Hell’s Kitchen 21 Winner Explains Battle of the Ages Twist

This battle was one for the ages—or rather, of the ages.

Hell’s Kitchen crowned Alex Belew as its 21st victor on Feb. 9 after a season that pit 40-somethings vs. 20-somethings in the hopes of becoming Gordon Ramsay‘s executive chef at Hell’s Kitchen Caesar’s Atlantic City. In the end, the 41-year-old beat out Dafne Mejia, 29, and Alejandro Najar, 28, to claim the $250,000 prize.

“I had no clue it was coming, it was a toss-up,” Alex exclusively told E! News of his win. “Dafne had gotten pretty strong towards the end winning a bunch of competitions and challenges. She’s much younger than I am, so I did not know what was gonna happen. So, when I walked through that door, my head hit the floor.”

In fact, once the competition had narrowed down to the final five black jackets, Alex was the lone remaining member of his original team forced to face off against four younger chefs.

“There’s no scenario where I think the 40-year-olds had an advantage,” he admitted. “My teammates were getting assassinated from the moment we stepped in the kitchen. It was brutal. As someone who was on that team while it was going on, in my head the whole time, I was like, ‘What the hell is happening? This is a nightmare.'”

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