A new “ridiculous” reason why a Hell’s Kitchen winner isn’t getting the prize: cocaine?

Hell’s Kitchen has a long history of not giving its announced prize to its winner, a practice Gordon Ramsay has defended. But season 11 contestant Ja’Nel Witt isn’t taking the prize for a mysterious reason that one tabloid says has to do with cocaine.

Production company ITV Studios released this statement last week about her employment at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, which is part of Caesars Palace:

“The team at Hell’s Kitchen was incredibly excited about Ja’Nel Witt’s season win, and her opportunity to move in to a head chef position at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Vegas. Recent unforeseen personal circumstances will now unfortunately prevent her from accepting the position, which is a huge disappointment for Ja’Nel and all of us. She’s an incredible talent, and we all wish her much success with the next chapter of her career.”

Those “unforseen personal circumstances,” TMZ says, are that she “tested positive for cocaine … and that’s why she wasn’t allowed to accept the head-chef position.”

Ja’Nel responded on Twitter, writing, “the rumors are very entertaining, but I won’t address the negativity or ridiculous headlines.” Ja’Nel previously wrote on Twitter that her experience was “an incredible journey” and added, “I am looking forward to my next cooking chapter.”

Whatever reason she has for not taking the job, The LA Times reported that runner-up Mary Poehnelt won’t either. Considering that the prize usually seems to be little more than a season-long advertisement, that’s probably no surprise.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.