The BFTV Interview: Susan Heaton

Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen

When BFTV talked to her in April, Susan Heaton was a contender for the Hell’s Kitchen title. Last week, Chef Gordon Ramsay sent her home. Susan rejoined us earlier this week to look back on the entirety of her experience in Ramsay’s kitchen, and let us know what she’s been doing since the competition ended.

She has no hard feelings about her departure. “I think there is always room for improvement,” she reflected. “Since it was my first time working a line, and working for Chef Ramsay, I think that in retrospect I would handle my nerves better and slow down and be more assertive with my responses and more confident with my skills, but that is something that comes in time and with experience. I am a stronger chef today than I was the first day in Hell’s Kitchen.”

“I am extremely proud of the accomplishment of receiving a black jacket and proving to Chef Ramsay that I am a real chef,” she continued. “Not knowing or having worked with most of the equipment and ingredients was an additional obstacle that gave me grief but considering that I think I did very well. One thing that didn’t really come through as much on the TV screen was the amount of energy I put into encouraging my teammates and staying positive all the time.”

Although she won’t be taking home the top prize of working at Ramsay’s restaurant in Las Vegas, Susan got a huge compliment from the Michelin-starred legend, who said as she departed that she was leaving as “a real chef” and told her that he might have a job for her in the future. Reacting to those kind words, Susan told us, “Aside from winning the show I think [that] is the best thing that could have happened. I went into Hell’s Kitchen wanting to prove to myself that I could accomplish this huge feat, but through the process I really strove to get the approval [of] and accolades from Chef Ramsay. I think many of the contestants doubted me because of my lack of experience, so to hear Chef Ramsay say that meant the world to me. He’s a smart man!”

What has Susan been doing since she stepped out of the TV kitchen? “So much has happened since the show!” she enthused. “I have been working hard to create my personal chef business and catering events. I have been recognized and the fans have been so kind. This is really only the beginning for me. Still waiting for the call from Ramsay on that job offer!”

“I feel like I surpassed my goals and expectations,” she reflected. “I really never thought I’d make it that far [on the show], but I maintained faith in myself and never gave up. I am a fighter and I proved that sheer will and determination can take you pretty far.”

She added that her experience on the show has changed the way she looks at dining when she goes out. “I’d worked in restaurants before but only in the front of the house, so I had a genuine respect for the kitchen but now even more so,” she explained. “I am much more patient and appreciative then the average diner and I know the amount of work that goes into making one dish perfect. I have a huge amount of respect for chefs and everyone in the culinary field.”

What restaurants in her native Southern California would she recommend that we check out? “LA and OC have so many great dining hotspots. I love finding restaurants that source locally and sustainably,” Susan said. “A few of my favorites in LA are: Beer Belly, Baco Mercat, Bottega Louie, Son of a Gun and I’m dying to try Tois Mec. There is a great new place in OC called Bru Market and Grill – they have some delicious food and amazing craft beer and wine.”

And of course, she’s striving to share her own dishes with the audience she’s found from Hell’s Kitchen. “I’m excited for what the future holds and possibly meeting some fans at events around the country,” Susan told us. “Most importantly I hope that I can inspire people of all ages to never give up and always challenge yourself, you just never know what could happen.”

You can keep up with Susan via her website (authenticchef.com) and on Twitter (@SusanHK11). Hell’s Kitchen continues tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

The BFTV Interview: Anthony Rodriguez

Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen

The men keep falling on Hell’s Kitchen. Last week, the cooking competition said goodbye to 27-year-old line chef Anthony Rodriguez, despite his best efforts to hold the guys’ Blue Team together. Anthony joined BFTV earlier this week to discuss what went wrong, what he learned, and where he’s at now that he’s out of the fire.

The New Orleans native echoed earlier comments by his teammates that the Blue Team wasn’t always functioning as a team. “Our communication just wasn’t there. When we were in sync, we were amazing, but we lacked that constant leading voice in the kitchen to pull us all together,” he said. “I would’ve stepped up and taken charge of the team much more.”

“I definitely gave it my best,” he continued. “I performed to the best of my abilities [and] was very happy with all my work. A personal point of pride for me was having Chef (Gordon) Ramsay tell me that he admired my passion and hasn’t seen that kind of dedication and drive in a chef in a long time. I pride myself on my passion for cooking and the industry, and that was just amazing.”

Speaking of Chef Ramsay, we asked Anthony to give us his opinion of the legendary chef who drives Hell’s Kitchen. “Chef Ramsay is an incredible guy, an amazing chef and hilarious to boot,” he told us, citing Ramsay as one of his inspirations (the others being Hubert Keller and “every chef I met in Hell’s Kitchen“). “He loves giving high fives. Hearing Chef Ramsay’s story about the restaurant he opened in his hometown failing was something I took to heart – he’s not perfect and it really humbled him. It drove him to be as perfect as he can be, and I plan on doing the same.”

To that end, he’s taking his time spent on the show as a learning experience, explaining that it “absolutely has” changed how he operates. “Hell’s Kitchen brought out the leader in me and showed me that I have a lot more to offer in a kitchen that just working a line,” said Anthony, who can be found on Twitter (@AnthonyHK11) and on Facebook (chefanthonyrodriguez). “It showed me that I can be a great leader in the kitchen and (I) can’t wait to show that off.”

Hell’s Kitchen continues Season 11 tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

The BFTV Interview: Nedra Harris

Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen

“I do not regret anything I did,” said Nedra Harris when BFTV connected with her following her departure from FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen. “There is a reason for everything.  This is just the start for me.”

The outspoken kitchen manager from Detroit got the axe shortly after agreeing to transfer from the women’s squad to the men’s roster, a move that she doesn’t regret. “My proudest moment was stepping up and going to the blue team,” she explained, adding that her experience on the show “made me realize that with a good team, you can do anything.  You don’t always need to do it by yourself.”

“It was totally worth it. It confirmed what I want to do with my career in the future,” Nedra continued. “My favorite memory was the first day, meeting Chef [Gordon] Ramsay in front of hundreds of people. I had a different bond with each contestant. I would love to work for Chef Andi [van Willigan] one day!”

She told us that her favorite Ramsay moment was “When he pulled me to the side and told me he saw potential and believed in me.  [He said] ‘Don’t let the pressure get to you and always remain the chef you were when we met.'” She also learned one thing about the would-renowned chef that surprised her: I didn’t know he had a sense of humor!” she added. “He was really funny.”

For now, Nedra is working at the Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas, and is also active with a number of charities, including the March of Dimes and Susan G. Komen Foundation. Hell’s Kitchen fans can keep up with her further exploits by visiting her website (chefnedra.com) and, of course, following her on Facebook and Twitter (@NedraHK11).

And if you’re wondering, she’s just as outgoing in real life as she was on the show. “What you saw is who I am,” she confided. “I think it made it exciting – you never knew what was going to come out of my mouth!”

Hell’s Kitchen continues tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

The BFTV Interview: Amanda Giblin

Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen

After Amanda Giblin’s exit from FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen, BFTV caught up with the 28-year-old executive chef from Orange County, New York to get her post-competition thoughts.

“I am a damn good sauté chef! I rocked the fish station every time I was put there. I am mostly proud to be associated with such a wonderful, strong group of women!” Amanda enthused, though she also told us, “I would have taken better control over the situation, not allowing myself to get so upset and frazzled.”

What did she take away from her time in Hell’s Kitchen? “I find as a Chef now, I’m more confident in my decisions, assertive, and I am not afraid to take risks. The show has changed me significantly because now I know I can accomplish and succeed at anything I put my mind to,” she explained, adding that there’s one big thing that she learned from Chef Gordon Ramsay. “Communication is key! Chef Ramsay beats into our heads, ‘It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.’ I find I repeat this to myself on a daily basis!”

Speaking of the legendary chef, Amanda told us what it was like to spend time in his company. “Chef Ramsay is a really funny guy,” she said. “The day that the red team spent on the yacht with him [in episode three] was awesome. We were able to pick his brain a little bit. When Chef Ramsay left us, a smaller boat pulled up to grab him and he sped away like Charlie Townsend, secret agent. From that moment on, we referred to ourselves as ‘Gordon’s Angels.'”

“My favorite memories from the show are definitely Vegas, the G6 to Temecula, and of course the kid in me loved Knott’s Berry Farm!” she continued. “I made a lot of new friends on the show. I talk to most of them on a daily basis. I currently work alongside Jessica Lewis. I am really close to Danielle Boorne, as well as Jacqueline Baldassari, and Barret Beyer.”

If you want to check out Amanda’s cooking for yourself, “Right now I am currently working as a sous chef at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets,” she told us. “I am working on some self-projects and starting a business.” Fans can keep up with Amanda on Twitter (@AmandaHK11 or @ChefAmandaG) and on Facebook (chefamandag).

She also told us what some of her favorite restaurants are. “Having access to NYC leaves the door wide open,” Amanda said, “but a  few of my favorite chefs are Harold Moore for Commerce, I love Peter Callahan’s work, and my favorite hidden gem in NYC is The Place on West 4th Street.”

Hell’s Kitchen continues tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

The BFTV Interview: Jacqueline Baldassari

Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen

Last Tuesday, Jacqueline Baldassari became the next chef to be chopped from FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen, and she later joined BFTV to talk about it. “I watched the show on and off.  I anticipated craziness,” said the 27-year-old roundsman from Florence, New Jersey. “It was up to me on how I was going to deal with it.”

“I think I was a very creative and strong chef.  Every challenge I received a point,” she continued, but added that “I would’ve liked to have become more comfortable faster. I was so nervous at first I couldn’t think straight.”

Nerves clearly didn’t get in Jacqueline’s way at least initially, as she impressed during the season-opening signature dish challenge that is a staple of Hell’s Kitchen. “Winning the first challenge for the whole team in Las Vegas was epic,” she enthused, “[with] my signature dish of Magret duck breast, caramelized brussel sprouts, sweet potato rosti, [and] currant au jus. Everyone has to try Magret duck breast [when it’s] perfectly cooked. It is amazing.”

What was her favorite experience working with the legendary Chef Gordon Ramsay? “My favorite moment was when Gordon wasn’t screaming at me,” Jacqueline told us with a laugh. “Seriously, [it was] any time he was teaching us how to do something.  If it was how he wanted [something] to look or taking the meat out of a lobster’s legs. I always love to learn.”

If you’re looking for her after the show, “Currently, I am the Executive Chef/Consultant for the Ivy Inn in Princeton, New Jersey,” explained Jacqueline, who can be found on Twitter at both @JacquelineHK11 and @ChefJackieB, and also on Facebook under chefjacqueline.

“In the grand scheme, I’d like to open a restaurant of my own in three years,” she continued. “My favorite chefs are the people who open a restaurant and make simple but amazing food every day.  I go to this place in the ghettos of Trenton, Blue Danube. 30 seats and a small bar [with] four stools in a converted house.  Peter Pulhac and his wife Margaret have been there 22 years. These are the people I idolize.”

“Check out small restaurants,” she enthused. “I am anti-chain.”

What was the biggest lesson Jacqueline learned from Hell’s Kitchen? “I take away that you must be always passionate about your food,” she said. ” The more you care, the better product your co-workers are willing to turn out with you.”

Hell’s Kitchen continues tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

The BFTV Interview: Dan Ryan

Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen

He was the chef everyone loved to hate – now following his dismissal from Hell’s Kitchen, BFTV caught up with Dan Ryan to find out if he really was that despised, and what he’ll remember about his stint on the show.

First things first: Dan informed us that the vitriol audiences noticed on screen wasn’t manufactured TV drama. “What you saw was definitely that accurate,” he said. “There was like a gang mentality. I feel like they [the Blue Team] have a target every time. It was Jeremy [Madden], and then it was my turn, and there’ll be someone else next.”

Having said that, though, there are members of the men’s squad that Dan has love for, even though he’s no longer part of their ranks. “I have a lot of respect for Ray [Alongi] even though he and I had our differences. He’s really talented,” he added. “I’m curious to see what happens with Barret [Beyer].”

He might have been at the center of plenty of conflict, but to cast Dan as simply a TV villain is a mistake. Hell’s Kitchen fans know that the New York native has no shortage of confidence – at one point comparing himself to Charlie Sheen – but he is also willing to own the mistake that ultimately sent him home. “I wish I had studied how to cook pizza more than just putting DiGiorno in the oven,” he quipped, referring to his demise on the pizza station. He’s not about to say that he’s infalliable.

If you want to check out Dan’s cooking for yourself, he’s currently at the Hotel Beacon NYC, located in New York’s historic Upper West Side. “New York City’s full of good restaurants,” he enthused. “X20, where I used to work, is an amazing restaurant. I’ve heard very good things about the Lambs Club in Manhattan.”

And when he’s not in the kitchen, he’s having fun with the side effects of his national exposure. “I answer pretty much all my mail, especially the hate mail,” he revealed. Indeed, his Twitter feed is full of unapologetic, often laugh-out-loud funny responses to the various haters. (“I might have a bad attitude, but I also have a great ass,” is one retort.) Love Dan or dislike him, you have to at least respect that he isn’t shying away from anything.

Although he didn’t get the job opportunity that will be awarded to the season’s winner, and he’s not going to be named Mr. Congeniality either, Dan doesn’t regret signing up for Hell’s Kitchen. “I’m happy I did the show. Everyone who did the show is a winner just for being there,” he continued. “It’s really about the food. [Gordon Ramsay] said I can cook and he can’t unsay that.”

He’s even okay with his abrasive reputation, adding, “I got compared to [The Apprentice villain] Omarosa, and you know what, I’ll take that.” Whatever comes next for this polarizing yet charismatic chef, one thing’s for certain: Hell’s Kitchen will definitely be less interesting without Dan around.

You can keep up with Dan on Twitter (@chefDanRyan). Hell’s Kitchen continues tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.

The BFTV Interview: Jessica Lewis

Hell's Kitchen

Jessica Lewis was the latest chef to get axed from FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen – and after her elimination, the chef tournant from New York connected with BFTV to chat about her experience on the popular reality show.

“I was way quiet and should have stood up more for myself,” reflected Jessica, who left after difficulties on the fish station during the dinner service in last Tuesday’s episode. “I owned my mistakes, put my head down and worked – and I should have made others own their mistakes too. I am too nice to be cursing people out! It’s just not me!”

Although she didn’t walk away with the win, she did learn from her seven-episode stint in Hell’s Kitchen. “I know now I can compete with every age [and] amount of experience and work with the best, [that] being Chef [Gordon] Ramsay,” she continued. “I know I have a voice, I just have to use it to demand respect!”

What would she call her best Ramsay-related memory? “The praise he gave me for rocking the meat station out on the first night [with] perfect lamb and pork!” she said. “And I can’t forget the glass of champagne he handed me on the private yacht!”

While some things in Hell’s Kitchen were great, there were tougher times, too. According to Jessica, it wasn’t just the men’s team that had difficulties getting along – the women had their issues as well. “Working with women was way harder than I expected,” she said. “They can be loud, sensitive and sometimes manipulative. I would have had an easier time working [with men].”

It wasn’t all rough sailing, though, as the 26-year-old was the second cheftestant to single out executive chef Ja’Nel Witt as a potential contender for the Hell’s Kitchen title. “On the show I worked a lot with Ja’nel. She had such a voice and determination,” added Jessica. “[She’s] a strong young woman that I would work with again any day!”

With the show behind her, Jessica calls herself a “live for the moment” type person, who encourages fans of the show to continue following her on social media. “You can follow me on Facebook [at] Chef Jessica Lewis, Twitter @chefjessicalew and on Instagram @chefjessicaa,” she explained. “Or currently at Citi Field, [the] Mets’ stadium, running around on the field level.”

If you’re in New York, she’s also got a restaurant recommendation for you. “I am a big fan of Andrew Carmellini, who is the chef at Locanda Verde in Manhattan,” she said. “It was the first big restaurant I dined at in NYC and first place I trailed. He was such a genuinely nice guy! Get the ricotta, it’s to die for!”

Hell’s Kitchen continues tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on FOX.

(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Starpulse and Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.