Dayton-area native cooks to stay alive on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

A 29-year-old Dayton-area native is a contestant in this year's "Hell's Kitchen" chef competition and has survived mercurial Gordon Ramsay's reality-show gauntlet so far.

Ashley Nickell lived in Germantown and attended Valley View schools until she moved to Florida to join her father when she was 10. Her mother, Beverly Lewis-Mann, and many other relatives live in the Germantown area, and Ashley visits at least once a year. She serves as chef d'cuisine at Funky Monkey Bistro & Bar, an Orlando, Florida restaurant co-owned by her father, and she is poised to open her own eatery, called Restaurant Ash, in Orlando.

Her father, Eddie Nickell, was raised in Miamisburg, and held several restaurant positions in the Dayton area before moving to Florida. He was a server at Rene’s At the Dayton Marriott, manager of Delphine’s at Holiday Inn Dayton Mall, and, for four years in the early 1990s, was service captain at the prestigious, now-defunct l’Auberge restaurant in Kettering. He and partner Nicholas Olivieri today operate a half-dozen restaurants in the Orlando area.

Neither Ashley nor her father can reveal how Ashley does on the taped Fox TV cooking-contest show, in which contestants start the season and are eliminated one by one each week by the outspoken and occasionally foul-mouthed celebrity chef. The contestants are competing for a head-chef position at BLT Steak at Bally’s Steak at Bally’s Las Vegas — a job that pays nearly $250,000. Half of the 18 original contestants have been eliminated, but Ashley has survived so far.

“She is doing awesome on the show,” Eddie Nickell said of his daughter. “She learned everything from me in the kitchen since was was very young.”

Ashley Nickell said it “has always been my dream to work with Gordon Ramsay. He has been my idol since I was 6 years old.”

Nickell said she has had “amazing support from my mother and father” and is looking forward to the next chapter of her career and life.

“Never let anyone tell you your dreams are too big,” she said.

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