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A Golden Promise and A Hell’s Kitchen Surprise!


Last year, after the Golden Globes were canceled, I wrote that my friend Kymberli Brady promised to invite me to the 2009 Globes.

Well, she fulfilled her promise, and we hopped on a Southwest plane to attend the Golden Globes, followed by a string of after parties!  But the (temporary) life of a movie star didn’t stop there.  Kymberli’s brother, Kent Weed, happens to be the executive producer of the hit show, Hell’s Kitchen, and he invited us to have a nice dinner during the taping of the season six premiere.

In case you don’t watch the show, Hell’s Kitchen is a cooking reality show where in the end, Chef Gordon Ramsay chooses the final contestant to be the head chef at one of his restaurants.  This season, the top dog will get to run Araxi Restaurant in Whistler, British Columbia.   Aside from the bright lights of the studio cameras, the sneaky microphones, and the faint shouting in the glass-enclosed kitchen, the set pretty much felt like a regular restaurant. 

Kymberli and I came ready to have a fancy, three-course dining experience.  Shortly after we were seated, we met Van, one of the contestants.  The Dallas lead cook was Mr. Personality Plus, but poor guy, he kept dropping his pans and shrimp on the floor as he was preparing our tableside shrimp scampi.

We devoured the tiny but tasty appetizer and couldn’t wait for the next course.  After countless breadsticks, rounds of wine, and over two hours of finger tapping, our waiter finally informed us that we were not going to get dinner.  Are you kidding?  Ramsay was so upset with the two teams that he shut down the show!   So we left with roaring tummies and ended up ordering room-service hamburgers.

I thought that night would be only a memory--until the show aired last night, and Kymberli and I had our minute of fame.  And this morning, I started getting calls and emails from Coworkers, family, and friends from across the country asking if I ever got fed. 

Because we have a lot of Hell’s Kitchen fans at Southwest, Kymberli and I asked Kent to answer a few questions, as we try to pry what we can as to the “behind-the-scenes and behind-the-glass” goings-on.

Q: How do the contestants get chosen?

KENT:  We conduct a nationwide search for chefs of all types of backgrounds.  We look for people that are passionate about their work and have interesting personalities.  We are not looking for reality show contestants. Rather, we are in search of real people that anyone can relate to.  The restaurant industry is full of fascinating characters and we are out to give them an opportunity to move to the next level in their careers.

Q: Will there be any other surprises that you can hint at coming up?

KENT: I can tell you that this season promises to be the most explosive, the most volatile, and the most surprising season we have ever had.  We have chefs that get burned, cut, and injured like never before. There is more fighting than ever before, and not just with Gordon but between the chefs as well. Even the mild-mannered Belgian maitre d’, JP, almost gets in a fight with one of the contestants.  Every episode is a surprise.

Q: In the second half of the season opener, after dinner service, one aspiring chef went head-to-head with Chef Ramsay and wanted to “take it outside” for the first time ever in the show’s history. What set this guy off, and did you know this was going to happen?

KENT:  No one knows what ultimately set Joseph off. But when he went, he went off in a big way.  No one was more surprised than me.  You all saw the same thing we did. One minute, Gordon is asking him a question and the next the guy is saying he's “nobody's -itch.”  Everyone handles pressure differently, and I can only presume the pressure got to him and this was how he decided to deal with it--by going after Chef Ramsay and challenging him to a fight. You will have to wait until next week to see how it ends. It’s good stuff, make sure to have some popcorn on hand.

Q: What other shows have you done or are working on right now?

KENT:  I also am the Executive Producer of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay, and we just finished filming the newest season, which will air sometime in the fall.  In addition, I am the Executive Producer and Director of I Survived a Japanese Game Show for ABC. 

Q: Any comments for all of your fans at Southwest Airlines?

KENT: I love Southwest Airlines and always have fond memories of the crew and staff when traveling with them.  Thanks for all your support of HK, and I look forward to providing some juicy bits of information as the season continues. 

But wait, there’s another Hell’s Kitchen surprise!

Kent also agreed to field some of your questions in the coming weeks, so don’t be shy.  Fire away!  

And stay tuned for some exciting news!