June 8, 2013
So. How did I get involved with Hell’s Kitchen chefs?
Because of Chef Michael Langdon.
He was a friend of mine from high school. Years went by but because of good ol’ Facebook, we met once again. Mike and I talked for a bit and he knew I was a graphic designer and photographer and asked if I’d like to go to the Hell’s Kitchen Premiere Party in New York. I thought “What the hell?”, opportunities like this don’t pop up all the time. At the very least I got a nice evening in New York and I would get the chance to photograph a type of event I may never get the chance to be a part of again, so why not go? It turned out to be an amazing time.
Chef Barret Beyer, also a Hell’s Kitchen Season 11 contestant did a great job organizing it and promoting it. It was suitably enough held at HK in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City. It was top notch. I got the chance to meet most of the chefs and they all were so personable and welcoming. Excitement, laughter, and pride filled the party. But let me tell you, it was absolutely surreal watching the first episode with everyone on it in the same room as you. When Chef Ramsay chewed someone a new asshole, you could just turn your head and see first hand the expression on the chef’s face and feel that sense of embarrassment and also, just laugh your ass off at them…everyone knew it was all in good fun.
As always, I planned and schemed and tried to come up with something to give to everyone there so I could leave somewhat of an impression. I was hoping to make some new contacts and friends and luckily I did. I learned sometimes you have to create your own opportunity, so I designed t-shirts to give to all the chefs there that night and made sure I passed out my business card to as many as I could. I drove home thinking it was all worth it. A great experience. Mission accomplished.
But it didn’t end there, because where Mike goes he does his best to bring the people that support him along as well. What started as a last minute opportunity to be a part of the Hell’s Kitchen Premiere Party grew quite a bit to more events, more opportunities, and more friends.
Around the same time Mike referred Jim Guasto (the newly appointed chef/manager of the new 279 Bar & Grill in Plains, PA) to me to come up with their new logo. So, I did, but little did I know what was to come. I thought, ok, a logo. A few extra bucks. I’ll take it and that would be it.
Our mutual friend Chef Michael was currently on Hell’s Kitchen and doing well as the new 279 Bar & Grill was having it’s grand opening. This created opportunity. Jim had some great ideas to get 279’s name out there and one of them was to have a tasting menu night with Chef Michael in the kitchen. This gave Mike the ability to cook for friends and family and gave fans of the show the chance to eat his food and hang out with him after. Reservations sold out in under 24 hours.
Jim and Mike contacted me to shoot the event and once again I thought “What the hell?” I didn’t know what to expect, but I was allowed full access of the kitchen and photographed a lot of great moments. It was fun watching friends work together doing something they loved to do. I was in and out of the kitchen and dining room watching it all go down and got to see all the happy faces eating food and being there in support of a local guy representing our area on a Fox TV show. A pretty cool vibe was all around.
In the midst of all this I designed some Hell’s Kitchen posters poking fun at some of the chefs and tweeted back and forth with many of them during the show. They remembered me from the premiere party and we spoke here and there with a few of them contacting me for design work. This was already beyond what I expected.
Mike continued to included me in conversations and re-posted my photographs from the premiere and tasting event putting my name and work in the view of all of his own fans and followers. Even more opportunity followed.
The tasting menu event at 279 didn’t end with Chef Michael. There was a lot more that was going to happen because one thing about Jim, his mind is constantly going. He is in promotion mode 24/7. Because of Mike’s relationship with other contestants of the show, Jim was able to snag more chefs for more tasting menu events at the bar. Chef Barret and Chef Raymond followed and at the time of me writing this Chef Barret is come back for another event with 2 more confirmed Hell’s Kitchen chefs on the way in the next few weeks. All of which I was lucky enough to be a part of and will be a part of. Jim is doing a hell of a job taking care of all of us and including us in his efforts. A lot is happening and a lot more can happen.
These last several weeks have been busy with promotion and work for everyone involved. Photo shoots, interviews, reviews, cooking segments on local news stations, tasting menus, and more. Personally my work has been bouncing around Facebook and beyond giving me more exposure and bringing in more work. It’s been beneficial for everyone and so rewarding.
During all this I got to watch all these chefs become even closer friends. I got to watch them grow and help each other out and help create opportunity for one another. They have the idea I always had that if I go somewhere in life I want everyone that helped me to come along. It’s just more fun that way, plus it’s the right thing to do.
They’re all kind of riding this wave. They’re opening every door they can and taking any positive chance to keep it all going and very fortunate for me they’ve been including me almost every step of the way. Good for me not only for the possibilities of greater exposure and more work, but good for me to be a part of the group, these friends, this brotherhood, hustling, trying, and working hard to make things happen. It’s a good thing. A very good thing because it’s been pushing me.
Even when it all simmers down, we all at least made some memories and hopefully for even just one person in the group it will lead to something better than what we had before. No matter who it is it will be a sense of accomplishment for everyone else because we were all a part of it to some extent and it will feel pretty fucking good knowing that.
My motto, the 1120 slogan if you will is “Tomorrow is promised to no one.” Everyone right now is busting there ass trying to make something of themselves because who knows what tomorrow brings.
But, even if nothing happens, even if this fizzles out and we’re all back at where we were before, was it all worth it?
“Oh, God yeah.”