Christina has been fairly busy since winning the grand prize on Hell’s Kitchen, and she hasn’t even clocked in for her first day of work at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant just yet. Since filming completed in late 2007 she’s graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, taken a trip to Dubai that she won on the series, and prepared to move to Los Angeles to start working at The London West Hollywood. Christina took a break from packing her bags to sit down and talk with us about her whirlwind experience on the reality series. She opened up about her future plans, the struggles she had during the final dinner service, and her reaction to some of the things her teammates said during the course of the show.
Read on for the mp3 and complete transcript of the interview.
Hi, this is Don with BuddyTV, and today I’m talking to Christina, the winner of Hell’s Kitchen season 4. I heard that you went back and finished your classes at the Culinary Institute after you finished the show. Were you allowed to tell anyone there that you’d even been on the show?
No, I wasn’t allowed to admit that I was on the show until FOX officially announced the contestants. That was sort of surreal, going back to culinary school right after this.
What would you say you learned on Hell’s Kitchen that you wouldn’t have learned in culinary school?
There are a ton of things I learned on Hell’s Kitchen. Not only working with somebody of Chef Ramsay’s caliber, but being in that high stress situation where you’re constantly challenged and forced to work with people who maybe you don’t want to at the time. Those kind of things you don’t learn in culinary school, because culinary school is all about the basics and cooking under the best circumstances. Hell’s Kitchen‘s just the opposite.
A lot of contestants I’ve interviewed before said that the social aspect is the hardest part. Would you say that’s true?
I think so. This show is a lot different than others in that it’s your peers who get to choose you for elimination. I think that having that there creates the drama that Hell’s Kitchen is so noted for.
You haven’t started working yet at The London West Hollywood, is that right?
No, I have not.
But you’re planning to move out there soon?
Yes. My bags are packed.
Did you get a chance to go on that trip to Dubai that you won?
I did. I graduated from culinary school in February, so before the cast was announced I went to Dubai in early March, which was actually a beautiful time to go to the desert. We just had a fabulous time. I got to work for a day in the Verre kitchen [Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant], and they were so accepting and helpful and wonderful. It was just an awesome experience.
What made you decide to audition for Hell’s Kitchen?
It was sort of a whim. I got an e-mail about an open casting call in Manhattan, and it was on a Monday, and it just turned out that I didn’t have class that Monday and I had nothing better to do. I took the train down and sat for about eight hours, which was really fun. There’s a little something between somebody who would want to go on Hell’s Kitchen, you know? They not only like food, but they might have a slight streak of lunacy, and they’re very outgoing. I had a blast during the audition.
Before the final dinner service when Petrozza had to choose between Matt or Jen, were you rooting for him to pick a particular person?
Yes, absolutely. We had had some quality time together, Petrozza and I, before the finale and before we actually chose our teams. We sort of talked about who we really wanted and who we really didn’t want. I can tell you if I had a chance to even pick first or go back, I’d still have the same team.
Was your restaurant design and your menu something you had thought about for a long time, or did you just make it up at the end?
Oh gosh, I was thinking about this for years. Not necessarily in this aspect, but it’s always been a dream of mine to have my own restaurant. Of course you have those daydreaming moments where you’re like, in my own restaurant, I would want to have this. You don’t get to do everything you would ever want to do on this show, but you do have a designer, and basically access to any food products you want. It’s really a ton of fun.
Both you and Petrozza had pretty successful dinner services at the end, but why do you think Ramsay chose you as the winner?
We both did have pretty successful dinner services. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to watch the finale as close as I would have liked to, so I don’t really know what went on in Petrozza’s kitchen. But Chef Ramsay said to us several times, over and over again, “You run it, or it runs you.” Things weren’t perfect over there in the red kitchen. We couldn’t cook monk fish for whatever reason. But I definitely stayed in control, we were always energized and nothing got out. That’s really important.
Were you surprised, when you did watch the show, seeing the interviews with the other contestants and what they had to say about you?
Not necessarily even about me, but I was definitely surprised. You don’t know what other competitors say in their confessions, or how they truly feel or anything. They’re not going to tell you, they’re trying beat you. I was definitely shocked with what certain people said.
It seemed like Corey kind of had a vendetta against you a little bit. Did you two remain in touch afterwards?
We do remain in touch. Corey and I are very, very similar, and she’s very talented and very intelligent, and we butt heads of course. It’s really funny, because most often I hate people before they become really good friends of mine. I don’t know why that happens. We haven’t kept in touch as much as I would like, but nonetheless.
You won a lot of challenges throughout the show. Was there one that was your particular favorite?
Oh goodness, there were so many of them. There were probably two that really stood out. The one individual challenge that I won where I got to cook with Ben Ford and Mark Peele was great, because I learned so much. They would share their techniques, their secrets and their recipes, and sort of how they build a dish, talking about flavors. That’s really a prize I can take with me into my future. But also the spa was great, because you’re just so tired, bruised, burnt and beat down. Just having a couple hours to relax was like a godsend.
What was it like when you did the challenge where Ramsay put you in charge of the kitchen? Was it tough?
I don’t think it was tough. It was fun! Watching myself throughout the season I kind of look like a scared little kitten, which is weird since I feel like such a wildebeest inside. Being in charge and getting to shout and scream? That’s awesome. I love it.
What’s in the future for you now? Are you just moving to L.A.?
I’m actually farther away from L.A. then I was two days ago. Right now I’m in New York doing a publicity tour, and after that it’ll be pack my bags and head to Hollywood.
– Interview conducted by Don Williams
(Image courtesy of FOX)