No matter what you think of Seth Levine, there’s no doubt that from the beginning of season 5, this 27-year-old private party chef turned up the heat on Hell’s Kitchen. After starting off on the wrong foot with Gordon Ramsay in the initial Signature Dish tasting, presenting what the Chef called “the worst dish” he had ever tasted, Seth continued to take the bulk of Ramsay’s and the Blue Team’s verbal abuse as he struggled on the line during dinner services, even earning him nickname “Forrest Gump.” Where he lacked in skill, he compensated with strategy and self-confidence, and managed to escape elimination twice before getting the cut from Chef Ramsay.

We had a chance to talk to Seth this morning about what he thought of that nickname, why he knew so much about Ramsay’s personal life, and how he felt about being the Blue Team’s punching bag this season.

Read on for the full transcript and audio.

This is Meghan with BuddyTV and I’m on the line with Seth from Hell’s Kitchen. How are you doing today?

I’m fantastic, how are you?

I’m doing well. Well I thought I’d start out as I usually do, just asking you about your background in cooking and how you ended up on the show.

Basically I am a private chef, which means that I cater events for anywhere from 2 to 200 people, doesn’t matter. And luckily I have been fortunate enough to work with a lot of celebrities, a lot of CEOs of major companies, philanthropists, politicians, and it’s been, you know, it’s been a good ride.

How long have you been doing that for?

For around six years now. Actually, no, around seven. And before that, I worked on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and while I was there I was doing my private cheffing at night and on weekends, so to make extra money I worked at Goldman Sachs, which sounds odd.

How did you hear about Hell’s Kitchen auditions?

It was a random passing-by of the actual casting call. I lived around the corner from the bar that it was being held at, saw a line, asked what the line was for, and got in the back of it. And I immediately got the call-back and went through the whole casting process.

So over the course of the season so far, you seemed to take a lot of beatings from the rest of your team. So why do you think that they saw you as a weak link?

You know what, I came out in the beginning and said that I am not a restaurant chef, and I think that they pried on that from the get-go. You know, it’s a tough situation being thrown into a bunch of sixteen people that you don’t know who they are. You’re up at all hours, you’re reading recipes that were just thrown at you 24 hours ago, and then to get in the kitchen and start prepping, with some things that I’m not familiar with, it’s a tough situation. So I think they immediately saw a little weakness, and it’s a competition, so obviously they’re gonna pry on that and, you know, try to make the best situation for them.

Right, and we saw that you were definitely aware of the competition aspect of it, and that caused a little bit of a problem with Giovanni when you said you wanted to vote him off. Do you stand by that strategy?

Yeah, I mean I think everybody in the back of their head has a strategy. They’re just not saying it or speaking it. But you’re in a competition for yourself, you know. Yes, you’re on a team, but that team is, you know… you have to keep an eye in back of you at all times on that team. So, you know, I think everybody has that strategy, it’s just not spoken about, and I was the first one to speak about it.

So one of the funniest things I thought was when Ramsay nicknamed you “Forrest,” and you almost seemed to embrace that nickname. What was your attitude about him making fun of you that way?

Um… well, look. Ramsay gives nicknames to a lot of people, and some of them are a lot worse than “Forrest Gump.” “Fat ass,” or you know, whatever it may be, he’s calling people much harsher names. To get the nickname of “Forrest,” I was kind of happy. I was like, “Great. It’s not a curse, I’m not fat, I’m not anything but Forrest.”

You also seemed to know a lot about his life. Was that research, or was it just from being a big fan?

No, you know what? Anybody with half a brain going into a competition like Hell’s Kitchen should do some sort of research on the person that they’re going to be working with. I read one book, Boiling Point, if I remember correctly, and I finished it on the plane ride to L.A. to the shoot for the show. So that knowledge was fresh off the top of my head, and it’s all written in one book. It’s not like I dug through the guy’s garbage, I mean that’s a little bit ridiculous. So, you know, it was just everything that was written in the book. I have a great memory, and questions were being asked and, you know, I just spit out what I knew of the guy and obviously it got taken into stalker-ish comments. I think he definitely loved it, he definitely loved that I was looking into where I was going and who I was working for, and I think it helped me while I was there.

So in the episode last night, you guys had a lot of problems as a team, but I guess one of the reasons they decided to put you up for elimination was the scrambled eggs incident. Do you think that there was any other reason?

I think there was a lot of reasons. I think anybody could have been chosen to be put up there last night. Just obviously me being the weaker part of the team throughout the time that I was there, that added up to an easy pick for me. But the scrambled eggs definitely played into it. Nobody knows how crazy Hell’s Kitchen is unless you’re there. So, you know, the people who are sitting at home saying, “I could do that!”—I guarantee you, you can go there, and you can make as many scrambled eggs as you want at home, but the second you get there, it is quite a bit different. You know, I had 50 eggs on order, or whatever it was, and it just got to be that the eggs wouldn’t cook fast enough. And there’s no way you can tell an egg to cook faster.

Well now that you’re done, is there anybody you’re rooting for to take it all the way?

Yeah, you know what, Rob—he’s a great guy, he’s got a great heart. I would love to see him do it. You know, definitely a strong candidate there. And I like a lot of the girls. Coi is a good candidate. Paula, Carol. All three of them are good candidates.

And along the same lines, is there anybody that you think should have gone home before you did?
Of course.

All of them?

[Laughing] Yeah, everybody except for me! No, you know what—I would have loved to have seen Lacey or Colleen go home. I don’t think they have the skills to win Hell’s Kitchen, either. But we’ll have to see about that. J is another one that, you know, it just bothered me that he got away with the lettuce butt. But you know what? It’s a competition and it was what it was.

So what does the future hold for you now?

What the future holds for me—well, I am continuing my private cheffing, looking to restaurant opportunities, hoping that something develops along… I love doing television. So I would love to do something with the Food Network, working on a little cookbook. You know, anything to get my name out there, to get my skills out there, I’m into.

Want to see where Seth went wrong? Be sure to check out the Hell’s Kitchen Recap: Episode 5.4 (Page 1/3)

-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer

Image courtesy of FOX

Meghan Carlson

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 OfficeIt’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.