Chef: Before Trying Out For Hell’s Kitchen, Be Prepared to Feel Belittled

Jason Santos, a former contestant on Hell's Kitchen, gives advice for those who want to try out in Boston.

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Boston chefs and aspiring cooks will have a chance to secure a spot on national television when casting agents come to the city on July 8 to seek new talent for Hell’s Kitchen’s latest season.

But restaurant owner Jason Santos, who was a runner-up on season seven of Hell’s Kitchen, says reality TV-hopefuls should bring more than just a wok and a spatula to the tryouts, and have the skin thick enough to take some criticism in case they make it on the show. “You never cook to get on the show,” says Santos, owner of Blue Inc. and executive chef of Abby Lane in Boston. “It’s about personality and who you are.”

Santos said once on the show, the cooking talent needs to shine through, but during the tryout phase—that part is all about falling into a certain category or dynamic the producers are looking for. “I don’t know what it is they are looking for, but they do look for [certain characteristics]. Every season there is either the asshole, or the cry baby.”

Santos’ bright blue hairstyle and quips may have helped him earn a spot in Chef Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen, but his talent is what brought him to the final two spots.

He says once he was on the show, it was important to stay focused and “humble” in order to keep advancing—something that can be tough when you have Ramsay “screaming” in your face on a regular basis. “I handled it pretty well, but he is larger than life. I mean he is six-foot-three and is very fit. He is a big dude, and he doesn’t look like it on TV, but he is. For me, I am very rarely intimated by people, but you definitely have to respect [Ramsey],” says Santos. “Thankfully I never cried, but I can understand how people break down. He is in your face constantly yelling at you. They break people down and beat them back down. It’s intense, it’s the craziest thing I have ever done.”

According to the casting call, producers are searching for passionate, experienced chefs who are 21 years of age and over in the Greater Boston. Contestants must be prepared to “endure the heat and tension of Chef Ramsay’s kitchen along with his temper and wild personality”

Those interested in showing up to Santos’ Theatre District restaurant, Abby Lane, where casting will be held on July 8, should also know that if they do advance and appear on the show, they should expect to get hounded by fans who watch Hell’s Kitchen.

Santos says while he is grateful for chance to have been part of the experience, at times, the reality TV stardom can be exhausting, not to mention, the blog and internet comments can be critical. “I never read them, but my advice would be not to read any of the blogs. There will be people that love you, but the people that hate you can be pretty viscous,” he says. “Any sort of time you want to be in the public spotlight, you sort of ask for it. I’m thankful for it, and sometimes I go out of my way to avoid it, but I chose it. And I chose to have blue hair so it’s why I stand out. I wouldn’t change anything, but it’s pretty crazy.”

Tryouts at Abby Lane will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 8.