Middle Tennessee State Brother Takes His Cooking Skills to a National Audience
by Rick Moore
Fans of the Hell’s Kitchen reality cooking show on the Fox network this year are no doubt familiar with a chef who is part of a group of contestants called “The 40-Somethings,” Alex Belew (Delta Lambda–Middle Tennessee State ’99). As of this writing, Belew is still a contestant on the show where each chef must cook a signature dish that is then rated on a scale of 1 to 5. The last chef standing leaves the show with a nice check and the opportunity to work for host Gordon Ramsay in his Atlantic City operation. The entire series has already been recorded and the final episode is February 9th, but whether or not he makes it to the end in the competition against 17 other chefs is something the tight-lipped Belew is sworn to secrecy about.
“There’s a fairly extensive confidentiality agreement,” he said, explaining how he’s unable to answer, well, almost anything about the show beyond what we last saw in the previous episode. Belew had a long history of working and creating in the culinary industry before he made the cut to appear on the show, both during the years he was earning a psychology degree at MTSU and pretty much ever since. He went on to graduate with honors with a culinary arts degree from The Art Institute of Tennessee in Nashville.
Besides working in some of Nashville’s most high-profile restaurants, he taught meat cutting, food science, nutrition and more at the high school level and owned his own restaurant at one point. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned much, though, is the fact that, like so many creative people in the Nashville area, Belew is also a musician.
“I was working in restaurants,” the middle Tennessee native said of his college years, “but there was no culinary stuff at MTSU, culinary wasn’t really big then, so I went between recording industry and psychology. I was working in restaurants and I was in a band, and I tried to study music business but that was incredibly boring, there’s a big difference between being a musician and learning about the business. I was actually in the studio recording an EP when I got the call to be on Hell’s Kitchen, so the recording kind of got put on pause. I have this EP sitting in the studio that I need to button up.”
Now that the series has finished taping for the season, Belew is currently creating his own freelance opportunities instead of seeking a full-time kitchen gig somewhere. “I’m a little all over the place,” he said. “I’ve been doing some private chef events, I’ve been doing some pop-ups, been in L.A. and New York doing pop-ups, been doing some consulting for some large companies and a few small independent restaurants. Just doing some random things, there’s not one kitchen that I have. Restaurant hours, when you have small children – I’ve got a seven and five-year-old – is just not very conducive to a great family life. When I was at my restaurant I was working 90 to 100 hours a week for two years, and that’s not a life I want to go back to. Covid gave a lot of people some perspective. All I knew was to work, work, work, and now I’ve got this time with my family, and you only get it once.”
Belew has already outlasted several contestants, but couldn’t reveal if he will be eliminated in this week’s episode. But we can tune in to this Thursday night’s episode, airing at 8 p.m. ET on the Fox network, and see if this KA brother dodges the bullet once again.