Last night was the seventh episode, and the seventh dinner service, for the remaining chefs on Hell’s Kitchen Season 5, and after watching the Blue team fall apart during tapas night, Ramsay admitted, “Seven is not my lucky number.”
Unfortunately, seven was an even unluckier number for J Maxwell, a 32-year-old chef from Clifton Park, NY. After accidentally overcooking the risotto during his team’s prep for dinner service, J just couldn’t recover his night at the salmon station, and he was asked (or rather, screamed at) to pack his bags in the middle of service and leave the show.
We had a chance to talk to J this morning about his experience in Hell’s Kitchen. After taking so much verbal abuse from Ramsay, J is still as upbeat and confident as ever, even when revealing the shocking family event that occurred right before he entered the competition.
Read on for the audio and transcript of BuddyTV’s interview with J.
This is Meghan from BuddyTV and I’m on the line with J from Hell’s Kitchen. How are you doing this morning?
Great, Meghan! How are you?
I’m doing very well! How did you hear about Hell’s Kitchen? What made you decide to try out?
Well, I definitely watched the show. You know, Gordon Ramsay, he’s definitely a character. Very entertaining show. And my wife, I guess, pushed me and pushed me. And I took the day off, and she’s like, “You better go! You better go!” I drove down to New York City with a couple hundred other people, and you wait around for 8 or 10 hours for that one minute to talk to some of the casting directors and producers, and you know, I did fairly well for that minute. And after a couple other meet and greets, they brought you out to L.A., you have no idea you’re going to be on there, you walk in and there’s 300 people, and you’re chosen out of the 300 and thrown in the kitchen.
So once you got on the show, what was your schedule like? It looks pretty stressful…
It was work. Work, work, work, all day long. I mean from the first moment you walk in, there’s 300 chefs and you’re like, “Oh my God. What’s going on here?” Emotions are running, you’re confused, you’re frustrated, you’re like, “Oh my God. Am I gonna get picked?” And then before you know it, he throws everybody out, he throws you in the kitchen, and then you just work all day long. I mean I think we got about 2 hours of sleep or 3 hours, so you just work, constantly. You really don’t have time to make a plan or to focus or to think about things. And they keep it intense for you. It’s a very intense environment.
Did you guys have any unique ways to deal with the stress?
Unfortunately… no. [Laughing] That was part of the problem! I mean, there was some sort of weight-system thing. There was a Jacuzzi. But, you know, I think I got in there once or twice. I really can’t remember—not really. You did your best—I mean, if you won an award, or one of the challenges, that was the great. I mean in the beginning we were fortunate, we flew in a helicopter and then the private jet, I mean that was awesome. And then through the winery with the owners and then eating at the Hitching Post, that was one of the best days of my life. So in that aspect, it’s great. But then they throw you right back to the wolves. Right back in the den.
How was it dealing with Ramsay? I know he was riding you pretty hard in the last episode, and a couple before that.
He was. You know, Gordon Ramsay, he was doing his best to snap me out of it. My son was diagnosed with autism two weeks before I went on the show, before I even flew out there, so I was very confused. I kind of lost my edge a little bit. My heart was there, I was doing my best, but I was making little mistakes, you know? And everybody makes mistakes, but Gordon was pushing me for a purpose. He liked me, he respected me for my skills, and he knew I could do better. And for that I thank him, and he did his best to snap me out of it, but unfortunately I had too many other important things to concentrate on. So it was time for me to go.
We all saw last night that you were eliminated in the middle of dinner service. What do you think about him being able to do that right in the middle of your guys’ cooking?
That’s up to Gordon. It’s his kitchen. I understand. Like I said, I have no regrets, no animosity. I was glad to leave. It took a couple seconds to realize what happened, of course, but by the time there was thirty seconds to a minute, it’s like, “You know what, that’s good. I’m packing my stuff and it’s time to leave. I’m going home to my son, to my wife. We’ve got a lot to do, a lot to plan. So you know, like I said, I believe Gordon Ramsay, he knew I couldn’t deliver my best. He didn’t know why, he didn’t understand what was going on. He had no idea about the autism. So he just knew something was bothering me and I wasn’t going to be able to perform to my best, so why be there? He really wasn’t that rude about it. It might look that way, but it’s his kitchen, and I understand. I was ready to leave. He could have kicked out Lacey or Ben just as much, because they were making more mistakes than me, but mentally I just wasn’t there. And you sense that.
Do you have a personal favorite that you want to go all the way?
I hope Giovanni makes it the whole way. He’s a great guy. Robert’s a great guy, but he’s got a lot to learn. Same with Danny, he’s just a little arrogant, a little young. He’s still a good chef but he’s got a lot to learn. Giovanni’s the most talented on there.
Now what’s in the future for you, now that you’re done?
A lot of things in the future! If you go to my website, jcooks.com, I’ve got fundraisers, I’m writing a cookbook on healthy eating, I’m going to be out and about in different communities in different states fighting childhood obesity—you know, a lot of passion to help. Right now, it’s taking care of my son and giving him all the chances he deserves, helping other children just like him, and then, fighting obesity. You know, we need to get a grasp on this, and I know I can make a difference, so that’s what I’m going to focus on.
Any last words for your fans out there?
No, you know, thanks for watching! It’s been a great show, unfortunately you’ve seen J go through some really hard times. I tried my best, but I just had a lot of things on my mind. And if there’s anything I can do, fundraisers—please let me know! Go to jcooks.com, and let me know! Any cooking tips you want, I’m there to help. So please, contact me!
Want to see where J went wrong? Read the Recap: Hells Kitchen Episode 5.7 (Page 1/3)
-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
Image courtesy of FOX
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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 Office, It’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.