Exclusive Interview: Craig of 'Hell's Kitchen'
Exclusive Interview: Craig of 'Hell's Kitchen'
There's more to surviving in Hell's Kitchen than simply putting up with Chef Gordon Ramsay and keeping it together during stressful dinner services.  The contestants also have to work as a cohesive team, watching each other's backs and helping one another whenever it's necessary.  With collaboration being so essential, Craig didn't stand a chance after his teammates turned on him during the chicken chopping challenge last week.  Last night, Craig's issues in the kitchen finally caught up with him, and he was the latest contestant to be sent home.

Today we had a chance to talk to Craig about his elimination, the atmosphere in the kitchen, and the 10-inch chef's hat that Ramsay had a problem with.  Read on for the mp3 and complete transcript of the interview.

Hi, this is Don at BuddyTV, and today I'm talking to Craig from Hell's Kitchen.  Just to get us started here, I was wondering if you could give us some of your background and experience in the kitchen?

I started off at the very bottom when I was 14, I was working at McDonald's as a cashier.  Then I started working at a catering place doing salad prep, then I was working at an Italian restaurant doing prep and cooking.  I worked for Mohonk Mountain House up in New Paltz, New York.  I've worked [at a restaurant] in Islamorada, Florida as an intern.  For my bachelor's degree I worked at Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, rotated through all the outlets. I've worked for Windham Hotels and Hyatt Hotels, so I've had good experience in catering and restaurants, all the way from the bottom when I was 14.  From fast food up to luxury resorts.

What made you want to try out for the show?

I watched it for the past three years, just like I did with Top Chef, and obviously I say, just like anybody else, "Oh, I could do this.  It's easy."  And it's not as easy as it looks.  It's a lot of stress, a lot of pressure, a lot of work.  Obviously there's a lot of people out there who always think they can do better, and I thought so too. I'm not going to not admit it.  The only way to do it is to do it, and obviously there's a lot of people out there that talk a good game, as well as on the show, and they don't perform.  Or there's people out there that are so lazy that they won't even go through the paperwork, the auditions, the casting, and all the procedures to go through what I went through.  That's a lot of work to begin with.

What would you say the biggest difference was between watching it on TV and actually being there?

You've got over 48 hours of film for one episode, and that's including the women, the men, the confessions, and everything else, and it's all in a 44 minute episode.  There's a lot of stuff that's not seen.

Were there any of your moments that were cut out that you thought should have been in there specifically?

Yeah.  I threw peppers back at Ben when we were picking peppers, but they don't show that.  They don't show me getting on Matt's case.  I went more into detail about the raw chicken.  Honestly, I had some troubles, but serving raw chicken and burnt burgers, and pre-cooking burgers, that's the foundation of dinner service.  If you can't get that right, it puts your whole team in the s**ts.  I was behind in my work on the pasta and all that because appetizers were coming back raw.  That set me up.  I felt like I was set up a little bit on that.

On the show it looked like your teammates all turned against you after the chicken challenge.  Was it pretty tense with them after that?

Yeah, after that. . .you know, you have Bobby saying something, and Matt is like the little puppy dog on the leash.  He'll follow anybody just to be in with the clique, and he really wasn't.  He did as poorly on the chicken challenge as I did.  They didn't add his and Bobby's to our number, but mine wasn't two, it was four, and his was only four because he didn't cut the legs and thighs in half.  That's the problem:  it's the blame game when we're all a team.  We messed up as a team, and we need to do this punishment now. Everybody likes to point fingers, but nobody realizes that Bobby wasn't perfect, he only had six pieces, and Matt only had four pieces.  There's a lot that's not said.  It looks like we lost by 20, by 44 to 24, but we lost 44 to 34.  Even if I was perfect, we would have still lost.

You were eliminated after a pretty rough service, but Ben and Matt also made a lot of mistakes that night.  Did you think it was fair that you were eliminated?

I think Ben was fine.  I think he looked worse than he actually was.  He was helping me out, he was trying to help out everybody.  Matt really should have been the one to go.  He really should have been the one to go.  I don't know if Chef Ramsay forgot about what Matt did earlier in the night, or maybe it was just because Matt said, "Oh, I'll give 125 percent," and Ben said, "I'll give 110 percent."  What am I supposed to say?  I'm not on The Price is Right here, I'm not gonna start saying, "I'll give 126 percent."  I don't know percentages, I'll just give you my best.

One thing I definitely have to ask about is what originally gave you the idea to wear that giant chef's hat in the first episode?

First of all, like I've told many people, it's not a giant chef's hat, it's a ten-inch chef's hat.  It's made for chefs to wear in the industry.  I get boxes of them in twice a week at work, I wear them every day to work -- well, not to work, I wear them at work -- and it's part of the uniform and it's part of professionalism.  I also have black skull caps like Jennifer was wearing.  I initially wore it to my interview, and I make sure I go anywhere and everywhere dressed professionally.  I don't think it's ridiculous at all, and I think maybe some of you guys are listening to Ramsay about mentioning a ridiculous hat.  It's not ridiculous at all, and the comment he made about the hat, well that's his problem.

Out of the other contestants you worked with, who do you think has what it takes to make it to the finals?

I think Jen.  I don't think any of the men do.  I think a lot of them are lazy, and they try to push the blame on everybody else.  It's like a shovel contest.  Who can shovel the most crap on everybody else?  The women, it's hard to say because I haven't really worked with them, but watching the episodes I would say Jen or Christina.  As females, it's good to see that they have that toughness and that mental capability of leading and doing something.  I would say one of those.

Now that you're done with the show, what's in the future for you?

I'm going to keep cooking.  I love to cook.  Maybe eventually, as a kid I always wanted to get into the modeling or the acting or some business like that.  Just continue to cook.  I love food, I love baseball, so whatever comes my way, I'll deal with it when it comes.  I'll consider anything that comes my way, any opportunities I won't pass up.  I'll try to make the best of every opportunity if I'm interested, and that's the way I see it.

- Interview conducted by Don Williams
(Image courtesy of FOX)