Jason Santos, executive chef at Gargolyes on the Square, is one of 16 contestants on the upcoming seventh season of “Hell’s Kitchen,” which begins tomorrow, June 1 at 8 p.m. on Fox. He taped for two months last fall, as a member of the Blue Team.
Q. How many chefs were at the Boston audition? How did you win the audition?
Thirteen others tried out. The audition was at the Park Plaza in the Grand Ballroom, and it was packed. We met the cast and director for 2 minutes. There was no cooking, it was all personality. The next day, I filmed my answers to a few questions. Altogether I must have answered 1,000 questions! Then they flew us to LA for a taping. It was a cool process, to see what they go through.
Q. So, what was it like?! How would you describe the experience?
An experience, that’s for sure! When it was good, it was really good, and when it was bad, it was really bad. “Hell’s Kitchen” hardly ever goes well…
Q. What is Gordon really like? How was it to work with him around?
Gordon is an intense dude. When he decides to lay into you, he does – over and over. Relentless. It’s a TV show with 8 million viewers, second most popular after “Lost.” We were never off camera. We were filmed 24 hours a day. Outside the kitchen (in those rare moments), Gordon was charismatic, asking questions. He has 14 Michelin stars, a bunch of restaurants.
Q. What was the hardest part? The easiest?
The hardest was being there! No e-mail, no phone, no talking to family. You know, if you talk to your family and say, “You know, I got kicked off,” it spreads fast. No matter how we did, we all stayed to the bitter end.
The easiest was the cooking, because it’s what I do. I loved working for him, prepping, chopping.
Q. So why did you put yourself through all that?!
For the exposure. I cook in a little restaurant in Somerville that will now be known by millions. Plus I admire Ramsay.
Q. Can you hint at some of the challenges you faced?
Nope, under NDA, but I can talk to you after a show airs.
Q. What will you be serving [at a special celebratory dinner] on June 1?
It’s sold out, but I’ll be serving the menu served on the first episode.
Q. What did you learn/take away from the experience?
I got to learn from Gordon. I’ve been a chef for a long time, and I teach others. I don’t often get taught. It’s refreshing to cook somebody else’s food.
Q. So, did your boss give you a raise yet?
Not yet! The cart before the horse, you know. I still don’t know how I did, how they’ll edit it for TV. I’d like to invite some of the other cast members for Week 2, and I’ll have a party every week I advance.