‘Hell’s Kitchen’ interview: Susan Heaton on making final five

SusanSusan Heaton may have come up short of winning “Hell’s Kitchen,” but it’s pretty clear that she has quite a bit to be happy about at the moment. She advanced all the way to the black jackets on a tough season, one made even tougher by her having so many other great competitors on the Red Team that competed alongside her for many weeks and often clashed with her and other chefs along the way.

But in the end, don’t expect Susan to be particularly torn up on missing the opportunity to help run one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. We spoke with the 29-year old culinary student following her elimination last week, and she was grateful to have made it as far as she did, and to learn a lot in the process.

CarterMatt – So what has it been like reflecting on your experience since being on the show?

It was such a long-shot, and to say that I made it to black jackets and to final five, and to earn the respect of Chef Ramsay, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

There are a ton of these cooking shows on the air right now? Why go on this one?

It’s either to go big or go home. What better way to enter the culinary world by saying that I went on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’? You know, I don’t tiptoe around things and I’m all about going in headfirst. That’s why it was the perfect show for me to say that I want to test myself, I want to see what I’m made of, and if you can survive Chef Ramsay, you can survive anything.

Was this whole experience in any way what you expected going in?

I think from the outside looking in, it’s like ‘who can’t sear a scallop,’ or ‘who can’t make risotto,’ but there are all of these different elements. There is [time ticking away], being totally out of place, and the pressure [of the show].

This is a tough question, but have I have to ask it: Have you forgiven lamb? Are you now on speaking terms with it?

My entire family and friends [have been] like ‘are you ever going to cook lamb again,’ and I’m like ‘I’m going to make it for you right now!’. I totally mastered it. It’s something that I know that I will never live down, but I’m okay with that because I’m owning it. Plus, everyone [now] loves my lamb.

As a member of the Red Team, you won so many of these reward challenges. What was that feeling like?

That was always my goal, and I thought that if we could bond together and make it work, then [we could go pretty far]. That’s why you don’t see a whole lot of dissension between the girls. I was all about sticking together and being a team, and if we all win, it is only going to help all of us. We had the most wins in ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ history, and that’s something to be very proud of, and it didn’t help that we did not have to do a lot of those punishments.

So now that the craziness is over and everyone has been through this sort of collective experience, is everyone pretty much friends?

We all really get along as far as the women, except for some of the earlier people like Gina who is insane crazy and is probably in a mental hospital right now. But everyone else, we really communicate and have seen each other since the show … At the end of the day, no one else will understand what we went through except for the ten of us. Some of the guys are great to, but we have a great bond, us ten ladies.

So what are you doing now since the show, and is there anything that you are hoping to do?

I have a website at AuthenticChef.com. It’s all about my style of cooking, which is healthy. I like to run a healthy lifestyle, though I can cook other styles. I think this experience with ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ has motivated me even more in my culinary dreams, and I’m excited to keep cooking, and on my own terms. Not to have anyone yell at me while I’m doing it. (Laughs.)

If you want to check out our full review of last week’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” you can do so over at the link here.

Photo: Fox

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