Cooking Her Way to the Next Level

A spot on Gordon Ramsay’s new cooking show is the latest step on Gabrielle Chappel’s unlikely path to the culinary world.

Danielle Chappel cooking on the set of Gordon Ramsay's Next Level Chef, courtesy Fox


Gabrielle Chappel broke into television as a broadcast journalism major, appearing on the student-produced Centre County Report, so it figured that she had a future on camera. She just didn’t picture it quite like this.

In January, Chappel ’16 Com, ’16 Lib debuted as one of 24 contestants on the third season of Fox’s Next Level Chef, the latest Gordon Ramsay reality cooking competition. The show features a mix of professional chefs, home cooks, and social media chefs navigating an array of challenges—surprise ingredients, mismatched cooking tools, and of course, a ticking clock—as they vie for the grand prize of $250,000 and a year of mentoring under the celebrity-chef judges. Chappel, competing as a social media chef, says the monthlong experience of filming the show last year in a studio outside Dublin, Ireland, was “unlike anything I’ve ever done before.”

“You’re basically put into this game where you get to see how good you are, and the emotions are both ends of the spectrum—pure joy, and the pressure of doing something so intense,” she says. “But at the end of the day, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”

Danielle Chappel in chef's apron, courtesy Fox


When we spoke in February, Chappel, who grew up in Jersey Shore, Pa., couldn’t reveal how far she’d made it on the show, which is set to conclude in early May. But she insisted that whatever the outcome, the experience was a win. After she graduated with degrees in broadcast journalism and Spanish, Chappel moved to Portland, Ore., for an internship with the global advertising firm Wieden+Kennedy, then landed in New York for a series of jobs in advertising and media production. In 2018, she decided to make a go of it as a freelancer, and the chance to work on a web cooking series for the food website Epicurious helped her realize “how much I wanted to be in the culinary industry.”

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. When her various part-time gigs dried up, Chappel decided there was no better time to go to culinary school, and she completed a certificate program at the Institute for Culinary Education in 2021. She says she knew she didn’t want to spend her career working in restaurants, so she’s stayed busy with “a hodgepodge of jobs—a lot of catering, some private dinners, and I’ve gotten into the pop-up scene, which has gotten really popular in New York in the past few years.”

She’s also been building an audience through her own social media channels, with a focus on seasonal, healthy, plant-based cooking. “I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I eat mostly plant-based, and I love coming up with dishes where people say, ‘I never would’ve thought to use vegetables in that way.’” She says finding that niche helped her earn a spot on Next Level Chef, which she hopes—win or lose—will provide her with more chances to “educate people, nourish bodies, and build community.”