Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Marc Quiñones is used to thinking quick on his feet.
As the executive chef at Más Tapas y Vino at Hotel Andaluz, the Albuquerque resident uses his creativity to serve culinary masterpieces.
Quiñones said his time competing on the Fox series “Hell’s Kitchen” was one of the toughest challenges in his life.
“It’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ and they call it that for a reason,” Quiñones said. “It’s extremely challenging, and having 17 other people that literally want to beat you. At the same time, you want to beat them. It’s heavy competition.”
Quiñones landed a spot on the 19th season of the long-running series, which premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, on Fox. Quiñones is the first chef from Albuquerque to compete on the series.
“Hell’s Kitchen” is hosted by Gordon Ramsey and pits two teams of chefs as they compete for a job as head chef at a restaurant. In the new season, contestants were moved from the Los Angeles warehouse to the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada, to compete.
Quiñones was approached by series producers through Instagram in February 2019.
“In my mind, I thought about how many chefs apply to be on the show,” he said. “I knew of the show but had never given it any thought. I had just finished a marathon in Phoenix, and I got a direct message on Instagram.”
The 39-year-old chef has competed on Food Network shows before, so he knew what was expected – or so he thought.
“The (audition) process included a lot of interviews, both psychological and physical,” he said. “It was a four-hour process just for one day. The tests were to make sure you are mentally and physically ready.”
Quiñones had to arrive on set within a week of getting cast.
Once he arrived in Las Vegas, he met with a group of producers and was isolated in his hotel room for three days.
“They brought me food, and I couldn’t watch TV,” he said. “On the third day, all of the contestants got put on a bus, and we didn’t interact with each other. This was done to get an organic reaction to everything thrown at us on the show.”
As the competition continued, Quiñones found himself living with 18 other strong-minded individuals.
He also found himself in uncharted territory for six weeks.
“I’m used to talking to my family every day,” he said. “We couldn’t have any contact. I run at least 10 miles every day, and I couldn’t do that during the show. I’d do a lot of mediation and pushups. I’d ride the stationary bike they had for us. I was up before everyone on the show, so I had the time to myself.”
Quiñones moved to Albuquerque in 2007 and immersed himself in the culinary scene. And now, he’s excited to represent New Mexico on the show.
“We have such a great city, and the people here are great,” he said. “There’s no way I’d be where I’m at now without the locals supporting me. I have a chance to represent New Mexico. We are resilient and talented.”