If you’re anything like us, you were a little sad to see the most recent season of Food Network Star end mid-August. Fortunately, we were able to keep a some of the season’s momentum rolling when we caught up with contestant Chris Kyler. Read on to learn about how a Disney cookbook inspired his start in the kitchen as well as what he’s up to now that the season of FNS is over.
FP: How did you get your start with cooking?
CS: I got my start with cooking back at the age of 12. I remember my mother buying me a Disney cookbook and teaching me the basics of cooking. The first thing she ever taught me how to make was gravy! I was so amazed at the process that I wanted her to teach me more about cooking.
FP: What a great memory! Do you remember the first dish you ever created?
CS: The first dish I’ve ever cooked on my own was my Mother’s soy and sesame marinated grilled chicken. Delish!!!
FP: Sounds delicious and a great recipe!
What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
The things I like most about being a Chef is the endless amount of creativity that there is to inspire one to cook, with all of the spices, fresh produce, beautiful meats, seafood, and fish and everything that God has given us on this earth to use at our disposal. There are so many possibilities that our job never ever gets boring and there’s always room to grow and learn. I feel as though chefs are artists! We work with different textures, colors, and food elements to create works of art on the plate which is our canvas and that’s the exciting part of being a chef!
FP: We agree. Chefs are artists indeed!
Name some chefs that have inspired you and why.
CS: Some of the chefs that have inspired me to cook are Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Wolfgang Puck, Chef Morimoto and Tom Colicchio. In addition, my old Navy Chef, Shannon Wallace, who cooked in the White House and my mentor Pasquale Ingenito.
FP: A great list of chefs to learn from indeed!
Tell us about your experience on Food Network Star from casting to filming.
CS: Food Network Star…Wow! Where do I begin? From the day they chose me to be on the show for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to the wild ride and journey of the show, to getting eliminated, and being a part of the finale! The whole thing was absolutely incredible and I would not change my decision to be a part of the show even if I knew I was going to be eliminated from the beginning! Casting for me was not an issue, as I had casted for two other shows, Hells Kitchen and Cutthroat Kitchen. I learned how to communicate and present my character to casting agents very quickly! I was however still surprised they chose me! I had just filmed Cutthroat Kitchen and won so I was already familiar with the taping process, hair, makeup, wardrobe etc. So I felt I had a little bit of an upper hand in regards to my nerves not getting to me by any production intimidation.
One cool thing people may not know is when we left for taping in LA and all of us (Finalists) were sequestered from each other, my episode of Cutthroat Kitchen had come out for the first time and pretty much everyone saw it the day before in our hotel rooms. So when we all met on the Hollywood studio back lot for the first time, many said that freaked them out that they just saw me on TV. Then I was there competing against them, and it kinda made them put on there game faces LOL, and of course I laid the confidence on thick!!
From the first episode where I sorta babbled as Lenny would say! To my greatest moment of having the best product on Food Network Star history!! I took each challenge one by one, I tried to learn and adapt as quick as I could, and I was soooo appreciative for each round that I advanced. You see I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason and I believe that people have there season to prosper and season to learn! Sometimes the door is wide open and sometimes it’s shut because we are not ready to advance. I believe God kept me in the competition long enough to learn what I needed to in this Entertainment industry, get noticed by the people that I needed to be noticed by and give me the tools I will need for this next season in my life which is going to be HUGE!! I fully congratulate Lenny with all of the good intentions one could have. I believe that this was undeniably his season. I said throughout the whole competition that this man is a natural and he had the perfect combination of what they where looking for, so my hats off to him!
FP: You definitely made a good impression with us and many others!
What was it like to compete with others?
CS: Since I’m very competitive I was trying to size everyone up and find out how to beat them. Then round the 4th episode, I realized my biggest competition was myself and that the only person that could hinder me from winning was me! After that revelation I began to take a different angle and not focus so much on everyone else!
FP: What did you learn from the judges? Looking back, would you have done anything differently?
CS: Looking back the only thing I would have done different is come up with a better or different POV! I dug myself in a hole with “Culinary Elevator!” In hindsight, I realized this show is about teaching home cooks how to make quick meals. I wanted to teach the very opposite complex tricks of our trade that maybe only chefs would want to learn. Can you tell I’m not a Food Network Star watcher?? My type of shows are Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, and Iron Chef and FNS simply was not the platform for this type of cooking. Easy, quick, 30mins or less meals with limited pantry and equipment is what it’s about, but hey lesson learned. I DIDN’T DO MY HOMEWORK!
FP: Now that FNS is over, please give us an update of what you’ve been up to.
CS: Since FNS, I’ve had a pouring in of catering events, trying to keep up with work is exhausting but exciting! Charity events have requested me and I’m excited because I love giving back when I can! I’ve gotten requests for appearances to do live demo’s, TV interviews, offers to partner with people on products, merchandise, and even restaurant consulting. So many great things have come my way. I am working every minute to finalize a deal to get these Butter coins into grocery stores. I have 15 different artisan flavors and I cannot wait! I feel like they’re going to be huge!! Also I haven’t struck up a deal with any networks yet but I want to do like a late night cooking show with Chris Kyler. I think this would encapsulate all of my talents and be a really cool show. So I will be working on a pilot for that during this fall!
FP: That sounds like a cool concept for sure. We hope it happens!
When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in the DC/MD/VA area or other cities/states you’ve visited.
CS: I’m not much of a big eater out but when I get these urges to go out lets say eat a Joe’s Crab Shack, I will go get fresh crabs and all the fixin’s and cook it myself, same with steak houses, Asian cuisine etc. If I do eat out it’s normally to celebrate with others during there special moments in life, and normally we dine at Chart House located in Alexandria VA, which is very good. Firebirds, Don Julio’s, Cheesecake Factory, Bonefish Grill, Mike’s American Grill, Chipotle, McCormick & Schmicks etc…
FP: What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
CS: Don’t know if there guilty but, bacon, sweet tarts, gummi bears, roasted beets with salt, red wine vinegar, olive oil, cinnamon twist from taco bell, 16oz ribeye, chocolate dougnuts with sprinkles, and coffee of any kind and anywhere. Just gotta have it! Japanese made ramen noodles, beef jerky, popcorn, snow crab legs, antipasto all meats, cheeses, olives hhhmmmmmmm I’m making myself hungry. Last but not least cornichons, Mahi Mahi, roasted garlic, PaPa John’s Pizza and fried chicken!! There it is.
FP: That’s a serious list! We like the way you think 🙂
Any tips for novice chefs?
CS: If you don’t have a REAL passion for cooking, get out now!! If you want to be a TV Chef get out now! This is one of the hardest and laborious jobs out here!! If you’re a foodie, blogger of food, home cook, love to cook here and there I’m not talking to you. However, if you want to be a bonifide chef don’t worry about being famous. Love what you do and work as hard as you can at making your food taste amazing and strive for excellence in the kitchen. If you can focus on those three factors and your body still holds up after time I guarantee you will become famous!
FP: How about advice for people wanting to go on FNS?
CS: Three things. 1) learn the show and understand it fully before you apply so you know for the most part what you need to do! 2) Don’t try to be something they already have. Think outside the box and pick a POV that has totally never been thought of before even if it sound ridiculous I.E Chuck Wagon chef! Finally, if you’re only a chef or only an actor, it’s not going to work you have to have that perfect balance of creativity, uniqueness, comfortable in skin, entertainment, charisma, great cooking chops, personality, passion, time management authority and they want to know that you want this more than anything in the world!! If you can do all of that and look down the barrel of a camera you can be the next Food Network Star!! Good Luck!
FP: If you hadn’t become a chef, what would you be doing? What are some of your non-cooking hobbies/interests?
I think if I would’nt have become a chef I would’ve pursued being an architect, As a homeowner and business owner, I’m so intrigued with the whole building process of homes, properties, estates etc. I think catering is similar to building a home. I, the Architect/Planner creates the plan for each event, I provide a certain amount of skill and labor cooking/designing and then I subcontract the rest of the work to others i.e. lighting, ice sculptures, bar services, entertainment, event furniture, rentals etc. To bring everything together as a final product which is a beautiful event. Which is all that builders do for homes with slightly more work and a bigger budget of course!!
My non-cooking hobbies include: Basketball, dancing, roller-skating, movie watching, gamer, trampoline jumping and I love to entertain! Can ya tell?!
FP: We can sure tell you have a bright future as both a chef and entertainer. Can we call you a chef-tainer? Thank you so much for your time. We look forward to following your career!
For more information about Chris, check out his website.