Hell's Kitchen Hits Sarasota

By Megan McDonald July 18, 2011

Euphemia Haye's Jamie Gregorich

We love hearing that Sarasota’s in the spotlight—and the spotlight doesn’t get much brighter than Gordon Ramsay’s wildly popular Hell’s Kitchen, which debuts tonight at 8 p.m. on FOX.  Twenty-five-year-old chef Jamie Gregorich,  the sous chef at Longboat Key’s venerable Euphemia Haye restaurant, will be stepping right into it as one of 18 contestants vying for a head chef position at BLT Steak restaurant in New York City—and trying to survive the notoriously difficult Ramsay’s many challenges.

And good news for Sarasotans: Gregorich, an Anna Maria Island native who says she auditioned for the show as the result of an email that just happened to land in her inbox, will also be preparing the first dish she cooked on the show as a treat for Euphemia Haye diners. Her lamb lollipops—seared in rosemary oil and accompanied by a red onion confiture atop a carrot, potato and bleu cheese au gratin—will be available at the restaurant Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays beginning July 20.

In the meantime, we chatted with Jamie to get her thoughts on the show and the life-changing experience of working with Gordon Ramsay.

First of all, tell us a little about your culinary background.

I kind of fell into it. I’ve been working in the restaurant industry since I was 14 years old—back then it was in the dining room—and I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school. So my mom said, “Why don’t you go check out Manatee Technical Institute’s culinary school?” So I did, and within the first month I fell in love with cooking and just knew this was it for me.

What brought you to Euphemia Haye?

During my first year in culinary school, the owner, Chef Ray [Arpke], came in and asked my head chef if he had two people that might be a good fit for Euphemia Haye.  My chef came to me and asked if I’d go out to the restaurant, and I did. I filled out an application, had an interview with Chef Ray and Chef Mark [the restaurant’s chef de cuisine] and got the job right on the spot. This was in 2007; I’ve been there ever since.

How did the Hell’s Kitchen experience come about?

I got an email about it, randomly. I don’t even know how it got to me, but it was for an open casting call in Miami for the next day. I just went down there thinking,  “What’s the worst that could happen? They say no? Big deal!”

What was the reaction at Euphemia Haye when you found out you were going to be a contestant?

Everyone was so excited. Chef Mark was probably my biggest supporter because he works side by side with me every day, so we’re pretty close. But he and Chef Ray were like little kids when I told them. And the amount of help they gave me is amazing—especially considering I had to take all that time off. It’s wonderful knowing that they support me that much.

How did you prepare for the show?

You don’t have any idea what the menu is or what you’re going to be doing—it’s more mental preparation. But I know what I can do and what I can’t. The worst part was leaving my family and not being able to talk to them at all, but they wrote me letters and gave me a photo album that I could look at every day while I was in Los Angeles.

Also, Chef Ray is a character, and when he found out I was going on the show, he and Chef Mark made me answer every question with “Yes, Chef!” If I didn’t say it, they would turn around, right in my face, and say, “What did you say?!” and I would reply, “Yes, Chef!” and then we’d all laugh.

What was it like working with Gordon Ramsay?

It’s something you have to experience yourself to really understand. Like all chefs, he’s very passionate. His way is to yell, and hopefully, as he breaks you down, you build yourself back up. But he’s also an amazing chef; he has so many things to teach and share and show. It was a really cool experience.

What lessons did you learn on the show?

Don’t let anyone get in the way of what you are trying to accomplish.

How long were you on it?

You're just going to have to watch and see!

Would you do it again?

Yes, I would.

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