Jon Scallion didn't win the grand prize, but he doesn't feel like he lost.
The 29-year-old York County native landed among the top three finalists on Season 11 of "Hell's Kitchen" earlier this year and now works as a chef at Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas.
"This is so much more than I ever expected," Scallion said.
While he didn't get the show's grand prize -- a head chef position at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas that paid $250,000 a year -- he outlasted 17 other contestants and captured the attention of his current boss, Christina Wilson.
Wilson was the Season 10 winner of "Hell's Kitchen" and works as the executive chef at Gordon Ramsay Steak. She hired Scallion as a chef in September.
"The show really opened a lot of doors for me. This is a great opportunity because Las Vegas really is a culinary mecca," Scallion said.
Gordon Ramsay Steak chefs fill about 600
freshly made dinner orders every day, he said.
"It's high end with a lot of volume. You have to be like a supermom with eyes in the back of your head," Scallion said.
The show: His time on the show helped prepare him for the kitchen environment he's in now, he said.
"That show helped me gain a lot of confidence," Scallion said.
The competitive cooking show on Fox follows Ramsay as he uses a sharp tongue to critique the cooking abilities of contestants.
While determining who would move on to the final challenge in June, Ramsay recognized Scallion as one of the show's strongest contestants.
Scallion's run on the cooking show began in February 2012 when he made it through an open casting call in Philadelphia.
After graduating from Susquehannock High School in 2001, Scallion attended culinary school in Baltimore and worked at restaurants there.
He also worked locally at Regents' Glen Country Club and Ironwoods Restaurant, the fine dining eatery at Heritage Hills Golf Resort.
Loves the work: "Working in Vegas has helped revitalize and revive all the things I love about the industry," Scallion said. "We work together as a family and accomplish things most people wouldn't care to try."
He cited a fast-paced, high-stress environment with excessively hot temperatures as being a situation most people would like to avoid.
"Each shift is an adrenaline rush," Scallion said.
Many days, the love for what he's doing inspires him to start a few hours earlier than when his shift begins.
"That's my chance to mess with dishes, taking things that seemingly make no sense together and make them work together," he said.
Coming home: As he moves forward in his career, he still makes time to give back to the region where he came of age.
Last weekend, Scallion was in town to judge and cook dishes during the Pennsylvania Food & Wine Show in Lancaster.
"I love doing things like this. You can never forget where you came from because it built who you are," he said.
As he drove from York to Lancaster, passing trees that still had some autumn leaves clinging to their branches, Scallion pointed out one of the differences between southcentral Pennsylvania and the Nevada desert.
"I already miss the seasons," he said.
Scallion said he still feels attached to his local roots and credits his grandmother for his love of cooking.
"She taught me there are easy ways to make food and good ways to make food," he said.
Every year at Christmastime, his grandmother spends three days making tamales from scratch. She stays up all night, cleaning corn husks and readying other ingredients.
"You were so worn out after three days of cooking and making them for the entire family," Scallion said. "It wasn't easy, but they were the best damn tamales I've ever had. And they always will be."
Regardless of where his cooking career takes him, he'd like to maintain a local presence.
Scallion said he's looking into opening a restaurant in the York-Lancaster area that would promote the farm-to-fork concept.
It's a goal that might be two years away, as plans are still in their infancy, he said.
Being on a TV show hasn't changed his laid-back nature, Scallion said.
"I still have the same faults and my pile of laundry in the corner," he said. "I'm still the same guy."
-- Reach Candy Wood all at email@example.com.