Hell's Kitchen 3: Interview with Julia - “Too Many Chiefs and Not Enough Indians”
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In what was truly a first on Hell’s Kitchen, and contrasting the unceremonious boot of Josh from the kitchen during mid-dinner service, Julia Williams became the first contestant to not leave in utter shame, but rather, left with a hug, kiss, most high praise from the oft-diabolical Chef Ramsay, and an unprecedented offer from him to pay for her to attend culinary school. Julia, the 28 year-old short order cook from Atlanta, GA, was able to offset her comparative lack of training and experience with an eagerness to learn and the ability to take the heat in Hell’s Kitchen—all the while winning the heart of Gordon Ramsay and viewers, alike.
Hi, Julia. How are you?
Thank you for speaking with me today.
Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for speaking with me!
You have a lot of fans at our site, and many of our members were supporting you, hoping you’d go all the way!
Oh, thank you!
How did you become interested in becoming a contestant on Hell’s Kitchen?
Last year, I was really a big fan of the show, so when they came to Atlanta, I just thought hey, maybe I’d make it. I almost didn’t go. I was, like, I’ll go; I’m going to go, but at the last minute I was, like, I’m not going to waste my time. My boyfriend was, like, “No, you’d better go.” So, he looked everything up for me, and I went. Luckily I got picked to go on.
You mentioned you were a fan of the show. Had you watched the previous seasons?
I watched last season. I watched all of last season when Heather won. Yeah, I loved Hell’s Kitchen. Every Monday I was glued in front of my TV, and there was no talking! Now, to be watching and seeing myself on it, or when I was, it’s still really weird, like, “Oh my God! Can you believe I’m on there?”
Isn’t that scary seeing how Ramsay treats people in the kitchen—to be on there?
Yeah, well, I actually thought that even before I went on there, and I was kind of right, I kind of figured that he wasn’t just yelling at people for no reason. I knew there had to reasoning behind it, and there is, you know. If you screw up, then you’re going to get yelled at. He’s not just yelling at you just to be yelling. That’s not the case. He’s yelling at you when you’re messing up bad--especially, a lot of the contestants that should already know most of their stuff. They should already know that, so that is really why we really get yelled at. Like at the end when I got yelled at on the veg station. Having been there so long, I should have known what, what, what-what, what. I just got confused and overwhelmed, so I got yelled at.
I guess that’s fair then.
What is your culinary background?
As far as culinary, I really don’t have any culinary background because I’ve never been to culinary school. I was raised with my father and with my two brothers, so I’ve always lived with guys. Once I was old enough to cook, I started cooking, and then from there I went on, and I’ve worked at Waffle House. I’ve been there for, like, the past nine years.
How would you define your style of cooking?
I would define my style of cooking as just what you had seen on the show. Really basic. I’m into soul food. I got to learn a lot about different foods I didn’t even know existed in the world. I mean, not really “existed,” but that people actually ate it, and it was a delicacy. You know, like duck. I would never before the show, and I probably still wouldn’t, go to the grocery store and buy duck and cook it. It was a little bit weird.
Your teammates were determined not to let you forget your background as a short-order cook, and they also appeared to be food snobs. How difficult was it working through that kind of hostility.
It wasn’t really hard for me working through that kind of hostility because, believe it or not, I didn’t even know people were talking about me that way until I’d seen the show. Everybody was pretty much friendly—well except for the first show. Everybody really did kind of show me how they didn’t really think, I guess, like, I deserved to be there, and they were real snobby and nobody wanted to talk to me, and nobody wanted to let me do anything. That was really, really hard for me, which, you know, brought on the tears. It was just more of, like, frustration, like “God, if you’d just give me a chance, let me show you, then we can get through this thing,” but everybody was just . . . I don’t know. That was just weird. I’ve never worked in a kitchen where that has happened before. But, then again, they don’t know me, so. . . .
You seemed very confident in your abilities and held your own in the kitchen. Were you expecting to last as long as you did facing contestants with more extensive training backgrounds than your own?
When I first went on the show, I actually went in expecting to win. After I got there, and I’d seen what it was all about and the way everybody was acting and the different foods and things I had never worked with, I was kind of like, “Okay, this is not going to work for me.” Then, the further and further I got and the more I learned, the more confident I became because I knew I knew how to cook. It was just learning certain foods and what went with what. That was really the most challenging thing for me because I don’t have a problem, even if it’s something I’ve never cooked, which is what I watched on TV. It even shocked my family. There were like, “What is that?” I was like, “I don’t know. I just breaded it and cooked it. [both laugh]
On the show, you seemed to be seen studying a cookbook. Was that one you brought with you? Are you allowed to have one, or is one provided?
Oh, yeah. That is one that gave us. That’s everything we were cooking on the show.
You looked as though you were studying it quite a bit, which is a good thing.
Oh, yeah. I knew that that was the only way, and then, too, I was talking to the other contestants. Even if they really seemed like they didn’t want to be bothered with me, I didn’t really care because I knew if I didn’t ask questions—if you don’t ask, how will you know, and I’m not one of those kind of people that’s just going to float around and act like I know everything when I really don’t. I’d much rather ask, have it told to me, and be able to do it that way. I noticed somebody on there say, “Well, even though I don’t know what is going on, I’m going to act like I know what’s going on.” I’m not that kind of person.
Right. You came across as pretty down-to-earth.
Yeah, you can’t win anything like that or . . . and who wants somebody in their kitchen who’s going to walk around like, “I know everything”—even though I don’t.
Why was there such frequent lack of communication going on among your team during a dinner service?
Do you mean the last dinner service?
Well, it seemed more than one, but particularly the last one.
The last dinner service was like the craziest dinner service I ever did. It was, like, a lot or arguing going on between two of the contestants, and Josh got thrown out of the kitchen, so it was really just crazy! The lack of communication in our kitchen early on was just, I think, because everybody wanted to lead, but nobody really wanted just to jump in to see what can I do, what can you do to make it right. Everybody just thought they knew everything, and it’s kind of one of those things. You know, too many chiefs and not enough Indians, and obviously it didn’t work. It wasn’t working for us. Once it got down to us three, we were okay—me, Jen, and Bonnie.
Speaking of Josh, was that upsetting for everyone else there when that happened?
I don’t know about how upsetting it was. I mean, I don’t know; it was really hard to say. I was just mainly focusing on not getting myself thrown out of the kitchen. But, it’s just the whole way the dinner service went because Josh was on appetizers, and it got so screwed up, which I think that might have led into all the chaotic-ness. Everything was just so messed up.
Did you feel there was sabotage going on by the others, especially toward you? This is throughout the show, not just the last show.
I’m not really sure if there was sabotage going on or not. I’d like to hope not, but I’m not really sure. If there was, then, obviously I managed to work my way through it.
Is there really as much waste of food as it appears on the show from mistakes made preparing a dinner service?
There is waste. Of course there are hungry people everywhere . . . there is waste, but I’m not sure that it is as much as they tend to make it out on TV, but, again, it is a cooking show. Even a lot of the big chefs that were on there were still learning, just as much as I was. Yeah, there was some stuff that got thrown away. [laughs]
You won the cafeteria challenge. How confident were you going into that challenge?
Well, considering I didn’t know who we were cooking for and knowing that what I had on my menu was going to be nothing like what the other contestants had, I was just going in it, like, okay, cook what’s you ‘cause we had to do that two weeks prior to going. I was, like, just cook it and make it taste good, and what comes out will come out. Once I’d seen who we were cooking for, I thought to myself, yeah, I could win this one. High school students--they’re not going to understand all this sophisticated food that everybody else had, and they didn’t!
How did you decide whom to take with you on your Las Vegas reward?
Well, I had to pick so fast. I really wish that I could have took everybody, but me and Jen, I really felt that me and her, clicked the best, so spur of the moment thing it was Jen.
The veg station has been the nemesis of quite a few. What makes that station so hard to master?
I think what makes it so hard is you have several different vegetables going with the entrées. So, if you have four or five entrees, and then you’ve got, say two or three vegetables going with each entrée, and they all need to go out at the same time, and you’re cooking them to order, if the stuff on the entrée section is not coming right out, or you have something—everything is not coming out together, it is very easy to get confused. That is what happened with me. I just got confused, and not really to make an excuse, but before on previous dinner services, somebody always had help when they were on the veg station. Like the person who was on the app[etizer] station would come around and help the person out that was on the veg station, but that didn’t happen with me, unfortunately. So, I just got—and I told Chef Ramsay; I was honest—I just got confused. I kept trying to pull myself out of it, but you know? At the end, I finally pulled myself out, but I really struggled all the way through it.
So, what happened to your garnish that kept disappearing?
I don’t know! I was reading something about that, but it was like I was cooking stuff, and then it would be gone. So, I don’t know if somebody on my team was doing that, or maybe I thought I was cooking it, and I wasn’t, which is rare. I don’t know. Mystery.
Ramsay seemed to have a genuine affection for you. How did you bring out that soft-side in him?
I don’t know. Maybe, it was just the kind of energy I give off. I have now idea. I’m happy he liked me and that he wanted to do all that stuff for me. I was just myself, really. I didn’t go in and put on a façade of, you know, I was somebody else. I really, genuinely was me, and I told my daddy and my brother—‘cause they know I cry. They were like, [said in parent voice] “You’d better not go on TV and cry.” Then, the first night I was there, I was [makes crying sound] “Oh, God!” But, you know, that is reality. That is who I am, and no matter how much I tried not to cry, which like in the first episode I was shaking my head like “no, don’t cry, don’t cry,” but I couldn’t help it, you know? That is just who I am. I’m really happy the world got to see it. It’s not always so bad to cry. If I would’ve been running around talking smack and being mean, that’s not me.
What was the most challenging thing you faced during your time on the show?
The most challenging thing I faced on the show had to be trying to learn all the different recipes and foods that I had never worked with. That was the most challenging for me.
Who did you think was your greatest competition?
My greatest competition probably would have been Rock.
When Josh was kicked out of the kitchen, were you expecting someone else would be going home that night?
I didn’t, which is one of the reasons I was kind of shocked. Although I knew we had the elimination round, I was, like, well, you already sent somebody home, so nobody else is going home. That had a part to do with me being in shock.
You mentioned Rock being your greatest competition. What kind of chance did you feel you had when Bonnie put you up against Rock for elimination?
Well, when she put me up against him, I kind of knew. I didn’t want to believe it deep down into my heart, but I kind of already knew. I was like “Oh no!” because I went up against him several times—even with, like, food, and I lost. So, I was like, “Oh no! She put me up against him so it’s done.”
When you were eliminated, Chef Ramsay told you that you had an exceptional amount of talent and how proud of you he was. Did it sink in at the time that he offered to pay for you to attend culinary school?
The whole thing was just really overwhelming for me. It sunk it after a few days, so, hopefully, everything works out with that. I just really want to continue to further my career in cooking, and just because I didn’t win Hell’s Kitchen doesn’t mean I’m not going to have my own restaurant one day. That’s what I want to do, and Hell’s Kitchen was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be able to get it, but right now I didn’t get it that way. It doesn’t mean that is not going to happen. I’m going to continue to work hard, and, you know, it will happen for me.
Have you made any plans to attend school, and is that something that is going to work out for you?
I have not made any plans, yet. I have to wait and go through the steps and the motions.
If you had the chance to come back as a contestant, is that something you would be interested in pursing?
Oh, yes! If I had the chance to go back, I would go back in a heartbeat! I’d love to go back. I really don’t know how I could unless they brought back old contestants because if you bring new people on the show, and you bring someone who’s already been on there—that kind of knows what to expect—I really don’t know how fair that would be. So, I don’t really know how they would do that, but, yeah, given a chance, I would most definitely go back.
So much is made of the fine-dining label. Did you feel you had enough experience for what it would take to run a fine-dining restaurant had you won?
Had I won . . . I would hope had I won, Chef Ramsay would have trained me up under him or something. I mean, surely, he knows that I know how to cook, and I love to cook, but there is still so much more that I need to learn before I can actually go and, you know, run a fine-dining restaurant. But, you know, I’m a hard worker. I’m a quick learner, so I’m sure had I won, he would have worked something out that I would have been ready before he just put me in the restaurant.
That’s refreshing to hear that, and people were wondering if you would have been capable, so I’m really glad you addressed that one. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
Well, going on the show was a great experience, and, hopefully, I get to come back another season and win it hands-down, as Chef Ramsay says!
That would be something, wouldn’t it?
Congratulations on making it to the final four, Julia. Best of luck in the future, and I hope everything works out for you!
Many thanks to FOX and Julia for this interview opportunity!
Last edited by ShrinkingViolet; 07-25-2007 at 05:11 PM.
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