Exclusive Interview: Charlie McCann of 'Hell's Kitchen'
Exclusive Interview: Charlie McCann of 'Hell's Kitchen'
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Chef Gordon Ramsay makes sure that there's always a surprise in every episode of Hell's Kitchen. Last night, with two Blue Team chefs up for elimination, Ramsay asked each for his reason to stay. Charlie, a 24-year-old prep chef, offered a succinct and sincere plea to the tune of, “I can cook, I have experience, and I really want to impress you.” Then it was sad sack Seth's turn to ramble about how he wanted Ramsay to “paint a canvas” of food knowledge on his beginner brain and how he is “absolutely loving being yelled at.” “Where's the stop button?” Ramsay finally asked for all our sakes.

Unfortunately for Charlie, last night's surprise came at his expense, and he was just as shocked as the rest of us when Ramsay said the fateful words to the 24-year-old Las Vegas native: “Take off your jacket.”

We had a chance to talk to Charlie this morning about his experience on the show, what he thinks about that bizarre elimination ceremony, and what life is like after leaving Hell's Kitchen.
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Charlie started out as a rather dark horse this season on Hell's Kitchen, and in the first two episodes did not attract much attention from Chef Ramsay, positive or negative. In the premiere episode, he was most memorable for being asked to shave off his beard by Chef Ramsay, to stave off any curly red hairs getting in a risotto. He was the only chef asked to change his appearance in the kitchen, but he takes it all in stride.

"Just another day. It's not the first time I've been asked to shave it off,” he said. “I just thought: it will grow back. But now I'm the boss [at his catering business in Las Vegas] so I get to make the rules and keep the beard.”

Charlie was a member of the Blue Team, who won two challenges in a row, getting them two luxury day trips with the master chef. So what's Chef Ramsay like in real life, versus the hothead who comes across on screen?

“He's pretty much the way that he seems on TV,” said McCann. “But what people might not know is that once the job's over, he's just like any other guy, you know, “Let's hang out and get a beer.” It's a little more low key than in the kitchen.”

It's not called Hell's Kitchen for nothing. But unlike other chefs who can't stand the heat, Charlie kept his cool while cooking under the watchful eye of Ramsay and his television crew.

“It's not live, which makes it a little easier. It's in the back of your mind, going, 'Yeah, I'm on TV.' But I tried to just think, 'I'm going to spend the next 12 hours cooking. That's what I've gotta do.' "

In Episode Three, Hell's Kitchen turned into a steakhouse, and each team was required to perform as servers for the other. After Charlie forgot one table's order and spilled condiments on another, Ramsay deemed him the worst waiter on the Blue Team, which ultimately led to his elimination that night. And the irony isn't lost on McCann.

“My error was in the serving challenge. But I was on a cooking show.”

Even after his team put his name in for elimination, McCann thought he was in the clear. Beyond the fact that he was up for his clumsy waiting skills, Charlie was also up against Seth, the requisite punching bag for Ramsay and the Blue Team since Day One.

“I didn't think that I was going home. I was thinking, 'This is a formality. I'm standing here because there needs to be a second person.' We thought Ramsay would see it that way, too.”

His competition, Seth, a 27-year-old private party chef from New York, sent Ramsay off the deep end during dinner service when he butchered (in both senses) the filet mignon.

“Obviously, Seth should have gone,” McCann says now. “He had little to no kitchen experience. Watching last night, I realized how much he really did screw up.”

But anything goes in Hell's Kitchen, with Ramsay making the rules. And Charlie has his ideas for why Seth lived to cook another day.

“The entertainment value of it. He's that wrench in the cog, that unknown factor that adds to making the drama of a TV show,” said McCann. “If Ramsay was looking for the sixteen absolute top chefs cooking today, obviously he's not one of them. That's not to say that I am one of the best, but I didn't have the drama factor.”

Now McCann is back to the grind at his catering business in Las Vegas, nonchalant as ever about his brief reality TV fame.

“There hasn't been too much of a change,” he said, except for a little more attention from acquaintances in his regular pool league. “People I've been playing with for years were saying, ‘Oh my god! You are that guy! I was watching you on TV saying,  “I think I play pool with that guy!' ”

Read the Recap: 'Hell's Kitchen' Episode 5.3 "Fourteen Chefs Compete"




-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
Image courtesy of FOX

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