This afternoon I had the pleasure of talking to Andrea Heinly, the 30-year-old line cook from Reading, PA who took home the bronze last night on Hell’s Kitchen. Andrea was one of my favorites to watch this season because she was an outspoken and strong woman not afraid to put on her “assertive panties” to get things done. She also gave us some of the most entertaining moments, going through the highest highs and lowest lows of any chef we saw this season on Hell’s Kitchen. From her horrifying reaction to her “cow day” punishment, to being the only chef granted immunity as a prize, Andrea definitely made her mark on Gordon Ramsay and Hell’s Kitchen.

Read on for the mp3 and transcript of the interview to find out what Andrea learned from Ramsay, who she’s rooting for in the final two, and what’s next for her as a chef.

This is Meghan from BuddyTV and I’m on the line with Andrea from Hell’s Kitchen. How are you doing today?

I’m doing well, thank you! How are you?

I’m doing very well. It’s surreal to talk to you after watching you the whole season! You were definitely a star this season.

Thanks, I guess! [Laughs]

Can you start me out with telling me a little about your cooking background, and how you ended up on the show?

Yeah. I actually was what they called a non-traditional student at school. I went to culinary school; I believe I was 26 when I went. I had a one-year experience in a restaurant prior to that. And that was one of the requirements to get into the CIA [Culinary Institute of America] but I wasn’t one of those contestants that grew up in the kitchen since the age of then. I definitely was on the limited side of my experience. But I went to CIA, got my bachelor’s degree. I stayed there for four years, and I was not even out of culinary school for a year, and I wound up auditioning for the show one day just out of the blue. I didn’t really expect anything to happen out of it, and the next thing I know I’m cooking my signature dish. And I was like, “Oh God, what did I get myself into?”

Well it was surprising when that relatively little experience factor came in toward the end of the season, because you definitely took on an early leadership position in the Red team. Do you think that helped you stand out with Gordon?

Oh, sure! You know, he was looking for a leader, and I am a leader. Some people call it bossy, but hey, whatever! [Laughs] I just, you know, it was just one of those things where my determination and my ability to try and steer the bus, so to speak, just kind of took me further. And I’m very happy with my performance.

Well, good, you should be! Congratulations again on making it to the final three.

Thank you!

Can you tell me what your favorite and least favorite challenges were?

Challenges? Oh, I’m thinking of the punishments that went with the challenges.

That’s fair game, too.

Well, I’ll tell you what: the worst punishment was cow day. That was incredible. It was perfectly awful, and I don’t ever wish anybody that kind of pain. [Laughs] That was by far the worst day for the girls who were there that day. And we’ve talked about that since then, and that’s across the board. The best day… anytime I had somebody doing my hair and makeup was awesome. Being able to go to the Borgata for as long as we did and just get the A-1 treatment was so phenomenal, and it was definitely a breath of life and kind of pushed me to go further, so yeah. I think that’s about it.

And who were your favorite and least favorite chefs to work with while you were there?

Um… Paula’s definitely my favorite. She and I became pretty close pretty quickly. We just immediately clicked, and we still talk to this day, just about every day. And as far as least favorite, I’d have to say Lacey, just because… it wasn’t necessarily her cooking skill, but the fact that she walked out on us a couple times, and we felt sour about that. And it happened so early in the game, you know, and that just kind of stuck with us. But I don’t hold any ill will towards her for that.

User question from TheSwordsman: Do you get any training or schooling in cooking while you’re on the show?

Not in the beginning, no. And I don’t think it was until…. How do I say this? A lot of the show is watching us trying to figure it out. And I think somebody said it in their exit interview that I was reading, and they were so right: there’s so much about the show that, it’s just us fumbling around trying to figure out what it is he wants. How he makes his calls, how he runs his kitchen. You know, working the French brigade system. If you haven’t done that before, it’s a very foreign feel in the kitchen, and a lot of us hadn’t been in that position, and we were just trying to figure it out. The closer we got to the end, the more Ramsay helped us out. For instance, when I burned the bottom of a Wellington a couple weeks back, I was so afraid to tell him that I did that, but I did. And he helped me. He didn’t throw it against the wall like he did the first time I did it. [Laughs] You know, he definitely eased up on us at the end. He helped us in situations and became more encouraging, told us exactly what he wanted from us. And if I had gotten that guidance in the beginning, it would have been a much different story for me. However, that’s the basis of the show, so…

So what do you think was the best thing you learned from Chef Ramsay while you were there?

He definitely taught me a lot about cooking and just trying to master your heat. Always check your equipment, always keep your eyes and ears open, communicate with your teammates as best as possible, which isn’t… it’s not a system that I was accustomed to at that point. Luckily I went through that, because the kitchen I went to after Hell’s Kitchen was a French brigade system, so I was familiar with what was expected of me in the real world, and I never thought that I would be in that position. So I learned a lot there.

Last night you guys each had an opportunity to be up at the pass. Do you prefer that position or would you prefer to be on the line?

I like them both! I’m a much, much more solid cook than I was a year and a half ago. You know, you only get better if you choose to. As far as running the pass, you can tell I had fun with that.

Oh yeah!

It was so much fun, and it was so intense. [Laughs] It was an awesome experience. It was probably one of my funnest times in the kitchen, for sure.

I thought your line about your “assertive panties” was probably your best one of the season.

[Laughs] Yeah, when I heard myself say that, I was like, “No, I didn’t!” But yes, yes I did…

Can you give me an insider’s opinion on Paula versus Danny, coming into the finale?

The only thing I can say is that I’m obviously rooting for Paula. She is incredibly solid. I obviously know her better than I do Danny, because Danny and I didn’t merge as a team until way later in the season, so I didn’t really know what he was about. And I didn’t’ really know him that well at all, coming into the final three. And I got to know him the day that him and I actually had to carry out the punishment, the very last one on last night’s episode, and got to know him pretty much that day. But obviously, I’m rooting for Paula.

So what’s next for you?

I don’t know, you know? I really don’t know! I keep getting that question, and I wish I had a more exciting and fun answer, but I’m really not sure. I’m just looking to settle down. I’ve been traveling for the past ten years, and bouncing around different kitchens getting different experiences. You know, I didn’t really have the luxury of staying in one place for a long period of time because I was a career changer, but now it’s just time to make some decisions and settle down for a little while, I think.

Well I wish you all the best, and it was a pleasure talking to you and watching you this season.

Thank you, I really appreciate it.

Missed the episode and want to know where Andrea went wrong? Read the recap: Hell’s Kitchen Episode 5.13, “Three Chefs Compete”

-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
Image courtesy of FOX

Meghan Carlson

Senior Writer, BuddyTV

Meghan hails from Walla Walla, WA, the proud home of the world’s best sweet onions and Adam West, the original Batman. An avid grammarian and over-analyzer, you can usually find her thinking too hard about plot devices in favorites like The OfficeIt’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and How I Met Your Mother. In her spare time, Meghan enjoys drawing, shopping, trying to be funny (and often failing), and not understanding the whole Twilight thing. She’s got a BA in English and Studio Art from Whitman College, which makes her a professional arguer, daydreamer, and doodler.