Ji-Hyun Cha was a contestant on Season 5 of Hell's Kitchen. She ranked in 15th place.
Ji started the season as one of the strongest chefs, but when she suffered an injury, she started to lose confidence in herself, thinking that she would go on a downward spiral and that she would be the reason of the red team losing because of her injury. But she, and the audience, will never know because of her departure at the second elimination.
Season 5 Edit
During the Signature Dish Challenge, Ji was the third person to have her dish judged by Ramsay. She made a miso sautéed Chilean sea bass, and it was praised for tasting great with Ramsay stating it was almost like she had 15 years’ experience rather than the four years she told him. He even urged her to show the dish to her father.
When the teams were lined up, the women revealed their new team name, which was "Team Saffron". It was eventually changed to "Spice Racks" after a request from Colleen. During dinner service, Ji was on the appetizer station with Colleen. She went unnoticed during service because Colleen made far more mistakes than her. The red team won the dinner service because of Carol's strong performance as a waitress.
During the Scallop Cleaning Challenge, Ji had four of her scallops accepted. Her team lost the challenge 35-36 and were forced to prepare a raw bar for the next service. When Lacey decided to sit out of the punishment for six hours, Ji tried to comfort her, saying the team needed her.
During prep, Ji slipped on some oil, sprained her ankle, and had to see a medic. Despite her pain and fear that she would not be able to perform in service, she decided to continue prep work despite her team's concerns. She told Ramsay that she sprained her ankle, but wanted to go through service to see if she could handle it.
During dinner service, Ji was on the garnish station. She suffered through pain without making any errors. When Paula came back into the kitchen, she asked her about her ankle, but she told Paula that she wanted to forget about it until the end. Her team lost the dinner service. Being on her injured feet resulted in her being a wheelchair afterwards, leaving her concerned about her fate in the competition despite her team reassuring her that they would not send her home. Ramsay even praised her courageous efforts and the fact that she did not give up despite the pain.
Ji was not nominated for elimination, but when it looked as if Ramsay was about to eliminate Colleen or Lacey, she raised her hand to say she wanted to leave Hell's Kitchen, as she felt she would become a hindrance for the red team, and the reason why her team would lose challenges and services. That led Andrea to state that 50% of Ji was better than Colleen and Lacey put together. Despite that, Ramsay granted her wish, praising her talent and courage, and allowed her to keep her jacket as a symbol of her courage and pride. While leaving, Andrea pushed her wheelchair, Charlie held the door for her, and everybody in the room gave her an emotional standing ovation. She received the burning picture sequence after leaving.
Ramsay's comment: "Ji showed great courage. Unfortunately, her injury got in the way of her dream. She had a chance to win this, but sadly we will never, ever know."
- She is the first contestant ever to volunteer for elimination.
- She is the second contestant to withdraw from the competition because of an injury, following Vanessa from Season 4.
- She is the first contestant ever who kept her jacket after elimination, and the first contestant who did despite not ranking in 3rd place.
- After her appearance on the show, she worked at Moon Jar, in Fort Lee, and after that, she moved into management at US Foods.