Jen Yemola, the 26-year-old Pastry Chef from Hazleton, Pennsylvania knows what it means to live out her dream. As a big fan of Hell’s Kitchen, she always knew that she belonged on the show and when she made it, she made sure she made the most out of it. After making it all the way to the top 3, and then being eliminated last night, Jen was more than happy to take some time to talk to us at BuddyTV about her experience on the show.
Read the full interview transcript and listen to the mp3 audio below.
This is Royce from BuddyTV, and I’m here with Jen from Hell’s Kitchen 3. How’s it going Jen?
It’s going great, it’s going fabulous, thank you.
Well, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, and congrats on making it to the top 3, that’s awesome.
Oh my pleasure, yeah I feel so good, I feel complete right now I really do.
Cool. Well Jen, maybe just to start off can you give us a little bit of background on yourself and why you decided to try out to be on Hell’s Kitchen?
My background…I’ve always worked in a kitchen since I was 14. I started as a dishwasher and graduated to line cook, gourmet chef, and then eventually into pastry. And then the reason I was on Hell’s Kitchen was because I had a love for food and I wanted to compete and I used to watch it all the time with my mom and I was like, “God, I belong on this show,” and I just felt such a connection with the show that I applied, and from there I kept getting callbacks and the rest is just history, I ended up being able to make it into the top 3.
Was it anything like what you expected, you mentioned that you watched the show on television, being on the show, I’m sure is a very different thing, was it anything like you expected it to be?
Oh my God, not, I didn’t expect us to have such a grueling schedule to be quite honest with you. I didn’t expect to not have any sleep and to not be eating right. With all those things, you know, if I could have done it all over, I would have prepared myself better for that. Because going into it you just think you’re working in a kitchen and its’ just going to be like home, but its nothing like that.
Did you expect to make it as far as you did in this competition?
I wanted to make it into the top 3, and to be quite honest, the whole competition I wasn’t thinking about winning, I just wanted to do my best every service. I wanted to win and I wanted to be at least in the top 3, but every service I wanted to do my best and you know, if I made a mistake I had to own up to it or I had to be honest with myself, and if I got caught that was just the reality, you know. But it was my goal, to strive to be the best.
How special was that for you last night to be surprised by seeing your mom there on the show?
I love my mom, and to have her there with me at that point in the show was huge. Everybody says, “You were crying hysterically”, and you know, “You see mom every day,” but she knew how important this challenge was for me and she knew that this was my life passion and to have her there for me, it was phenomenal.
Do you think she recognized your fried chicken?
Oh no! I don’t think my mom knew, she just recognizes good food. So I don’t know if she paired that with me. I would have thought she would have thought I would have done like franks and beans or stuff like that because I’m not used to all that fancy stuff as far as savory is concerned, I’m more of the pastry girl.
So how did you feel about our elimination last night, Chef Ramsay didn’t really give a whole lot of reason to why he decided to send you home, do you think you should still be in the runnings?
I was surprised that he didn’t give any reason. I was surprised also that I was going home, and I was sad, but I just feel blessed enough to have made it in the top 3 and I feel I worked hard to get there, and you know I’m not going to lie in saying I felt I should have been in top 2 but, top 3 is still good, so its a good thing.
Yeah, definitely. If you could go back and do one thing over again what would it be?
In watching it in retrospect I would probably be more confident in myself. I was intimidated, I was never on the path that he put me on last night, I would have…you know, you learn from putting yourself in retrospect, but that’s probably one thing I would have changed is to have been more assertive, more confident, more together. It’s just hard with him breathing down your neck, and he’s yelling at you and all this pressure mounts, and your elimination banks on how well you do on the path, and that’s just…it was tough, it was tough for me.
Were there certain things looking back and watching the show on television, were there certain things that you wish they might have shown about you that they didn’t?
Well, last night I wish that they would have, when I went on the shopping spree, I didn’t spend all the money on myself. I wished they would have shown that, I ended up buying Rock and Bonnie gifts and they didn’t show that, which sort of was a bummer, you know. I spent like third of what they gave me on them, so that’s a bummer.
So now that you’re out of the race, who do you want to win, who are you rooting for?
I think Bonnie and Rock each have their strong and their weak points, just like anybody in this business. But I think that Rock has a lot more experience, and Bonnie has a good palette, but I couldn’t pick a favorite honestly, so I see both their strengths and both their weaknesses, so it’s a toss up for me.
So what’s in store now for you, Jen?
I’m working now, I’m still a pastry chef, but I’m looking to make my own mark. I am starting my own business, it’s going to be called ‘Jentastic Sweets’ and I am looking to start like a cake design, and I want to do like weddings and dessert stations and all that sort of stuff, I still want to stick with pastry though, that’s my love.
Any final words for your fans out there?
If you ever have a dream, and somebody tells you that you’re not going to make it, or you’re not good enough don’t even listen to that. You just strive to be the best that you can, and you believe in yourself, because I was one of those people almost that almost gave up. I lived and succeeded in everything I wanted to do and everyone can do that I believe.
(Interview conducted by Royce Yuen)