Two locals in 'Hell's Kitchen' final four
By Matt Byrne, Your Town Correspondent
Two local chefs have been catapulted into the limelight as contestants on the seventh season of "Hell’s Kitchen," a competitive cooking show on Fox that offers the winner an executive chef position worth $250,000 in London.
Melrose native Jason Santos, 34, a chef at Gargoyle’s on the Square in Somerville, and New York native Benjamin Knack, 35, of Malden, a chef at Sel de La Terre in Boston, are two of four contestants left on the prime-time competition, set to air Tuesday at 8 p.m. on FOX.
The show is a popular entry in a growing sub-genre of reality television that focuses on fine dining, high-pressure cooking, and the dramatic entanglements found in a professional kitchen. On "Hell’s Kitchen," Santos said, drama is king.
Four hours of sleep every night, “impossible” challenges, and expectations raised as high as the volume of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s voice became the daily routine for the contestants during the two-month taping that began in February 2009.
“I didn’t even have to cook to get on the show,” Santos said. “Day one, I knew it was a television show, not about cooking. I totally get how grown men cry on the show, I get it that it’s possible to mess up something so simple. Put James Beard [considered the father of American-style gourmet cooking] himself in that kitchen and he wouldn’t be able to pull it off.”
Santos, who graduated from Melrose High School and attended culinary school at Newbury College in Brookline, said he has never experienced pressure like televised competitive cooking.
“It couldn’t be more unrealistic,” he said. “It is what it is. … It’s nothing like a real kitchen.”
The pair, who have survived 12 episodes and the subsequent eliminations, said they were honored to participate in the show, even if it has meant adjusting to reality television and the glimpses of fame it has brought since the season began airing.
Santos and Knack both lamented notoriety’s double edge, saying that although their appearance on the show has opened many career doors, it doesn’t help when they’re out trying to do grocery shopping or work out at the gym.
“There are all these people who want to come meet me, which I don’t understand,” Santos said. “I don’t even want to meet me.”
Ramsay, whose brash and profane style is a hallmark of the show, was a frequent topic of conversation for both contestants, who said that one of the questions asked most often by fans who approach them on the street is whether Ramsay is as mean in person as he is on the show. Continue reading here