skin (not necessarily enough time to tan you), although, likely enough time to kill viruses. Disinfecting the surface of your skin through UV should kill off any viruses you may have picked up through contact with other people.

However, once a virus has entered your nasal passages, you are already infected. UV light doesn’t penetrate deep enough to disinfect inside your body. So, don’t tan once you are sick as it won’t help stop it and may only serve to dehydrate you even more than the virus already has. Tanning can be dehydrating. Drink water after tanning.

How often you do this really depends on how often you are out in public with lots of people around you. The longer you are out in public around potentially sick people, then you should tan at the end of the day to kill off anything you may have come in contact with. You should tan at the end of the day rather than the beginning so you kill the viruses you may have gotten earlier that day.

Shower regularly with soap

Having good hygiene by showering will also wash away any viruses that may have landed on your skin. So, shower regularly to reduce viruses and bacteria on the surface of your skin. A reasonably hot shower or bath combined with soap is quite good at doing this.

Cover open wounds

If you have any cuts or open wounds, cover them properly with bandages. Having an open wound is an invitation for viruses to enter. Keep your cuts clean and keep them covered. Also, using antibacterial ointments like Neosporin on wounds can reduce infection and may also kill off or prevent entry of viruses.

Don’t use public phones or public computers

If you must use public phones or computers, you should bring along some Windex wipes or other disinfecting towelettes to wipe down and disinfect the surface before using it. Basically, you should avoid these devices or clean surfaces where the item could come in contact with your face (like a phone). With public computers, you’re touching the keyboard and may then wipe your nose with your hands. So, carry some disinfecting towelettes around during the winter months for quick disinfection. Also, carrying hand sanitizer allows you to clean your hands immediately after touching such items or, alternatively, go the restroom and wash your hands.

Wipe down surfaces in your office

Because offices are where we spend most of the day, always wipe down your phone, desk and keyboard. You never know when someone may sit down at your desk and temporarily use your space without your knowledge. Always wipe and disinfect your space each day during the winter time. In fact, you should ask your office supply person to supply your company with disinfecting wipes. This initiative shows the company cares about a healthy workplace.

Public transportation

While I know that public transit is very ‘green’ and, in some cases, cost effective, it can also be a place where you can get sick. By sitting in seats where sick people may have been, you risk contracting the flu or cold viruses just by being there. You may not be able to avoid the use of public transportation, but you can reduce your chances by standing up rather than sitting down. If you stand on public transportation during the winter, you are not touching the seats where someone sick may have been sitting. Holding the hand rail only, you can easily clean your hands with instant hand sanitizer once you exit.  Carry a small sized hand sanitizer with you in winter months. If you must sit, then avoid touching your face and use a hand sanitizer after you exit the transit.

If you notice someone coughing around you, move away from them (preferably to another car on a train) or further back if you are in a bus. You can also get off at the next stop and wait for the next bus or train, if they are frequent enough.

For airplane transit, there’s not really much you can do here. If there’s someone who is sick on a plane, you’re very likely to catch it. So, the best bet is to limit travel to only necessary movement during winter months.

Avoid eating out often / order take-out if possible

Eating at any restaurant exposes you to viruses. To avoid this risk, don’t eat out. Instead, buy foods and cook for yourself. Eating at home, there is no risk of becoming infected with a virus (except what you or your family brings home). Because your home is basically a controlled environment, you can prevent getting sick by staying home more often in the winter. If you really do want to eat out, take the food from the restaurant as takeout. Order over the phone from home or your cell and then pick the food up after it’s ready. This means you get exposed to almost nothing other than door handles and money handling. So, use some hand sanitizer or wash your hands when you get home.

Children and School

Unfortunately, if you have school age children, there is little you can do about this risk. Your children will be exposed every day at school. Because schools care about having children’s butts in seats (this is how they get their funding) more than caring about whether a child is sick, school ends up as one big petri dish. With school age children, all you can do is send them off and hope for the best. When your child brings something home (and they will), you’re likely to get it yourself. Until schools are required to care about each child’s health over attendance, this will remain a problem every year. When your child does get sick, keep them at home.

Stay at Home

If you don’t have school age children, staying at home during the height of the flu season can drastically reduce your chances of catching a virus. Going to the movies, eating out, visiting crowded shopping malls, zoos, museums or any other mingling with large gatherings of people all greatly increase your chances of getting sick during flu season. When possible, stay in.

Grocery Shopping

During December, January and February, I only go out for limited reasons such as grocery shopping. I also try to visit stores during off-hours or hours when fewer people will be shopping. These times are typically an hour before closing or the first hour after opening. If it’s a 24 hour market or open until midnight, anytime after 9PM is a great time to shop. In fact, the later at night, the fewer people you will see. You should also wipe down the push cart handle with disinfectant if you have it or use sanitizer after you’re done. Better, shop with your reusable shopping bag. It’s your bag and only you and the cashiers get to touch it. Wash your shopping bags frequently to get rid of germs.

Shopping with Home Delivery

Since companies like Amazon, GrubMarket, GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates, Safeway and Instacart are now making it easier and cheaper than ever to shop for home delivery, here’s another way you can prevent going out. Order what you need from one of these apps and have it delivered right to your door. This prevents the need to even enter a store. Inevitably, you will need to go out to fill your car’s tank or get certain items, but you can limit your people interaction on these trips and, thus, reduce your chances of getting sick.

The above are many of my rules that I regularly follow. However, sometimes it isn’t always convenient to follow all of them. In those cases, washing hands frequently with warm water is the bare minimum to help reduce the chances of getting sick during the winter flu season months.

Wash Clothing Frequently

In the winter, we wear a whole lot more outerwear than is normal in other months. Some of these include scarves and gloves. Buy and use washable outerwear. These materials allow you to throw your gloves and scarves into the washer and dryer to disinfect anything that you might have come in contact with while out and about. Gloves are particularly problematic. If you live in a city with a subway or use other public transportation, your gloves can easily pick up germs that could lead to the Flu. Wash your outerwear frequently during the winter. I’d also recommend to avoid wool or other outerwear that requires dry cleaning. Because it’s difficult to launder these items, you’ll wear them for much than you normally would clothing that can be washed in a washer. Wearing gloves for too long could be what makes you sick. Instead, choose winter clothing that keeps you warm and that is easy to launder… and wash it frequently during the flu season.

Disclaimer: This article is not to be construed in any way as dispensing medical advice. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with a licensed medical professional to discuss your specific health needs.

 

The reality behind Reality TV: Hell’s Kitchen Edition

Posted in food and dining, reality tv, TV Shows by commorancy on October 15, 2009

[Updated: June 15, 2019 — Michael Wray has a GoFundMe under Where are they Now?]
[Previous update: August 2, 2018 — Jessica Vogel, Season 12 contestant dead at age 34.]
[Previous update: February 10, 2018 — Seasons 14 thru 17 and Where are they now?]

Hell’s Kitchen

For those of you who like Reality TV shows like Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Hell’s Kitchen, realize there is even more reality than what you see on the tube. For example, in the first two seasons of Hell’s Kitchen, the winners didn’t actually win what the show promised during the seasons. The first season winner, Michael Wray, was to win his own restaurant, but the show didn’t deliver on that award. Instead, he was awarded kitchen equipment and a trip to the UK to study under Ramsay. He first accepted and then later declined the trip. The second season winner, Heather West, was promised a newly built restaurant in Las Vegas in which she would have an investment stake and help design it.  This prize also never materialized. Instead, she signed a one year contract to be Senior Chef at Terra Rossa (an existing restaurant) in Las Vegas. After her contract terminated, she left and became Sous Chef on Hell’s Kitchen during Season 6.  Still, not the prize she had won.

It wasn’t until the third season that Hell’s Kitchen actually awarded the prize to Rock Harper that it had announced all season. He became Head Chef of Green Valley Ranch’s Terra Verde. Of course, the question remains, was it just a limited stint for Rock like it was for Heather?  Only time will tell. Fast Forward… The award for Season 6 was to be ‘Head Chef’ at the Araxi in British Columbia. Unfortunately, the restaurant began to get cold feet at the start of Season 6 after seeing the contestants. So, Ramsay apparently had to talk with the owner to quell any fears that there would be a competent winner. Unfortunately, Araxi had already made up its mind. The winner of Season 6 (Dave) will simply become an ’employee’ and not ‘Head Chef’. So, once again, Hell’s Kitchen has not delivered on its announced award.

I also have to wonder about those other award winners (see updates below). Did they only somewhat win or slightly win? At least Hell’s Kitchen should award cash and tangible prizes. As long as the sponsorship remains, the prizes will be there. Top Chef got that one right at least.

Winners List Seasons 1 through 4

Season 1 winner
Michael Wray
Prize: Tatou in Los Angeles
Status: Not Awarded
Alternate: Study under Ramsay in London + Kitchen Equipment

Season 2 winner
Heather West
Prize: Her own custom designed restaurant in Las Vegas.
Status: Not Awarded
Alternate: Terra Rossa at Red Rock Resort Spa and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada

Season 3 winner
Rahman “Rock” Harper
Prize: Terra Verde at Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, Nevada
Status: Prize Awarded

Season 4 winner
Christina Machamer
Prize: London West Hollywood in Los Angeles (Chef Ramsay owned) + $250k yearly salary
Status: Prize Awarded

Kitchen Nightmares

Kitchen Nightmares, on the other hand, is its own nightmare.  Of course, it doesn’t help that Ramsay attempts to save restaurants on the brink of collapse.  Needless to say, in the first 2 US seasons of this show and of the 13 he’s tried saving in New York, only 5 are still in business. Sebastian’s in LA has also closed. Most of the failed restaurant owners blame Ramsay and Ramsay blames the owners for not following his advice. The reality is probably somewhere in the middle combined with the economy. The downturn has taken its toll on lots of places, including restaurants. Fine dining is quite expensive. People are cutting back and eating more frugally. It doesn’t help that most of these ailing turned failing restaurants really had no regulars anyway. So, giving it a coat of paint and a new menu is probably not enough. Their reputation was already tarnished.

Of course, Kitchen Nightmares also pays to have people dine at the restaurant so that it appears as though it might succeed. The reality, of course, is far different. This is all Hollywood smoke and mirrors. After the cameras stop rolling and the production is no longer paying diners, the restaurant goes back to its old dismal self (bad sales and all). Basically, polishing poop doesn’t make it better. Kitchen Nightmares is now moving into its fifth season and counting.

Update for Kitchen Nightmares – 2010 Edition

Joseph Cerniglia found dead in Hudson River. According to witnesses, they saw someone jump from a bridge. Joseph was the owner of Campania restaurant that was featured on Kitchen Nightmares. At the time when Ramsay stepped in, Joseph’s restaurant was in debt by more than $80,000 to his suppliers. Ramsay tried to get Campania back on track, but we know how this works. After the cameras stop rolling and the paid diners stop, as stated above, the restaurant goes back to is old dismal money-losing self and falls back into the death spiral. Whether or not KN is responsible, in any way, for his apparent suicide has yet to be determined, but this is definitely a shocker.

Campania Episode on Hulu [Defunct Link: Here for historical purposes only]

Warning: Contains explicit language

Update for Kitchen Nightmares — June 2014

As of June 2014, Daily Mail UK reports that the Kitchen Nightmares series has officially ended. I’d say, it’s really about time. During its run, KN has tried to help many restaurants survive, recover and prosper. KN was primarily smoke and mirrors, TV cameras and paid diners. The truth is, more than 60% (and counting) of the restaurants Kitchen Nightmares has tried to save have folded. That’s not a particularly spectacular track record and just points to the fact that not all is a perfect shade of deep fried golden brown in Gordon Ramsay’s world.

Makes You Wonder

I have to wonder just how many more reality game or fix-it shows really work after the dust settles and the cameras are gone. With shows like Trading Spaces and Bridezilla, is it only about the cameras and drama? Does the ‘reality’ really mean anything. After the cameras stop, it’s really not that exciting. In fact, when the cameras are rolling, it’s not that exciting. That’s why they hire excellent editors to take random shots and intercut them together. For that reason alone, that’s how Tek, who was eliminated much earlier in Hell’s Kitchen, can reappear in an episode where she shouldn’t have been.

Smoke and Mirrors

Remember, Hollywood is all about appearances. Appearance is the only thing that matters. As long as its glitzy and offers some drama, Hollywood assumes people will watch. To some degree, I guess that thinking is valid. But, once you realize that it’s only smoke and mirrors, then it becomes just fluff. For me, that’s not really enough to keep watching.

Hell’s Kitchen Updates

Season 5

Winner: Danny Veltri
Prize: Head Chef at Borgata’s Fornalletto in Atlantic City
Status: Not Awarded
Offered: Sous Chef position

Danny Veltri was to have won the head chef position at the Borgata’s Fornelletto restaurant in Atlantic City and, unfortunately, ended up as sous chef at the restaurant under head chef Stephen Kalt. Danny didn’t immediately appear disappointed in the change according to this NY Daily News story and wanted to learn from Kalt. Apparently, Danny stayed for only several months and then, after frustration set in, departed back to Florida to work at Flip Flops, his own and previously operating restaurant. So, once again, HK didn’t deliver its announced prize fully as described.

Season 6

Winner: Dave Levey
Prize: Araxi in Whistler BC for the Olympics
Status: Not Awarded
Offered: Line Cook

Dave Levey didn’t stay long at the Araxi in Whistler, BC. After not receiving the head chef position that he was promised, he apparently only stayed just long enough to help with the 2010 Olympics. After that, Dave packed up and has returned to his native New Jersey to work at the Il Giardino restaurant where he had been previously employed prior to HK.

[Update 2013] Dave has since left Il Giardino and has moved to The Publick House as Executive Chef which is located in Chester, New Jersey or visit their direct web page at The Publick House Tavern and Inn. Apparently, both Il Giardino and The Publick House Tavern and Inn are owned by the Lubrano family according to this 2009 nj.com article. Apparently, this family also owns a third restaurant named Provesi in Morristown. Effectively, Dave is still working for the same restaurant family.

Season 7

Winner: Holli Ugalde
Prize: Savoy Grill in London
Status: Not Awarded
Offered: Undisclosed sum of money

[Updated: 11/30/2013] Reader Morten writes in saying that, according to this Daily Mail UK article, Holli was not awarded the Savoy Grill position and apparently she’s ‘fuming’ and feeling ‘betrayed’ by Ramsay. Not sure what’s going on between these two, but whatever it is doesn’t seem appetizing.

The finals came down to Holli and Jay. Drum roll please… Holli Ugalde wins. This time the prize is likely something that can actually be awarded as this is a restaurant owned by Ramsay himself. Hell’s Kitchen always seemed to get in trouble when awarding jobs to contestants where Ramsay had no ownership stake in the restaurant. This season, the prize is a head chef position at Ramsay’s newly opened (reoponed?) Savoy Grill restaurant in London. Because Ramsay will own and operate this restaurant, HK will likely be able to actually award the prize fully.

Of course, that depends on the Savoy’s successful reopening launch to work. We’ll have to see, though, if that promise holds true for Holli. Of course, Ramsay may end up hiring both Holli and Jay should the Australian trip turn out better than expected. I’m quite sure Ramsay considered this in his decision when not only picking the winner, but also when he picked the two finalists this season. Pulling Holli and Jay together through an Australian trip may mean Ramsay will get 2 chefs for the price of one if the relationship holds and they both move to London together. It’s a long shot for Ramsay, but if it works, it will work out great. If it doesn’t work out, he still gets Holli.

But wait, there is now speculation that Holli is a lesbian. I’m not specifically seeing it in the photos from this web site. But, you can visit and be the judge. Is she or isn’t she? If so, then the Jay and Holli romance thing was all a sham as Ramsay (and HK) would likely have known this fact. You might also want check out Holli’s MySpace page which may have more details about this.

Oh, and if you didn’t watch the final episode closely, you might want to watch it again. Dave Levey makes a cameo complete with chef’s outfit, knit cap and arm cast. Although, if his arm hasn’t healed in 12 months, he needs to see a specialist.

Season 8

Winner: Nona Sivley
Prize: Head Chef at L.A. Market
Status: Awarded

Season 8 has now been over for quite some time, but I’ve been lax on updating this article.  The winner is… drum ro.. nevermind, this season is not worth getting excited over.  Between Russell and Nona, Nona wins, for whatever that’s worth. This season was an unmitigated disaster. The professionalism of this show dropped tremendously. The drama went way up and the fighting was at a boiling point nearly every episode. Yet, there was little actually boiling in the kitchen, other than Ramsay. Anyway, I guess Nona gets the position at L.A. Market, even though there’s was no clear executive chef material in any of the contestants. Good luck Nona, you’re gonna need it. With that said, between Jillian, Russell and Nona, Jillian was the most consistent cook of the bunch. Russell had a big mouth and liked to run it, but when it came down to meals, he just couldn’t cut it (or, in this case, cook it). We’ll see if Nona hangs around long at L.A. Market.  My guess is that, like past HK winners, she’ll do a couple months there as a token prize and then be off back home. Note that Nona apparently started work at the L.A. Market on January 1, 2011 January 25th, 2011.  So, Nona should now be working there as of this [latest] update.

Season 9

Winner: Paul Niedermann
Prize: Head Chef at BLT Steak in Manhattan
Status: Awarded

Season 9 has now concluded. The winner turns out to be Paul Niedermann who began his career flame broiling burgers at Burger King.  He has won the spot as Head Chef at the BLT Steak located in Manhattan. According to this ‘About Us‘ web page for BLT Steak, it does actually appear that Paul Niedermann did get the gig at BLT Steak. Mind you, this particular restaurant doesn’t appear to be any kind of super upscale establishment, but it at least appears to offer reasonable quality food.  Definitely a step up from Burger King, but perhaps not by that much. Yelp gives NY BLT Steak 3.5 stars.

Yelp consensus for BLT Steak NY — overpriced for the quality.

A quote from the BLT Steak’s About Us page:

Paul Niedermann

Head Chef, BLT Steak New York

As the Season 9 winner of Fox’s hit reality show, Hell’s Kitchen, Paul Niedermann recently traded Florida sunshine for the glittering lights of New York City. As Head Chef of BLT Steak New York, Paul brings Italian and Mediterranean influences to the kitchen, his culinary palette pairing light fresh food together with citrus and other influences from his time spent in southern Florida. He also brings, of course, a killer competitive edge.

Watch Paul talk about his experience in New York City and working at BLT Steak. [Below]

With that said, the runners up were Will Lustberg and Elise Wims. While I would like to discuss this specific show’s qualities, it has gone way too far down in recent years to really get excited by it anymore. So, for sheer informational purposes, here is the winner information.

Season 10

Winner: Christina Wilson
Prize: Head Chef at Paris, Las Vegas
Status: Awarded

Season 10 is now over and the winner is …. Christina Wilson. She takes her place among the other Hell’s Kitchen winners. The runner up, Justin Antiorio.  You can find out more details about this season at this Los Angeles Times article. Basically, it as a play between palette and passion.  I’m guessing that Ramsay is more a fan of passion than palette, but that’s a bit unusual considering that taste in food is everything. Passion is great, but if you can’t make creative foods that taste great, then you’re not likely to do that well as a successful chef. I guess Ramsay will have to deal with that now since Christina Wilson wins her spot at Gordon Ramsay Steak in the Las Vegas Paris hotel.

Yelp’s rating for Gordon Ramsay Steak Las Vegas is a solid 4 stars. A large number of the most recent reviews (as of 9/25/2012) are 5 stars with many people saying the steak is outstanding. Of course, in the restaurant biz, quality can change on a dime. That’s why there are sites like Yelp. So, there you have it. If you like steak, this is probably a great place to try. Albeit, it’s a bit pricey with the average price per guest around $85.

Season 11

Winner: Ja’Nel Witt
Prize: Head Chef position at Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill in Las Vegas
Status: Not Awarded — failed required drug test

I’d been lax in updating this page, but there’s been some actual real-life drama involving the winner of HK season 11. So, the winner is Ja’Nel Witt. I won’t really get into how she won HK (it doesn’t really matter at this point). Instead, let’s get into the real-life drama. Keep in mind that I’ve been waiting for a story like this to break for 10 seasons.

According to TMZ, Ms. Witt failed her drug test that Caesars Palace required her to take upon assuming her winning position at Gordon Ramsay’s Pub and Grill in Las Vegas. After going through all of that hassle for an entire season (granted, it’s really just a couple of weeks time in real-life when they film the whole season), she was allegedly stupid enough to run some rails. Now she’s being run out of town on a rail. Yes, some things don’t stay in Vegas and it appears Ms. Witt won’t be one of those things. Yes, this also means Ms. Witt won’t be assuming the role at Ramsay’s restaurant.

Although, Ms. Witt won against Mary Poehnelt (the runner up). I’m hoping that Mary Poehnelt will end up taking the position and getting the money as it doesn’t bode well to give that to someone suspected of being a drug addict. Not the right role model to be endorsing here. Although, again according to TMZ, Gordon Ramsay still believes in Ja’Nel and he says his ‘door is always open’ once she ‘sorts out her personal issues’.

Maybe Gordon Ramsay has learned his own life lesson: even though it’s consumable, it’s not always about food. You’ve got to know that as cranky as Ramsay gets at raw scallops or an underdone Wellington, he’s got to be fuming over this. I think it’s time for HK to start doing drug tests all throughout the seasons to make sure the contestants aren’t coking while cooking.

Season 12 (Spring 2014)

Winner: Scott Commings
Prize: Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The prize was carried over from the previous season from Ja’Nel Witt’s drug test failure and awarded this season. Not sure why the show didn’t award it to the Season 11 runner up. Isn’t that why there’s a runner up?
Status: Awarded
Runner Up: Jason Zepaltas

Season 13 (Fall 2014)

WinnerLa Tasha McCutchen
Prize: Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Caesars Atlantic City (thanks go to reader Kenny)
Status: Awarded. She served her time, but has since left to go back to 3030 Ocean (a previous restaurant) several times. She wants to become a private chef.
Runner UpBryant Gallaher

Season 14 (Spring 2015)

Winner: Meghan Gill
Prize: Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Atlantic City
Status: Apparently awarded, but she waited over a year to start in 2015 and appears to no longer be there. According to the restaurant’s web site, the current chef is “Georgeann Leaming”.
Runner Up: Torrece Gregoire

Season 15 (Spring 2016)

Winner: Ariel Malone
Prize: BLT Steak at Bally’s Las Vegas
Status: Awarded, but she’s no longer there.
Runner Up: Kristin Barone

Season 16 (Winter 2017)

Winner: Kimberly-Ann Ryan
Prize: Yardbird Southern Table & Bar at The Venetian Las Vegas
Status: Apparently awarded, but the chef listed for this restaurant is currently “John Kunkel”. Not sure what’s going on here.
Runner Up: Heather Williams

Season 17 (Early 2018)

Winner: Michelle Tribble
Prize: Hell’s Kitchen Restaurant at Caesars Palace
Status: Not Yet Known
Runner Up: Benjamin Knack

Commentary

Chalk this next commentary all up to TV smoke and mirrors. These winner “head chef” jobs seem just a tad strange. They claim to win a head chef position, but I rarely ever see the name of the winner listed on the web page for the restaurant. Then, inexplicably after a few months, the winner has already left the restaurant. It almost seems like the restaurant is embarrassed to state that they have a Hell’s Kitchen winner in the kitchen. It seems to me that the restaurants would want that publicity instead of shying away from it. It’s so odd.

As a chef, why would you put yourself through the grueling rundown of Ramsay’s tirades and not know if you’re actually going to win even if that door opens? This show has lost its steam. My guess is that all that steam is evaporating from Ramsay’s expletives rather than from the pots. Personally for me, this show has worn out its welcome. But, apparently, Fox keeps ordering more seasons… And, 2 HK seasons in one calendar year in 2014? What was that all about? At least they stopped that silly business during the 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with Michelle Tribble since her win was only just aired on February 2nd, 2018.


Where Are They Now?

Update for Previous Winners

Welcome to the “Where are they today?” section. I will attempt keep this information up to date as I locate information on each of the previous winners and other important contestant news. If you see a news article updating an HK’s winners whereabouts, please leave a comment below. Stay Tuned and Enjoy.

Michael Wray (Season 1 winner)

We know that Michael didn’t win the prize that he was promised. Instead, he was invited to study with Ramsay in the UK. He opted out because he stated it would be hard on his family at the time. Since then, he has been head chef in two Los Angeles restaurants (Tatou and the Standard), but ultimately didn’t stay. He left the Standard after stating that it was a good job, but the duties kept him out of the kitchen more than he liked. After leaving those restaurants, he moved to Arizona to be close to his family and, later, in hopes of opening his own restaurant named the HK1. In 2009, after failing to secure the funding for his restaurant venture then to be named HK1, he has apparently joined the staff of an Arizona College to teach cooking. However, scouring colleges and cooking schools in Tuscon and Sierra Vista Arizona areas, I’ve been unable to turn up which school, if any, where he is teaching. If you’re a reader in Arizona and know where he’s working, please comment. After this, I have not been able to locate information on what he’s doing.

Heather West (Season 2 winner)

Heather was to win her own restaurant in Vegas. She didn’t get this prize. Instead, she became Senior Chef at Terra Rossa at Red Rock Casino Resort Spa for one year. In 2009, she moved to Long Beach, New York where she became head chef of the Monterey Restaurant until September of 2010. From here, she’s moved around to various Executive Chef roles including at Jellyfish, Ciao Baby and R2 Events Corporation as a Corporate Executive Chef. She is now at Schafer’s in Port Jefferson, New York as Executive Chef where she’s been for 7 months.

Rock Harper (Season 3 winner)

Rock Harper is located in Virginia. He has a Twitter account and a blog site called Rock Solid Creative Food Group. He also apparently hosts a podcast called the Chef Rock Xperiment.

Christina Machamer (Season 4 winner)

Christina is located in or near Napa, California. Christina has a web site named ChefCMac.com. On this site she writes:

Today, I keep one foot firmly plated in the wine industry, consulting for Caldwell Vineyard and Eleven Eleven Winery, while working as a private chef for clients renting exclusive estates while visiting Napa Valley…. Click through to read more…

Danny Veltri (Season 5 winner)

Danny Veltri’s location is currently unknown, but he may still live in or near New Smyrna Beach, Florida. In 2012, he was arrested for a DUI. He started his own catering service named Back from Hell catering sometime around 2012. It is unknown if he still operates this service. He was also chef for Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill in Smyrna Beach, which he also helped open. While Gnarly Surf Bar and Grill still appears to be in business according to Yelp, it is unknown if Danny is still involved in it.

Dave Levy (Season 6 Winner)

Where’s Dave as of 2014? He was briefly in jail, but was released on bail pending a hearing, reports nj.com. According to the article, he was a back seat passenger during a routine traffic stop sometime in August that led to discovery of narcotics in the vehicle. Dave was arrested on suspicion of being under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance. Also, according to this same nj.com article, he was heading back to his restaurant job at Il Giardino ’86 (?.. eh, don’t think so.. see below). Of the bags that were consented to be searched, the officer found the bags to contain illicit prescription drugs (i.e., not prescribed to person in possession of them), a white powder substance suspected as a controlled substance, money and a ledger book which may have documented narcotic sales among other things. These bags were apparently not owned by Dave.

Purported by to this same nj.com article, Dave was apparently on his way back to Il Giardino ’86. I don’t know how that’s possible since Dave had moved to The Publick House quite a while back. Also according to this article and confirmed by Yelp, the Lubrano’s Il Giardino ’86 restaurant has now been 86ed (er.. closed). Its liquor license has been transferred to H2Ocean (not owned or operated by the Lubranos) now operating at the same location. Dave was likely on his way back to his executive chef position at The Publick House Inn and Tavern which is where he was as of 2013 and it is assumed it is where he still works unless this drug charge gets in the way.

Holli Ugalde (Season 7 winner)

I haven’t been able to locate Holli’s exact whereabouts, but I believe she may be near Redlands, California based on her Twitter account. However, her Twitter account hasn’t been updated since 2016. She also had a web which was located at and is now only available through the Internet Archive as www.chefholli.com. The http://www.chefholli.com site is no longer working and must have disappeared sometime in 2017.

Nona Johnson (Season 8 winner)

Nona went by her maiden name of Sivley when on Hell’s Kitchen Season 8. She has lost weight, gotten married and is known as Nona Johnson. She has a Twitter and a Facebook account. She has been operating the Sizzling Peach catering service for at least 4 years. She and her catering service are located in Norcross, Georgia. Here is Sizzling Peach’s Facebook page.

Paul Niedermann (Season 9 winner)

Paul Niedermann has left BLT Steak New York and is now located in Delray, Florida. Here’s a Delray Newspaper article talking to Paul from late 2017.

Christina Wilson (Season 10 Winner)

Where’s Christina now? In 2016, Christina moved to overseeing several of Ramsay’s restaurants both in Vegas and Atlantic city, she’s done a stint as Sous Chef on Hell’s Kitchen and she’s writing menus for Ramsay’s hotel rehab show, “Hotel Hell”. Since it’s now 2018, I’m not entirely sure what Ramsay has Christina doing. Apparently, she’s one of the rare HK winners. Apparently, she’s been able to milk the most out of her win on Hell’s Kitchen (and out of Ramsay) where most other winners have gone their separate ways in short order.

Ja’Nel Witt (Season 11 Winner)

After not being able to claim her prize due to a drug test failure, Ja’Nel has created her own web site and describes how she got started. She’s currently located in Houston, Texas. The site says:

Chef Ja’Nel found her passion for food helping her mom in the kitchen as a little girl. After college she realized she could take that passion and turn it into a career. She initially earned her Bachelors of Science in Health and Human Performance, but then quickly followed her heart into the kitchen and has not looked back since. Click through to read more

Scott Commings (Season 12 Winner)

As of 2018, Scott is located in Las Vegas. As of July 2017, he was located at The Las Vegas Room at the Downtown Grand. The Las Vegas Room is private rental dining room. It is presumed he is still operating this private dining restaurant. The Downtown Grand web site states:

This venue is available for private events and whether your preference is a romantic, 2 hour cocktail reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres or a formal sit down dinner, you’ll find a swanky, sophisticated scene in the Las Vegas Room. The Las Vegas Room is 1,700 square feet with a guest capacity of up to 100.

Scott is also working with The Freedom Beat, also located in the Las Vegas Downtown Grand. On Feb 13th, 2018, he’s offering up a pre fixe menu with The Culinary Road trip, a monthly dinner he hosts. Cost is $38 or $48.

Jessica Vogel (Season 12 Contestant)

Jessica Vogel competed along side Scott Commings in Season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen. She was eliminated from the show on episode 10 of season 12. On August 1, 2018, it was reported by USA Today that Jessica Vogel had died on July 30th, 2018 of heart complications after being treated for colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. She was 34.

Here’s an interview with Jessica Vogel during her time on Hell’s Kitchen:

new Michael Wray (Season 1 Winner Update)

Michael Wray had been living under a bridge in Los Angeles, CA. He has started a GoFundMe campaign to attempt to purchase a food truck so he can get back into the Chef business. Here’s an excerpt from what his campaign page has to say [sic]:

… The chance I earned from Hell’s Kitchen to begin my dream of being my own boss and using my new platform to bring my food to the world was wasted through drug abuse and addiction. Divorce, and most, loosing my lil new born Trixie GoGo broke my heart and spirit. Sending me into a tail spin of addiction that 5years after my win. I was living under the Burbank Blvd. underpass off the 5freeway in Los Angeles.

… I have spent the last 6 years without relapsing and earning my right to be an amazing chef again. Help me to get my food truck. I want to go and cook for you. Road trip of culinary delight. I want to show everyone I deserve the be a Hell’s Kitchen winner.

You can mosey on over to his GoFundMe campaign page by clicking this link. Thanks go to Tina for this tip.

↩︎

Recruiting: Job seeker’s friend or foe?

Posted in Employment by commorancy on October 14, 2009
I have been successfully placed by a recruiter once in my career.  After that, I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with recruiters.  The main problem with technology recruiters isn’t necessarily with the recruiting itself.  It’s the human element that always gets in the way.  A recruiter’s bottom line is the commission they will receive when they place a candidate.  This commission, unfortunately, drives the entire placement process.  When a recruiter’s sole motivation is based on money, the candidate and the company both get the short end of the stick.
Case in point, I have used recruiters for the last two or three jobs I’ve attempted to land.  In at every case, the recruiter sent me on interviews that were clearly not a match for my skills.  Either the job was entirely wrong based on my skills or I had specifically told the recruiter not to place me in that industry or job type.  Yet, there I was, interviewing where I shouldn’t have.  This ends up as a wild goose chase. When I explain that to the recruiter, they get defensive and blame me for the ‘bad interview’.  It wasn’t bad, it was just a mismatch because of the recruiter’s lack of skill or inability to listen.  But, this comes back to the commission.  Once the commission dollars become a reality in their mind, the recruiter puts blinders on and attempts to place a square peg in a round hole just to cash in.
That’s not to say that there aren’t sincere recruiters out there.  I’m sure there are some.  But, the recruiting industry is so filled with inexperienced recruiters only willing to make a buck that you can’t tell the difference between who is sincere and who isn’t.  It’s not like recruiting is regulated or has any grading system so you the candidate can see how a specific staffing firm works.
The one recruiting game that gets to me is when recruiters simply resume collect to fill a database, but have no intention of placing you.  Robert Half (RHI) is notoriously bad for this.  They’ll collect your resume, ask you to step into their offices for a ‘face to face’ and additionally ask you to spend an hour or longer filling out paperwork.  Once you do this, they never call you back.  So, instead of spending a day wasting time at their offices, the candidate could spent the time sending out resumes to actual employers and going on legitimate interviews with direct employers.
Other tactics from recruiters include them finding a job posting on the Internet, collecting resumes and qualified candidates.  Only after they have the candidates in hand do then try to lasso in the employer.  So, they string the candidate along thinking they have a chance at the position when they haven’t even talked with the company about the position.  Once the company turns down the recruiter, this is when the recruiter stops calling the candidate and stops taking your calls.  This is yet another colossal waste of time.  These become very apparent when you get two or three recruiters calling to recruit for the same company and same position.  In a typical recruiting position, the company only allows one recruiter to recruit for the position.  When multiple recruiters are recruiting for the same position, either the company doesn’t understand the process or the recruiters are not on retainer.
When choosing to work with recruiters, be cautious and ask lots of questions.  They do attempt to be the candidate’s advocate, but usually only to the point that they don’t lose their commission.  If losing their commission becomes a reality, recruiters can become desperate in the relationship between the candidate and the company.  In fact, a working recruiter relationship can turn sour in about 30 seconds once the candidate or company expresses disinterest.  This is when the recruiter’s professionalism is tested.  If the recruiter keeps pushing the candidate or the company after disinterest has been expressed that is not professional.  It also shows just how much more the recruiter values their commission over proper job placement.
For a recruiter, it’s much more valuable to place a qualified candidate in the proper position than collecting recruiting commission.  But, many recruiters turn desperate when the square peg won’t fit into the round hole.  On the other hand, some recruiters just don’t care.  They’ll attempt to place anyone in any position just to fill their quota.
It can be difficult to find a recruiter who is actively willing to work on your behalf as a candidate.  If you find one, stick with them.  Keep in mind, however, that they are all working on commission, so placement of you fills their bank account.  That money motivation can cause the recruiter to do things they would not otherwise do.  Finding the most suitable job for you should be their number one priority.  Unfortunately, it isn’t always the case.

I have been successfully placed by a recruiter once in my career.  After that, I’ve had nothing but bad experiences with recruiters.  The main problem with technology recruiters isn’t necessarily with the recruiting itself.  It’s the human element that always gets in the way.  A recruiter’s bottom line is the commission they will receive when they place a candidate.  This commission, unfortunately, drives the entire placement process.  When a recruiter’s sole motivation is based on money, the candidate and the hiring company both get the short end of the stick.

Case in point, I have used recruiters for the last two or three jobs I’ve attempted to land.  In nearly every case, the recruiters  misrepresented the job to me in the phone interviews.  So, when a recruiter sent me on an interview, the job was clearly not a match for my skills.   Basically, either the job was entirely wrong based on my skills or I had specifically told the recruiter not to place me in that industry or job type.  Yet, there I was, interviewing where I shouldn’t have.  This ends up as a wild goose chase. When I explain that to the recruiter, they get defensive and blame me for the ‘bad interview’.  It wasn’t bad, it was just a mismatch because of the recruiter’s lack of skill or inability to listen.  But, this comes back to the commission.  Once the commission dollars become a reality in their mind, the recruiter puts blinders on.  They then attempt to force a square peg into a round hole to avoid losing that cash.

That’s not to say that there aren’t sincere recruiters out there.  I’m sure there are some.  But, the recruiting industry is so filled with inexperienced recruiters only willing to make a buck that you can’t tell the difference between who is sincere and who isn’t.  It’s not like recruiting is regulated or has any grading system.  So there is no method for you, the candidate, to determine just how a specific staffing firm works.

The one recruiting game that gets to me is when recruiters simply resume collect to fill a database, but have no intention of placing you.  Robert Half (RHI) is notoriously bad for this.  They’ll collect your resume, ask you to step into their offices for a ‘face to face’ and additionally ask you to spend an hour or longer filling out paperwork.  After you’ve done this for them, they never call you back.  That’s such a waste of time.  So, instead of wasting  a day at their offices, the candidate could have better spent that time sending out resumes to actual employers and going on legitimate interviews with direct employers.

Other tactics from recruiters include them finding a job posting on the Internet, collecting resumes and contacting qualified candidates.  Only after they have the candidates in hand do they then try to lasso in the employer.  So, they string the candidate along thinking they have a chance at the position when they haven’t even talked with the hiring company about the position.  Once the hiring company turns down the recruiter, this is when the recruiter stops calling the candidate and stops taking your calls.  This is yet another colossal waste of time.  These become very apparent when you get two or three recruiters calling to recruit for the same hiring company and same position.  In a typical recruiting engagement, the hiring company only allows one recruiter to recruit for the position.  When multiple recruiters are recruiting for the same position, either the hiring company doesn’t understand the process or the recruiters are not on retainer.

When choosing to work with recruiters, be cautious and ask lots of questions.  They do attempt to be the candidate’s advocate, but usually only to the point that they don’t lose their commission.  If losing their commission becomes a reality, recruiters can become desperate in the relationship between the candidate and the hiring  company.  In fact, a working recruiter relationship can turn sour in about 30 seconds once the candidate or hiring company expresses disinterest.  This is when the recruiter’s professionalism is tested.  If the recruiter keeps pushing the candidate or the hiring company after disinterest has been expressed, that behavior is not professional.  It also shows just how much the recruiter values their commission over a properly filled position.

For a recruiter, it’s much more valuable to place a qualified candidate in the proper position than collecting recruiting commission.  But, many recruiters turn desperate when the square peg won’t fit into the round hole.  On the other hand, some recruiters just don’t care.  They’ll attempt to place anyone in any position just to fill their quota.

It can be difficult to find a recruiter who is actively willing to work on your behalf as a candidate.  If you find one, stick with them.  Keep in mind, however, that they are all working on commission, so placement of you fills their (and the recruiting firm’s) bank account.  That money motivation can cause the recruiter to do things they would not otherwise do.  Finding the most suitable job for you should be their number one priority.  Unfortunately, it isn’t always the case.

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