Whether you loved or hated her, there’s no denying that Jen had more personality than nearly any other contestant on Hell’s Kitchen. The outspoken Chicago native certainly wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself or her cooking, but her confident demeanor ultimately worked against her. Jen’s fellow chefs often accused her of failing to be a team player, and her prickly attitude even rubbed Gordon Ramsay the wrong way a few times. Despite churning out excellent appetizers and having a successful dinner service on last night’s episode, Ramsay decided it was Jen’s time to go.
Today we had a chance to sit down with Jen to discuss her elimination, how she got along with her fellow chefs, and her plans for the future.
Hi, this is Don from BuddyTV, and today I’m talking to Jen from Hell’s Kitchen. I was wondering what experience you had prior to going on the show, and what made you decide to try out?
Prior to going on the show I went to culinary school here in Illinois, Kendall College School of Culinary Arts. I studied abroad in Belgium and Paris, France for six months, and worked at a lot of fine dining restaurants here in Chicago, for companies like Let Us Entertain You. I also worked at the Capital City Club in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a five star members only country club.
What made you decide to go on the show?
I was pretty much watching last season and I loved it. I was watching it at home on TV, looking at the show like, “All these people are imbeciles! They can’t cook risotto, they can’t do this, they can’t do that.” When you get on there it’s totally different, I will say that. So I was watching the show and I’m like, “I need to audition.” At the time I was living in Atlanta, so I drove to Charlotte, North Carolina. I carved this watermelon that said, “Chef Jen — Hell’s Kitchen Season 4 Winner,” and carved some roses in the watermelon and things like that. It was really nice. That got me noticed at the audition, they called me back, and it was a wrap from then on.
What was the toughest thing about being on Hell’s Kitchen? Was it dealing with Ramsay, the kitchen atmosphere, or was it living with the other contestants?
I would say the toughest thing about being on Hell’s Kitchen is definitely the different attitudes and the different personalities, and knowing it’s a competitive environment. It’s a competition, and you have to eat, sleep, and wake up to these same people every day until it’s all over with.
During the final dinner service you didn’t seem to make any mistakes, and you did a really good job with the appetizers, but you still got eliminated. Why do you think Ramsay chose you to go over Corey?
I’m not quite sure. I’m sure he can answer that question better, but I was a little set back by that too, for the simple fact that I won challenges when I was on the show. I won numerous challenges. My pizza won in the pizza challenge, I won the first individual challenge, I led my team in the pasta challenge, so it’s like I stood out more as a leader. I’ve had a lot of good dinner services at Hell’s Kitchen. There were a select few where I got yelled at for this or that, a few things, but I’ve never had a terrible dinner service, except for the times when me and Chef Ramsay would have verbal spats or something like that. But I wasn’t sure, because Corey hasn’t won anything since she’s been there, she’s been on the tails of Christina, and she hasn’t done anything to stand out or emerge as a leader. Only one episode comes to mind, and that was when Matt was with them and they bumped him out of his station, and both of them pretty much took over the kitchen. But other than that, I can’t remember her doing anything significant. Also, in the challenge earlier that day she came in fourth place, her food wasn’t out on time, and the guests were complaining. So I’m not quite sure. That’s a bit suspect to me, but maybe Chef Ramsay can answer that better.
What was your favorite of the challenges you got to do?
I loved all the challenges. I think my favorite was definitely the first individual challenge that we had. It was great, because we all got split up, it was on us to shine as our own person and stand out as an individual. This was the first dish that we were to make to show Chef Ramsay who we are after signature dish day. The signature dish is getting your kinks out, it’s a brand new kitchen, you don’t know where everything is, utensils and stuff like that, so it was rough on signature dish day. But this is a challenge where he can see who we are, how creative we are, and who raises the bar in the kitchen. I won that challenge, so that was my favorite.
Were there any of them that were particularly tough? It looked like the teaching challenge with the housewives was kind of a hard one.
Yeah, the teaching challenge was definitely hard. I wouldn’t say I get annoyed easily, but the person that I was teaching had never cooked before, and she openly admitted that. She had these long nails on, very high heels, and I’m just like, “No.” It was all so unnecessary. At least give me someone who wants to learn. She didn’t even seem like she wanted to learn, so I was at the point where I’m just like, “What to do?” That one was definitely challenging.
It seemed like every episode the other chefs were complaining that you weren’t a team player. Do you think that was fair?
No, and that bothered me a lot that people thought I wasn’t a team player. When we were in dinner services, I was helping. You only get to see so much, but I was very helpful, and I kept the communication up in the kitchen when I was on the girls’ team in the beginning, and when I was on the guys’ team. Like the challenge that I lost that day for the guys’ team, that same dinner service I kept up communication. When we were in the kitchen and it was down to the final five, me, Petrozza and Bobby were on entrees — fish, veg and meat — I kept on communicating. People fail to see stuff like that, and they showed that on TV. They showed me keeping the communication up, and even though Chef Ramsay was still yelling at us I blocked him out and kept on keeping it strong. The only one communicating, telling them, “Two minutes to the window.”
I don’t know, I think I was definitely a team player, but I stand out. My personality is extremely strong, but they knew I was a good cook. They knew the experience that I came in there with. I talked to all the contestants individually. They knew my background, they knew I was the real deal, and they’ve seen me cook. They all can attest to the fact that I can cook. Corey even said that in the last episode, they just thought my personality or my attitude sucked, but it’s a competition. I didn’t know I was supposed to be friendly in a competition.
You had a chance to work on the men’s team and the women’s team. What was the difference between the two teams, and which one did you get along with more?
I think I got along better with the women’s team. We were winning at first, we were communicating good, I helped out in a lot of the competitions and getting us those wins. On the men’s team, everybody wanted to be a leader. When I left the red kitchen and switched over to the blue team, one of the comments Christina said was, “Wow, I’m glad Jen’s gone, ’cause now I’ll finally have a voice. I can be heard.” That just let me know how much I mentally and physically dominated that kitchen.
You were up for elimination a few times throughout the show. What goes through your mind when you’re up there waiting for Ramsay to make a decision?
Well, what was going through my mind was always, “I know I’m not going home.” So I was really shocked, I can’t even front. I knew me and Chef Ramsay had issues, but I knew he thought I was a good cook, because he told me that on numerous occasions. I wasn’t ever really worried. I never packed all the way, and I just wasn’t too worried. I’m like, okay, he’s at least going to put me in the final two to see what I’m about if anything, knowing it’ll be interesting to see what I can do. So I was never too worried, but I guess I should have been. I probably would have pleaded my case more.
Now that you’re done with the show, what’s in the future for you?
A lot of big things. I’m really grateful for the opportunity that I had, being on Hell’s Kitchen and staying on as long as I did. A lot of networks have been calling me, and are interested in doing upcoming television stuff that I can’t go into too much details with. That’s very interesting, and then I have a concept for the Frosted Glass Martini Bar & Grill, which is an upscale bar and grill that I’m opening out here in Chicago. I’ll be at the Taste of Chicago on the fourth as well, so it’s a lot of things in my future. Hell’s Kitchen has opened up a lot of doors for me. I was a bit bummed about losing at the time, but it’s like when one door closes the next one opens. God has something in store for me.
– Interview conducted by Don Williams
(Image courtesy of FOX)
Staff Writer, BuddyTV