Things are heating up in Hell’s Kitchen, with Chris Motto, executive chef at Mansurs on the Boulevard, currently situated in the final four contestants on season 18.
We sat down with the Baton Rouge chef to discuss his time on the show. To find out how Motto fares in this season’s remaining episodes, tune in to Fox on Fridays at 8 p.m.
What was the audition process like?
I never sought out Hell’s Kitchen or anything like that. Somebody contacted the restaurant. I returned a phone call, which led to a Skype interview, which led to me flying out to L.A. to meet with the producers.
Did you prepare once you learned you would be competing?
Absolutely not. I’ve never even watched the show. I went in expecting the unexpected, and that was a pretty decent strategy, I think. You never know what’s going to happen over there.
Is Gordon Ramsay as scary as he seems?
He’s intense, but I wouldn’t say “scary.” I saw him as more of a mentor. He’s very sarcastic and very witty, but he’s got a lot to teach. I appreciate the fact that he’s still passionate about what he does so many years down the road, because this can be a brutal profession.
What was the most difficult challenge you were faced with?
The hardest part was working a different kind of cooking system altogether and working with people who you have no idea who they are. As far as little cooking challenges, they’re early. You get tired, and you don’t have Google or your recipe book with you. It’s all off the top of your head. That can be challenging at times, but I never felt overwhelmed by any of the challenges.
How did your culinary style differ from your competitors?
I don’t cook a lot of things the same twice. I don’t recreate dishes very often. I just like to do new things. That’s what keeps it exciting for me. So whenever I was given random ingredients, I was able to use those better a lot of times because I wasn’t trying to pull some dish out of my pocket that I’ve already done before.
How difficult is it to come up with ideas on the spot?
It was definitely tougher at first. Maybe I should’ve practiced timing myself or something, because 45 minutes isn’t as long as you’d think it might be, especially with nerves and everything else. As I progressed and gave myself time to think about what I wanted to do instead of rushing into it, I started to get a better feel for the time limits, and that was when I started to get more comfortable.
What was the most valuable lesson you learned on Hell’s Kitchen?
Stay true to yourself. … I wasn’t going to change myself for anybody. I wasn’t going to fall into any drama. I wasn’t playing Survivor games. I was going there to cook.
Has your time on Hell’s Kitchen changed the way you cook?
Oh, yeah. I learned a lot. My food was being judged by these Michelin-star chefs, and they all had some critiques and some positive things to say. If you just take everything you learned from everyone, you’ll get that much better. My cooking style is probably simplified, in a sense. Just going back to some basic techniques. I was always trying to put one more thing on a plate that just didn’t need to be there.
Have you been getting recognized since you’ve been back?
Every once in a while, yeah. It’s starting to happen. I’m starting to have to do social media, which I never did before. I have like 1,600 Instagram followers. I had like 18 in October. All of a sudden, it just started climbing. I’m getting Facebook messages from all over the world. Most of it has been positive, though. Not a whole lot of negative things. I’m not gonna fall into that either, though. Haters gonna hate.