Petrozza wasn’t your typical Hell’s Kitchen contestant. While his teammates often stooped to backstabbing and bickering to get ahead, the 47-year-old caterer always managed to keep a positive attitude and a wealth of integrity. Gordon Ramsay chose him as the best of the worst on more than one occasion, and when he stepped up and won the signature dish challenge last week it looked like he might have a shot at winning the grand prize. However, after the bustling dinner service seen on last night’s season finale, Ramsay gave young upstart Christina the chance to work at his restaurant. Petrozza may not have left with a job at The London West Hollywood, but he did leave with his integrity and sense of humor intact.
Today we had a chance to talk with Petrozza about his final dinner service, why he chose Jen over Matt, and why he thinks Christina ultimately won the competition. Read on for the complete transcript and mp3 of the interview.
Hi, this is Don from BuddyTV, and today I’m talking to Petrozza, the runner-up from Hell’s Kitchen. So what experience did you have prior to going on Hell’s Kitchen, and why did you try out for the show?
What experience did I have? You know what, I’ve been cooking and been in restaurants and catering for 30 years. All aspects of restaurants, from like fine dining to delis to catering, and catering weddings. To answer your first question, second question, why did I go on? I had friends and family that said, “Oh, you’d be good at this. You should try out for it.” And I said you know what, what the heck? I’m up for this adventure. I took it one tiny adventure at a time. The first being my first interview, the second being my second on-camera interview, and I just attacked it.
What was it that inspired your design for the final restaurant?
Just flying by the seat of my pants. I was like let’s see, I’m picturing some cool crystal chandeliers, but all different ones. Maybe like — mish mosh is a bad word — but kind of interesting, antique-y, big chandeliers. I was thinking warm. You know what inspired me? A place that I would want to sit and eat. A place where I would like to be to relax and enjoy a really, really good, tasty, interesting, hearty, fun meal. That was my inspiration.
Before the final dinner service it came down to choosing between Matt and Jen, which is a pretty tough decision.
Yeah. Flip a coin, right?
What made you pick Jen?
Jen, as far as ability, has what it takes to — and I’m being very careful with my words here — has what it takes to operate one of those stations, which are relatively simple. Relatively speaking for an experienced cook, and that’s what we’re going to call her: a cook. She’s not a chef, she’s a cook. But she’s got this monster attitude problem that reminds you of some sort of horror movie, just coming out of the ground. Just this slimy, disgusting attitude problem. Then you got Matt on the other hand. Matt, his ability is not strong at all. Is he gonna try really hard? Yeah, he’s gonna try really hard. But he’s so weak in the kitchen and has such bizarre ideas and thoughts going through his mind, it’s almost like he couldn’t do it no matter what. Jen could do it if the attitude doesn’t show up.
Did you regret that decision afterwards, or do you think it worked out alright?
No, I don’t regret the decision. If I had it to do over again I would only pick Matt because I would say, okay, let’s put my money on this guy this time. Just for the heck of it, ’cause we’ll give him a shot. But you know what? I don’t think he’s got any better shot. Nobody really wanted Matt on their team, and Matt had no preference between guys or girls. He just wanted to be liked, but he was just so unlikable because of how weird and obnoxious he was, and juvenile.
At the end of the show we didn’t really get to see much as to why Ramsay chose Christina over you. Why do you think he picked her?
If I knew, if I truly knew, I would say it in a second. That’s gonna be one of the greatest mysteries of this little part of our lives here, why he did choose her. Think about this: it’s not a winner and a loser. He’s interviewing chefs. If we look at it this way, maybe we can come up with an answer. He’s interviewing chefs for a restaurant, but hang on a second. He said himself on TV, his executive chef from New York is gonna be in L.A. Hang on a second, who’s really the executive chef? Okay, the guy from New York is really the executive chef, so Christina’s kind of a figurehead. You don’t need anybody with tons of experience. You need somebody young, strong, and you’re making an investment. Then you look at Petrozza. Well, Petrozza’s 47. Wait a second, how many strong years does Petrozza have in the kitchen? Ooh, if he takes care of his health, if he gets a little lucky. . .you know? Does Ramsay want a guy older than him in his kitchen? You have to take that stuff into consideration. He’s interviewing for a chef.
Ramsay criticized you a lot during the show for being messy in the kitchen. Is that something you’ve worked on since then?
I actually have worked on that slightly, but I’m not so focused on that in the kitchen. I work much better with a clean cutting board, a neat cutting board, but I don’t work better when my chef’s jacket’s not dirty. Does a football player who runs and dives for a catch and makes a 50-yard gain not work as well because his pants are dirty?
Did you feel like the lack of prep before your dinner service hurt you at all, or did it actually work out for the best?
What they didn’t show — this is quite a true thing that doesn’t portray me in the best light, a little inside thing — I cooked my sweetbreads on the menu, for instance. I cooked them in a classical fashion. You open up any French cookbook — from the professional chef who’s at the Culinary Institute of America’s cookbook, which is one of the highest regarded schools on the planet — you open it up, because I did when I got home, and they poach it, they press it and they peel it. Well, I poached, pressed and peeled all the sweetbreads, and Ramsay says, “No no no, that’s not how we’re gonna do them. We’re gonna do them my way. You’re gonna peel them raw, slice them and sauté them raw.” Okay, that’s cool, except now I had to do them all over. Sure, being a little bit further ahead definitely would have helped. No question about it, because we were running out of my sweetbreads. Anyway, so yes, the lack of some preparation and some mistakes early on with my dishes definitely hurt. We added to prep work. We had to do things a couple times.
What’s in the future for you now that you’re done with the show?
What’s in my future? Hopefully good things. Hopefully there’s a good plan for me out there. You know, what they say is that if you’re gonna pray for potatoes, you better bring a ho. Like the ho that you dig with, to clear that up. But anyway, I gotta get out there, I gotta hustle, I gotta focus and I gotta go for what I want. I like cooking and I like the media, I like the excitement of the media, so maybe if I’ve got what it takes I can put some kind of little cooking show together. Maybe supplement income, maybe have fun, maybe teach some people. Just enrich my life.
– Don Williams, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of FOX)