Gordon Ramsay and his uncontrollable temper are enough to make any chef quiver in the kitchen, but not Darby resident Monterray Keys. He was selected as a contestant on FOX’s hit show, Hell’s Kitchen, which airs Monday and Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. After the first two episodes, Keys is still in the running. I recently caught up with the line cook, private chef and owner of Keys to Catering to talk about his experience on the show.
MLT: What was the selection process like?
MK: I actually didn’t know that the show was in town. A fellow sous chef of mine was talking about going, so I said I’d go along with him. He canceled, and I wasn’t going to go, but my wife pushed me to. There was a five-hour line for about a five-minute interview—and then one interview turned into the next, the next interview turned into a phone call, and the phone call turned into flying out to L.A. to meet the show’s producers. It felt like American Idol when I got the second interview. I was very excited, especially since I didn’t even want to go in the first place.
MLT: What was it like working in that high-stress atmosphere during taping in May?
MK: It was basically like working in any other kitchen. Some of the chefs were more passionate than others, and I’ve worked with chefs like Ramsay before, so it was a normal atmosphere. I felt comfortable. I didn’t know about all of the behind-the-scenes stuff, as far as putting the show together goes, so that part was neat to see—and something I’ll probably never get to see again.
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MLT: Is what’s happening on TV pretty true to what’s happening on set?
MK: What you see is actually what is happening. It’s Chef Ramsay, roll and cut, and trying to get the best out of him. It is what it is.
MLT: Is Chef Ramsay as mean as he comes across?
MK: He’s really just a normal guy. I had the chance to have a conversation with him, and he’s a really hardworking, down-to-earth family man who came up from problems like most of us. It was a pleasure to get to know that side of him. To know that, “Oh wow, he actually does laugh,” was a nice thing to see.
MLT: At the end of the season, the winner will become the head chef of BLT Steak in New York City and win $250,000. If it’s you, what would that mean to you?
MK: If that happens to me, I’ll fulfill my brother’s dream more than my own dream. If it wasn’t for my brother—who was killed before going off to culinary school—I wouldn’t be cooking. I’m living his dream. One of the last things he said to me was that I should start cooking and that I’m really good at it. So I took that and ran with it, and it got me on Hell’s Kitchen—and I thank him so much.
MLT: What has this experience taught you about yourself as a cook?
MK: This was definitely a learning experience, and what I learned from it is to stay on top of your profession, make sure you know who you are, be creative, and take your profession super-seriously—no matter where you are.
Learn more about Monterray Keys at fox.com/hellskitchen.