In 2017, 19-year-old Gabriel Lewis, a recent graduate of Putnam City North High in Oklahoma, stood before some of the world’s biggest culinary talents as a contestant on MasterChef

As a young and green chef with only two years of culinary training at the School of Culinary Arts at Francis Tuttle, Lewis was playing in the big leagues. Ultimately, he lost, but he gained much more than a title.

“So MasterChef is one of those things where people will either have the worst experiences or best experiences,” says Lewis. “As a 19-year-old who hadn’t traveled outside of Oklahoma City without my parents, that was my first go into adulthood, to venture out there and give my best against other competitors. It was one of my best experiences.”

Lewis started out apprehensively on the show, but as he worked his way through challenges, he gained confidence and found his rhythm. When well-known chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay delivered the bad news about his elimination, the disappointment came with a silver lining: Ramsay offered to send him to culinary school on his own dime. 

After taking up Ramsay on his offer of attending Johnson & Wales culinary school in Denver, Lewis returned home to hone his craft and is now a private chef in the OKC area. 

“In the first year or so, Realtors here in Oklahoma gave me a jump,” he says. “I started on my private chef journey by cooking for open houses for Homes by Tabor. That really opened a door for me with a list of clients. To this day, about 85% of my clients are Realtors.”

Chef Gabe Lewis, who got his start on the reality competition show MasterChef, is now a private chef and food content creator in OKC. 
All photos by Diyahna Campbell/Image.Diy

These days, Lewis operates under his own LLC, Chef Gabe. He also crafts food content, showcasing his work with different food brands alongside his sister and photographer Diyahna. His list of clientele is impressive. 

“I cook for people like Lane Johnson from the Philadelphia Eagles,” he says. “The past three years, I’ve started cooking for professional baseball pitcher JC Romeo [and] Aaron Wiggins of the Oklahoma City Thunder.”

He also switches things up on occasion. 

“Lately, I’ve been doing a mixture of dinners for personal clients, private dining experiences and Black Horse menus and pop-ups,” he says. “The last one was with chef Eric Smith at the Crown Room and with James Beard nominee Jeff Chanchaleune at Ma Der Lao.” 

But guests of chef Lewis don’t have to be athletes or celebrities. He’s hosted private dining experiences for the public, doing 12 to 20-person dinners upon request. He also shares recipes and culinary inspiration on his website,

“For me, I love the private side a lot more, but I also like the energy of a restaurant because it’s that same chaos that engages that chef side of me,” says Lewis. “I love doing both, but for different reasons. Right now, I’m focusing more so on the social media content and working on my pop-ups to try to bring my food closer to people. I dropped a cookbook last year, and I’m very lucky that my sister works with me and does the photography.”

Pork ‘n Apple Shrimp & Grits


  • 16-20 Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6-8 oz. Hickory smoked bacon or jowl bacon, diced small
  • 1 spring Fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp. Minced garlic
  • 1 Cup Grits
  • 1 quart + 1 cup Chicken broth
  • Old Bay seasoning To taste
  • 8 oz. Heavy cream
  • 2 oz. Chardonnay 
  • 4 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
  • 4 oz. Grated Parmesan
  • Kosher salt To taste
  • Black pepper To taste
  • 3 tbsp. Fresh chives, cut
  • 1 Small Granny Smith Apple, diced small
  • 1 Small lemon, zested and juiced


1. In a medium pot over a medium high heat, add 1 quart of the chicken broth, place the thyme in the broth and bring to a simmer, remove the thyme.

2. Slowly whisk in the grits and reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the grits and whisk periodically until the grits are soft. Use the extra cup of broth to thin out the grits if they get too thick.

3. Add half of the parmesan, half of the butter, half of the heavy cream, and season with salt and pepper to your liking. Set the grits aside covered to keep them warm.

4. Season the shrimp with the Old Bay and a touch of salt.

5. In a large nonstick pan over medium high heat, add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is crispy then remove the bacon and half of the fat from the pan.

6. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook the shrimp for about 2 minutes and flip. Allow them to cook another minute before adding the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and lemon juice. Remove from the heat.

7. In a nonstick pan over medium heat, add the remaining bacon fat, once they are hot, add the garlic and cook for about 10 seconds before adding the wine – remember to remove the pan from the flame before adding the wine. Place the pan back on the heat and cook the wine until most of the liquid is gone. Add the remaining heavy cream and stir. Once the cream starts to simmer and thicken, reduce the heat and add 2 tbsp butter, remaining parmesan cheese and the chives. 

8. Plate up the grits, top with the shrimp, bacon, apple and the pan sauce. Feel free to add extra chives. Enjoy!

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