This week we had the chance to talk to Brian Merel from Hell’s Kitchen 2012 Season 10. He is a crazy character that is a ball of energy. Behind his fun exterior is a serious chef and we learnt more about his time on Hell’s Kitchen. Check out Brain on twitter @chefbrianmerel and his facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brian-Merel-Private-Chef/376956899900.
FoodBeat: What’s your culinary history? How did you get into cooking?
Brian Merel: Let’s see… well, I like food. I grew up enjoying eating. I put things in my mouth as a baby haha. I actually went to culinary school to get my parents off my ass. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and it was only two years of school. I thought that I could figure out what I really wanted to do after I went. It turned out I loved to cook. You know you love something when you’re fired and still want to work that job. I’ve done a lot of bad jobs and I had a bad history of keeping employment but this feeling was new. Cooking gives me goosebumps.
FoodBeat: How did you find out about the show?
Brian Merel: I watched it since the beginning. There’s a lot in the last 10 years I don’t remember. I am a recovering alcoholic so there are lots of blackouts but I’ve been watching the show for as long as I can remember. I watched the show and I thought that the contestants were idiots. Who can’t cook steak?! I thought I could do better so I applied. Once I was on the show, I realized just how difficult it really is. It’s not about the cooking- it’s about the environment you’re in. You’re not sleeping, you’re barely eating, and you’re living with a bunch of crazy people who snore through the night. There’s no outside communication through the entire filming process so you’re denied a lot of family support. In fact, you’re denied so much you go mental. At best you perform at 30%, at BEST.
I made more mistakes in two days than I made in my entire cooking career! Even after dinner service is over, I lay in bed thinking about all the mistakes I made. Even now I can’t believe I did some of the things I did. I know how to work a line. I’ve cooked for 1000 people before. I ran a team of 28, and yet I messed up so much on the show. It makes you crazy, but it was so much fun too! I understand now why the other seasons had so much trouble.
FoodBeat: It must have been hard seeing that winery reward clip, where it looked like you were drinking again.
Brian Merel: All I can say as far as that is that I did not drink any alcohol. In my glass was cider. What it looks like on television isn’t what happened. The cider was really great though- nice acidity.
FoodBeat: I’m actually allergic to the sulphates in wine so I’m also a cider fan.
Brian Merel: You could say I’m allergic to it too. I’m a booze addict, an alcoholic. If I were to have slipped on the show I don’t know what would have… I don’t know! Sobriety gave me a leg up in the competition I think. I wasn’t hung over and I was clear headed all the time. I believe I have a good head on my shoulders. I mean, I have downsides too. I act first and think later.
FoodBeat: The model episode was interesting. I think you said you “wanted to cuddle them”?
Brian Merel: That’s the one thing that I’m truly happy about watching the show again. I really didn’t get caught up in drama. Of course I get frustrated but I don’t think I talked badly about anyone on the show. I can’t judge people because I’ve done some horrible things in my life. I’m also not a disrespectful person. The models were beautiful so I said they were beautiful. If a chef screwed up, I’ll tell them they screwed up. I won’t take jabs at people who don’t deserve it. I’m very happy with how I acted on the show.
FoodBeat: It looked like you and Justin were on the same wavelength for menus and cooking in the kitchen. In fact, I’d call you bros.
Brian Merel: Justin and I had been next to each other from day one. When I walked in there, I saw that everyone was from the East Coast and only Patrick and I were from the Mid-West. It turned out to be a great mix because Justin and I saw eye to eye on pretty much everything. There was a symbiotic relationship there. The bro-mance is alive and well. It’s hilarious that people call us “bros” by the way. We just understood each other. We were on the same page and I really trusted him.
FoodBeat: What are you doing now that you’ve been eliminated?
Brian Merel: I’ve been working as a private chef. I wanted to stay away from working dinner service at restaurants because of all the long hours. I mean, I’ve done it before and I’ve paid my dues. I worked 17 hours a day but I missed too much with my family. When I got sober I realized that I didn’t want to miss any more time with my loved ones. I figured out how to get both my loves in my life- I work great hours as a private chef. I get hired by people to make amazing dinners and hold classes in their homes. If they suck I don’t have to ever see them again. I’m actually in the process of running a pilot for a cooking show. It’s a live improv cooking show so we’ll see how that goes!