When the fifth season of FOX’s HELL’S KITCHEN kicks off tonight, keep your eye on Chef Ji. Even in casual conversation, you can tell that the native New Yorker – who’s cooked side by side with everyone from Emeril Lagasse to Julia Child – is as cool, calm and collected as Gordon Ramsay is hot-tempered. So if any of the wannabes is gonna be able to turn out a dish that wows even Johnny Anger Management, it’s her. Here, she shares with theTVAddict.com her first impressions of the human Ginsu.
When you auditioned for the show, had you already seen it??
Chef Ji: Yeah, I had seen season 1, and then I watched season 4 because I wanted to see a friend of mine [Lou Ross] on it.
Huh. And you still went up for it. Masochistic much?
(Laughs) Hell, yeah! But it wasn’t that I wanted to be subjected to pain or humiliation. I just wanted to kick ass and get the prize! And on top of that, my drive is still to become successful in the culinary world, and to prove to myself and my father that I’m hot s— in the kitchen.
So what was your reaction upon finding out that you’d made the cut? “Oh crap, now I really have to DO this!”?
At first, I was shocked, and when I get shocked, I’m usually speechless. But when I called my boyfriend and told him the news, I was jumping up and down and nearly tripped. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited.
What was your first impression of Ramsay?
“Oh man, here he comes! Chef Hell himself… bring it on!” But at the same time, I have a great respect for Chef Ramsay. He has great, hardcore presence, and he knows his [stuff].
He certainly knows how to put on a show. What’s it like to be in his presence when he’s having one of his little tantrums?
Utter fear and stress. The thought of “When will he start attacking me? Can I stand up to him?” It’s so different when he’s present versus watching him on TV.
Don’t you think high blood pressure should be a concern for him?
Could be, but the way he grabs the side of his chef coat and leans forward, with his body all tense, and starts screaming… It kind of looks like a workout. So that might balance it all out for him.
If you had this experience to do over again, would you?
Um, yeah… if a gun was held to my head!
Would you do anything differently?
I’d have cut my bangs, that’s for sure. (Laughs) In retrospect, I wish I’d stood up to him more. I’m usually a spitfire in the kitchen, and I can’t stand lazy people in the kitchen. But with him… yeah, he’s a force. I’m sure I’m not the first strong-willed person to kinda wilt in front of him.
Obviously, you want to be a celebrity chef. So which celebrity would you like to cook first?
(Laughs) I wouldn’t cook a celebrity. Most of them are so skinny, they’d probably turn out tough even if you braised them.
For more on Chef Ji, visit: chefji.com, and be sure to watch her in action when HELL’S KITCHEN returns to FOX tonight at 9PM