Duluth chef makes debut on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

Matthew Francis’ signature dish is the cioppino he made when he first came out to his family, the chef explained on the first episode of “Hell’s Kitchen: Young Guns,” which aired on FOX-TV Sunday, and one that has continued to be meaningful in his life.

Francis, a 2013 graduate of Denfeld High School, described the seafood dish as having a “special place in my heart.”

In the time crunch of the 45-minute challenge, he forgot to clean the shrimp — a gaffe that earned him just two out of a possible five points for his team and a quip from a fellow chef: “You literally served Gordon Ramsay (bleep).”

PREVIOUSLY: Chef raised in Duluth will be featured on Season 20 of ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

Francis is one of 18 young chefs competing in Season 20 of the reality competition starring Ramsay, the notoriously tough chef with sharp critiques. The season was filmed in Las Vegas pre-pandemic, and the winner is promised a slot at Gordon Ramsay Steak. The first episode offered a look at the contestants, including a handful of vegetarians, sous chefs and line cooks. Francis, who has worked for BuzzFeed’s “Tasty” and for private entities is described as a “food vlogger.” These days, he works for the Maryland-based prepared-meal delivery company Freshly, and he continues to create his own food narratives on his YouTube Channel, including the series “DinnerViews,” and to write sci-fi novels.

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After the episode, Francis took to his social media to talk about the role of cioppino in his life as a chef, a story he didn’t get enough space on the episode to thoroughly explain. This is on-brand for the content creator, who has carved his own career path that combines storytelling and food, which he started doing even as a student at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.

Francis received a decent amount of camera time in the first episode, dressed in a sharp blue suit at the start and offering up what it would mean to win the competition in an interview.

“To be able to have chef Ramsay’s stamp of approval on your work and be his protégé is all the clout you need,” Francis said.

The first challenge pitted men versus women, a competition that found the women on top. Their prize: a chance to dine in Ramsay’s restaurant with past “Hell’s Kitchen” winners. The men were asked to stock the shelves of the kitchen.

No one was cut from the show yet, which had the chefs preparing their signature dish or “me on a plate,” as Ramsay calls it. And among the critiques were gems like, “It’s not roux, it’s ruined,” about a contestant’s étouffée.