While you may think you know everything there is to know about being a chef from watching reality T.V., cooking competition shows are nothing like working in a real kitchen.
Sure, tempers flare whether the cameras are there or not. But in a real-life situation, you'd be hard-pressed to find a chefs teaming up with their competitors or digging through sandcastles to find geoduck clams.
3030 Ocean kitchen supervisor La Tasha McCutcheon can add those skills (or tasks) to her resume. The Hell's Kitchen contestant made it through week one and will be returning to the show to compete next week again.
We got a chance to speak to the amicable chef about week one, Gordon Ramsay, and the Hollywood treatment.
Clean Plate Charlie: First thing first, how did you get involved with the show?
McCutchen: I was working at 1500 Degrees at the time and Hell's Kitchen practically walked through the doors. They were holding a casting call at the Eden Roc and chef Paula DaSilva encouraged me to go in and take a chance. She goes, "You want to do it? They pretty much went down and walked through your front door." I was the only one willing to do it, so I took off my 1500 Degree jacket and went in. I told them I worked in the hotel, but not 1500, because I didn't want Paula's association with the show to be a reason to pick me. I wanted to do it on my own.
When did filming begin?
Last September, I left work and flew out to Los Angeles. It was my first-time ever seeing the west coast. I'm an east coast girl; I've been to Dallas and Chicago, but never the west coast. That experience alone was surreal. I arrived at the airport and it was instantly like I arrived in Hollywood; someone was at the airport, waiting, holding a sign with my name on it.
In last night's episode, the chefs were divided into male and female teams. You work in a female-led kitchen, which is a rare. What was the experience like for you?
That was a pretty different experience. I, obviously, enjoy working with my fellow female chefs, but this was different. I've never had to work together with competitors. There can be a lot of cattiness and attitude when you pair that many different female personalities together. I consider myself cool, calm, and collected. Once the cattiness started, I didn't want to get involved.
One of the challenges was working with geoduck clams. Have you ever worked with them before?
I've never seen a geoduck clam before in my life. I just thought it looked pretty inappropriate. Then there was the process of going through the sandcastle to get to them. They bury themselves in the sand. They were really good though.
As a reward, your team got to spend some time aboard a luxury yacht. What was that like? Had you ever been on a yacht before?
No, I've never been on a yacht. That was just amazing. The west coast is so beautiful and getting time to sit with chef Ramsay... He felt almost human, but there was still, like, this light behind him. It's like he's not real at any moment -- until he's yelling.
What was the hardest part about being on the show?
My biggest challenge was being able to work together as a team with people I'm competing against. Also, learning to trust myself with things I know. I really wanted to prove myself, not just for me, but to the other competitors, chef Ramsay, and everyone else.
How did it feel to leave Hollywood and the film crew to come back to South Florida and 3030?
It was an adjustment, obviously, getting back to doing what I do. My confidence level has grown and I took all of chef Ramsay's critiques and criticism and push myself to get better everyday. I compare my experience on the show to Rocky; how he knew the fight would be the fight of his life that would change his career. I left there with more confidence and came back to South Florida believing in myself as a chef. But I'm glad to be back with chef Paula and chef Adrienne [Grenier]. I'm continuing to grow.
What's chef Ramsay like in real-life?
He's a funny guy. His humor is sometimes hurtful, but you can see his passion and feel it. It drives you to be more perfect. You have to give it your all or he's going to send you home. I told chef Ramsay, "I have the eye of the tiger and the heart of a champion. I'm not going down without a fight."
To watch McCutchen compete, tune into Fox on Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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