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Culinary Institute of Canada grad competes on Hell’s Kitchen

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Fans of Chef Gordon Ramsey’s reality TV series Hell’s Kitchen tuned in on FOX for the first episode of Season 10 with great anticipation this week. I’d never seen it before, but wanted to watch this time because Roshni Mansukhani-Gurnani, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of Canada, is competing.

Although unfamiliar with the series, I thought I had a vague notion of what it was about: Chef Gordon Ramsey swears at a group of stressed and sweaty chefs, who in turn swear at each other while storm drum music pounds in the background.

Although devotees would probably scoff at my interpretation, I can’t say I saw much to contradict it when I tuned in on Monday night.

Why, I wondered, would a sweet young woman like Rosh want to put herself into that situation? She’s already an executive chef at a private country club in Houston, Texas. She’s even done a television competition before, appearing Food Network’s cooking competition series Chopped a couple of years ago.

“I wanted to challenge myself and my skills,” she explained in a recent telephone interview. And whereas Chopped was taped in a day, Hell’s Kitchen took six weeks to complete.

“The show is actually about 18 chefs competing for the head chef position at Steak, Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in Las Vegas and $250,000 salary. Along with the competition comes drama yes, however, it is up to one’s self to go along with the harsh behaviour or stay true to what is important to any chef…being a loyal chef, good food and respecting our industry.”

The competitors were sequestered for the entire taping last July. During those six weeks, only their closest family knew where they were. What on earth do you tell your friends and employer?

“I told my close friends that I was traveling with work. I told my work I need six weeks of personal time,” Rosh explained.

So on top of the stress of competing against 17 other chefs and trying to dodge the wrath of Chef Gordon Ramsey, she had to spend 24/7 in the company of strangers for six weeks, incommunicado with the outside world.

“There was an emotional and mental aspect to the competition,” she said. “Living under one roof with the others 24 hours a day gave me insight into their strengths and weaknesses.”

Was that knowledge something she could use against them in the kitchen? That’s not the point in the first part of the competition, she explained.

“The first part is all team work. Knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses enabled us to find a way to work together.”

It seemed to me that the set up in Hell’s Kitchen, where things could grind to a halt at any given moment at the behest of Chef Ramsey, wouldn’t work in a real restaurant kitchen. Rosh agreed.

“I don’t run a kitchen like that, and I wouldn’t work in one like that,” she said emphatically. But when you’re there, in front of the cameras, it all seems very real.

“As a chef, I wasn’t going into character for the camera,” she said. “It wasn’t about being a rock star; it was about my love of cooking. If I wanted to be an actress, I’d go to Hollywood.”

She can’t reveal how she fared on the show because everything’s wrapped in secrecy, of course. In fact, the competitors, some of whom became friends over the course of the taping, were not allowed to contact each other until a couple of weeks ago, and although they are now permitted to discuss the experience in general, they can’t reveal information that would give away the final outcome.

Episode 3 airs on FOX at 9 p.m. tonight, followed the next episode tomorrow night. Tune in to see how things go for Rosh!

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Written by Sara Underwood

June 11, 2012 at 8:55 am

Posted in Alumni

Tagged with , , ,

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