From MasterChef to JWU Denver, Thanks to an Amazing Offer from Gordon Ramsay

2021 Note: Although JWU’s Denver Campus is now closed, you can explore the wide range of program offerings at our Providence and Charlotte campuses.

A dream come true? Gabriel Lewis may have been eliminated from “MasterChef” Season 8, but he walked away a big time winner. Noting his ambition and talent, Chef Gordon Ramsay is personally funding Gabriel’s culinary education at Johnson & Wales University’s Denver Campus.

Addressing Lewis in his dramatic elimination from the top 10 finalists, Gordon Ramsay showed his sentimental side — and belief that Lewis has a talent that should be harnessed: “Young man, it’s very rare we see such raw talent … come through this competition. You’ve got the potential to be huge in this industry — you just need the right training. So I am personally going to send you to culinary school.”

"I chose Johnson & Wales because I was very impressed with the curriculum, and I was impressed with the facilities."

After doing a lot of research on his own, Lewis, who is 19-years-old and originally from Oklahoma City, decided to attend JWU Denver. "After Chef Ramsay made his offer and I finally got to go back home, the first thing I did was start looking into culinary schools," said Lewis. "I chose Johnson & Wales because I was very impressed with the curriculum, I was impressed with the facilities, and the time in which it takes for somebody to grow in this field."

And Chef Ramsay is making good on his promise. "Gordon Ramsay kept his word, which is pretty darn cool. I bet a lot of people would think, 'Oh he didn’t mean that.' But he did it because he really believes in Gabriel and wants to see him succeed, as do we at the university," said Jorge de la Torre, JWU Denver’s dean of culinary education.

Lewis began his culinary training at the university in March of this year, largely under the radar from his peers and even culinary faculty. "When we did introductions on the first day of class, Gabriel said that he was on some cooking show, but didn’t say anything more," said chef instructor Squire Davidson, who taught Lewis in his Introduction to Culinary Foundations class.

Since the elimination episode, Chef Davidson made it his mission to help Lewis to redeem himself. During culinary practicum finals, he asked Lewis to recreate the dish that got him eliminated from the show — cannelloni.

So how were the results the second time around? "He did really well — there is no question that if he made it the way he made it in class, he’d still be on the show," said Chef Davidson. Lewis said he also believes he nailed the dish, posting a picture on his social media accounts with the word, "Redemption!"

When Lewis’ classmate Owen Hardy found out he had been on "MasterChef," he took it as a challenge and an opportunity. "He is really humble, really talented and he strives every day to get better. It’s really fun to come to class and work with him," said Hardy, who explained how Lewis transferred his "MasterChef" ethos of teamwork to the culinary classroom: "No matter how the class goes down, Gabe and I have it. It’s a good feeling that he’s got my back and I’ve got his. I can rely and count on him."

"I want to be able to give back by proving that I’m living up to what’s expected of me."

Lewis continues to check in with Chef Ramsay and share his progress at the university: "I want to be able to give back by proving that I’m living up to what’s expected of me — getting good grades and focusing on my classes and making sure that I’m cooking and learning along the way."

Even though he can call upon Chef Ramsay as his mentor, Lewis has been finding his niche within his culinary studies: "There is a lot to it, and that’s what I was looking for — something that was going to challenge me and my instructors have been challenging me so far."

What does Lewis like best about culinary arts? "It’s always changing, it’s always growing, it’s always evolving. You will never learn everything and you will never know everything. You can always continue to grow and learn. You never stagnate," he explained. "That’s been my motto in life: Never get comfortable. In culinary you can never get comfortable, because if you do, you’ll fall behind. I love an education that keeps me on my toes and allows me to grow as a person."

Following graduation, Gabriel is looking forward to fulfilling a job offer from "MasterChef" judge and Food Network star Chef Aarón Sánchez (who attended JWU but did not graduate).

Now in his second term at JWU Denver, it’s no secret that many are rooting for Lewis' continued success. In the meantime, fans and culinary aficionados can follow Lewis' journey on social media:

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