Grad heats up ‘Hell’s Kitchen’

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RCC Culinary alumni Rochelle Bergman is a contestant on the 12th season of the FOX show

Valerie Osier | Features Editor

“Hell’s Kitchen” is a cooking competition reality TV show best known for its hot-tempered, curse-happy host, Chef Gordon Ramsay.

Each season, 20 chefs from different backgrounds compete for a coveted grand prize. This season, it’s an opportunity to be a head chef at one of Ramsay’s five-star restaurants.

A graduate from Riverside City College’s culinary program, Rochelle Bergman is a contestant this season. Introduced as a giggly, excited young woman, Bergman has so far held up in the competition for the first four episodes.

Bergman got on the show by trying out in open auditions that were being held at the culinary school. While visiting for lunch one day after she graduated, Bergman was in the right place at the right time to audition.

“I had seen the show and I decided: no, I will not do that,” said Bergman. “It was a little scary and I was intimidated by Chef Ramsay, but, I got encouraged to try out, and they liked me.”

Bergman, the oldest of four children, grew up helping her parents cook dinner and recalls helping to cook family meals with her parents. According to Bergman, being a chef helps her embrace that part of her childhood.

Bergman first thought of her passion for culinary as a career possibility when she was attending UC Riverside and she saw an opportunity to enter culinary school at RCC.

“I was at the culinary academy for a year, and I got to work with some amazing chefs that have done amazing things,” said Bergman. “Just to be kind of molded and instructed by some great people who are great chefs definitely helped impact me and helped teach me things that prepared me for ‘Hell’s Kitchen.’”

One of the reasons she went to culinary school was to gain the opportunity to reach out into the community. Her ultimate aspiration is to start a nonprofit organization to teach young children how to cook healthy food.

“I think that right now it’s the perfect opportunity to teach our young children how to cook healthy meals and how to establish good cooking techniques now,” Bergman said. “So they can be a little more self-sufficient in the future. And to just get them off video games,”

Bergman had never worked in a professional kitchen before competing on Hell’s Kitchen, other than her experiences at culinary school. Most of the chefs on the show had at least some restaurant experience before entering the show.

Chef Ramsay is a world-renowned chef very well-known for his frequent cursing and harsh criticisms of dishes that he finds to be less than perfect. Bergman recalls feeling intimidated when she first went on the show, but knew working under him would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Definitely just learning from Chef Ramsay was an amazing experience, I mean learning his dedication and hard work he’s put into his career and just seeing where he’s come from was definitely motivation for me,” Bergman said. “Then being able to just get on the show and work with so many different people opened my eyes as far as seeing that this is a possibility for me in the future. This is an area that I actually do have strength in and that I can go into and hopefully persevere in.”

On “Hell’s Kitchen”, it’s not uncommon for tempers to flare with so many strong-willed chefs. Rochelle recalls that the stressful environment gave the chefs opportunity to be “snappy and crazy” with each other.

“I am totally on the power of prayer, because, you know, they don’t call it ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ for nothing and it’s really intense and kind of scary,” Bergman said. “You have to realize that your validation, your self-worth, confidence and who you are, isn’t dependent on other people and how they see you, but who you are in God is important, because I think it allows you to just stay focused and concentrate on what’s important.”

Tune in Thursdays at 8 p.m. on FOX to follow Rochelle’s progress.