From Whataburger to Hell's Kitchen
Once You've Faced Down a Friday Night Football Rush, You're Ready for Gordon Ramsay
At 16, Megan Gill nabbed her first job at the Whataburger in Highland Village, Texas, just outside of Denton -- where she learned the meaning of the word "rush" as hungry football fans poured in after Friday night games.
"I remember thinking, 'This is just crazy,' "she laughs. "But I think the craziness of Whataburger rushes has definitely helped me succeed in the culinary world because you need speed, consistency, and you have to stay focused whether you're in fast food or Hell's Kitchen."
That's right, Hell's Kitchen.
This season, just six years after she first walked into a Whataburger kitchen, Megan is one of 18 up-and-coming chefs from around the country competing in "Hell's Kitchen:Young Guns," airing Monday Night on FOX, where she is being put to the test by a famously volatile celebrity chef.
It's a test Megan is taking in stride, thanks to the skills she learned thanks to those late-night Whataburger crowds.
"Gordon Ramsay will scream at you, but busy is busy," says Megan.
Her first Whataburger boss says it's no surprise to see Megan keep her cool in Hell's Kitchen. Dana Edwards, now an Operating Partner for Whataburger in McKinney, Texas, says she knew from Day One that Megan was something special.
"Working with Megan, she always impressed me because she was so mature beyond her years," says Dana. "She was a total rock star, and she could do anything she set her mind to. You put her in any position, and she would master it just like that."
Dana wasn't the only one noticing Megan's star quality. After 3 years at Whataburger, Megan went to work in the kitchen at a hotel in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. A server there told her his roommate was a casting director, searching for chefs to compete in the 20th season of Hell's Kitchen. He encouraged Megan to apply.
She went for it -- sending in pictures of her plated dishes and videos showcasing her cooking. Megan impressed show producers enough that she was called for an audition, and ended up headed to Las Vegas.
Along with other contestants, Megan was on what she thought was a tour of a Hell's Kitchen museum, getting ready to watch a movie. Instead, the curtain pulled up to reveal Ramsay, and the set for the show. The "tour" was over -- and the competition was beginning.
"It's a little intimidating, especially when you've never been in that sort of environment, and then to be in front of Gordon Ramsay on top of that... it's a lot," she says. "But the energy on set was awesome, actually. Everyone was so eager to do their absolute best."
Megan is sworn to secrecy about the show's outcome, but in early episodes, her focus and quiet leadership combined with her culinary skills to earn her the respect of fellow competitors, and praise from the notoriously critical Ramsay.
"I feel like staying calm is like the biggest difference in being successful or sinking a ship," Megan says. "The biggest thing for me is just trying to stay calm even if I'm freaked out."
It's a mindset that Megan's former boss says is often forged in the Whataburger kitchen.
"Some of the skills that Whataburger can build, especially for a young person, is grace under fire and being able to handle difficult situations," Dana says. "But also making the best out of the time that they have, and having fun."
ABOUT HELL'S KITCHEN: YOUNG GUNS
"Hell's Kitchen:Young Guns" airs Monday nights on FOX at 8/7c. For the show, Gordon Ramsay is back in Las Vegas with 18 aspiring chefs from across the country who are 23 years old or younger at the start of the competition challenge. Each week, the competition gets more intense, as these "Young Guns" are put through rigorous culinary challenges. At stake is a life-changing grand prize, including a Head Chef position at Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas and the title of Hell's Kitchen winner.
Whataburger has focused on its fresh, made-to-order burgers and friendly customer service since 1950 when Harmon Dobson opened the first Whataburger as a small roadside burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas. Today, the company is headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 850 locations across its 14-state footprint, and sales of more than $2.8 billion annually. Whataburger has 50,000 Family Members (employees) and more than 60 million customers who like to customize their Whataburgers just the way they like it. Visit whataburger.com or pivot-you.com for more information. To apply for Whataburger jobs now, visit whataburger.com/careers.