Last night we saw the premiere of Season 5 of Hell’s Kitchen, and we were once again reminded that, no matter how prepared the chefs seem in the beginning, it’s a whole new ballgame once they enter Hell’s Kitchen with Chef Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay was impressed with what his 16 hopefuls brought to the table with their initial Signature Dish tasting, but was distraught to see them fall apart during the Grand Reopening dinner service. And no one received the master chef’s signature ‘verbal waterboarding’ treatment worse than Wil, the 26-year-old quality control chef from Chicago. Despite his teammates’ heartwarming defense, in the end Wil’s honesty about his mistakes at the garnish station cost him his place in Hell’s Kitchen.
Today we got a chance to chat with Wil about his experience in Hell’s Kitchen, what it’s like to cook on television, and why he decided to put himself on the chopping block. Read on for the mp3 and the full transcript of the interview.
This is Meghan with BuddyTV and I’m on the line with Wil from Hell’s Kitchen. How are you doing, Wil?
I’m doing pretty good.
I thought I’d start out by asking you a little bit about your background in cooking, and how you got on Hell’s Kitchen.
Sure. My cooking—I’ve been in the kitchen since I was 6. Always enjoyed cooking, always had a passion for it. As things have later gone on, I went to college for it, and then began to sort of realize, you know, part of being a chef isn’t always, you know, doesn’t necessarily mean always cooking. There’s a lot of, you know, paper work that needs to get done, budget, a whole bunch of other stuff besides cooking. One thing, too, that people need to realize is that the higher up they go in a kitchen, the less and less cooking they actually do. With how I got onto Hell’s Kitchen, there was an open casting call in Chicago. I went there on my day off and figured, you know, “Why not? I’ll give it a shot. I’ll try.” And then, well… I was on the show.
I saw on the premiere that they brought some 300-odd chefs to meet Ramsay, and then they picked sixteen from those. How did that work?
Everybody just came in car after car after car after car, and then everybody was just sitting around, trying to figure out what’s really going on. So they start doing the lottery, and I was the last one to be picked from that. And I was like, “Oh, okay, cool!” I was still figuring at that point that I’m not going to be there. I could still be expecting to feel, “Okay, cool, I wasn’t picked,” and go home. That’s what was going on in the back of my mind.
So going to your experience on the program, were there any events during your time there that didn’t make it onto TV that maybe you thought should have been?
There was two or three things that took place after service. There was one of things where Robert was talking to me out in the common area. I know there was one of those from that. And then, I know when everybody was up for elimination, I spoke up and spoke over Chef, and he let me speak a little bit. I don’t remember what I was talking about. But I thought that would have been interesting to see on there too.
Were you defending yourself, or…?
I was defending myself. You know, everybody wanted Seth gone. It was really nice to see all my teammates come up, be able to make it up together, and, you know, fight for me.
I was going to ask you, Hell’s Kitchen is pretty renowned just for the intensity and stress. So what was the atmosphere like being there, versus what you see on TV?
Actually being there, um… I’m just trying to really describe it, because, um, you only see on TV the end result. But I mean, there’s things of where it’s, you know, you do this, you do that. I just remember mic changes. I remember mic changes every six hours. I remember with our opening thing, when everybody’s up there, you run into the kitchen, and then, you know… “Stop! Stop, stop, stop, everybody stop. We need to get you mic’ed.” And going through all this stuff. That was an experience in itself. You learn a term: “Hurry up and wait.” A lot of times it was like that. I think that something I got from one of my handlers.
Do you think that that sort of artifice may have affected your cooking, being able to get into that mode?
Yeah, I think a lot of it was—really, again, out of my element with that. Because I was expecting the way I just start doing everything right away, and not really thinking about it. And I was like, well, we’ve got all these logistics behind it, and I think that caught me off guard. And it was just a very, very strange feeling. Because I just wanted to get there and cook, and then not being able to get there and look around in a kitchen, either, that also got to me. Because I’m very, very OCD when it comes out with that stuff. So I mean that was another thing that got me off guard.
But I mean, it’s a shock to your system, I think that’s the only thing I could really say. I mean, when I went home, it was, like 3-4 days of like straight sleeping.
Wow. So you ended up nominating yourself for elimination. Can you tell me a little bit about what was going through your head when you did that?
I just nominated myself because I figured it was the thing to do. It was the thing to do. Because I’m saying, I really didn’t know what happened out in the dining room. I didn’t find out anything until I was actually able to look at the episode yesterday. So I didn’t know how bad it was out there. But, I mean, everybody was just trying to pull together in that—and then I was just looking around, and I was like, you know, I really messed up on the garnish station. I mean, they weren’t showing as many things as I was messing up, which, you know, I think is great. Saves me a little bit of face. One of the things, too, is… we didn’t lose that night. The Blue Team didn’t lose that night in the kitchen. It was because of the dining room. And even though I nominated myself, I didn’t know what the hell was going on with Giovanni.
Right. Now you guys had a blackout in the middle of service. Can you tell me if that’s an actual electrical issue, or is that a sort of test that they put you guys through?
That was an actual issue. That wasn’t actually something in there. Because first we thought, “Okay, you know, the lights go off. Ha, ha, ha.” You know. And we’re going to continue going. And then the power went completely out and killed some of the cameras in there, too. I saw some of the cameras that they have posted around on the hoods all spun up into position. So I’m thinking to myself, “Yeah. That’s not scripted.” They were having some serious problems. But I mean, they got it all up and running again, and we finished service.
So what’s next for you, after being on the show?
Being able to get a job. I mean, that’s just one thing right now. My restaurant’s closed down in October of 2008. And I have been trying hard to get into a cheffing position somewhere else.
Want to know more about what went wrong for Wil? Check out our ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ Recap: Season 5 Premiere!
-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
Image courtesy of FOX