With all apologies to Paul Harvey, the last time the Chef Holli Ugalde was featured on Blog Well Done, her story was only half finished. When we last saw our intrepid culinary star, we learned how she get on the show, what her favorite ingredients were, and what, exactly a banquet chef does. (Though we did fail to find out what part of India wraps their halibut in a banana leaf.)
However, there were still eight chefs fighting for their place in culinary history. Not a single black jacket had been handed out and the horror of almost seeing Ed’s privates were still a little too fresh in our minds.
We couldn’t let that stand, especially the part about Ed’s privates!! So, we invited Chef Holli back to finish the tale of her triumphant ascension into Hell’s Kitchen culinary fame.
And much to my surprise, she accepted.
The Truth Behind My Prediction
First thing’s first: my confession.
In my article, I boldly predicted that Chef Holli would win Hell’s Kitchen. And I meant it. Of course, when I was interviewing her, I might have said something like “You’ll get a black jacket for sure…” not realizing there were only two eliminations left until the final six.
Who knows how to sweet talk a famous chef? (Hint: it’s me!)
Now on to more exciting matters…
What’s It Like to Win
Strangely enough, Chef Holli hates the fame, acclaim, and fortune that comes with winning.
Okay, not really. She’s really excited and happy about the win. “So many doors are opening,” she says. At the same time, though, it’s “exhausting. I’ve never told the same story so much in my life.” (For the record, I’ve now made it a life goal to get bored talking about myself.)
In all seriousness, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Congratulations, Chef. You deserved it.
The Truth Behind the Confessional
It’s probably not one of the top things you want to know about Chef Holli, but I really, really wanted to know how the whole confessional thing worked. So I asked.
Apparently, there were soundproof confessional rooms all around the dorms and near the kitchen (“They were supposed to be soundproof,” Chef says “…I could hear them talking.”) Chefs were free to go to the booths and spill their guts any time they wanted.
Still, did you ever notice how pissed off the chefs were during their confessionals? That’s all real. At any moment, one of the production staff could tell a chef to go do a confessional, including during dinner service! This means during the part of the show that would determine if they were staying or going home, the chefs had to balance the demands of reality TV with the exacting standards of one very vocal, grumpy chef and fifty hungry diners.
If the confessionals weren’t enough, the chefs had to deal with always being miked up and having to do battery checks. Lots of battery checks. Don’t even ask Chef Holli about battery checks.
It was not an easy feat. “People say ‘It’s just cooking,'” says Chef Holli. “’Anyone can do that.’ But there’s so much more.”
Blue Jay…Did He Fly Away?
Yes and no. Chef Holli talks to Blue Jay all the time, even after the comments he made on the show. “He’s such a dork,” she says, but they were just friends and flirted. She liked the back and forth with him and much preferred spending time with him than say, Ben. That was as far as it went.
Besides, she says “I’m so not a sweet little innocent person. I felt like I was messing with [Jay].” From the look in his eye after the “house in London” comment, she might be right.
So, to recap: for now, single men you’re in luck. She’s still single and says she doesn’t see that changing. Although, if you want to catch her eye, you’ll have to compete with the random guys who email her marriage proposals. Which you never know, she might accept. Although, as a suggestion for the emailing hopefuls out there, add a picture or two. And maybe, I don’t know, use some blue hair dye?
I always give the benefit of the doubt to reality TV personalities. I figure the way they are on the show can’t be how they are in real life. “Ben was the same,” Chef Holli said. She says she’s watched and rewatched the show and as far as Ben’s attitude goes “I think he hated women in the kitchen. I don’t get it really.”
And the back thing…totally fake.
Why would he fake it? Chef’s explanation: “[Ben] can’t stand to watch a woman kick your butt.”
And that’s all I am going to say about that, but you might want to ask Chef Holli about it. Her opinion on the subject is quite illuminating.
Why She Won
One of the questions I received was whether Chef Holli deserved the win over Blue Jay. Jay, as he himself pointed out, had years of head chef experience and looked very confident running the pass. Chef Holli readily admits “It was a big shock to me. I kept wondering if I had the wrong door.”
At the same time, Chef Holli feels that Chef Ramsey was looking for someone he could mold and who wasn’t done growing. In other words, someone like Chef Holli. Now, she’s on her way to London. (Though she promises not to let the molding go too far. She’s doesn’t see herself screaming nearly as much as he does.)
So, if she’s heading to the Savoy, it begs the question:
And You’re Not in London Because…
Apparently, the Federal government doesn’t take culinary stardom as seriously as they should. The paperwork allowing her to take the job in a foreign country is still in progress.
To appropriate governments, I say: HURRY UP! Chef Holli opens in October and she’s got to get over there because I have reservations.
When she does finally head for the Savoy, it will just be her and her son (and maybe her mom for the free babysitting.) No one else.
I know you want to know more. That’s all I’m going to say.
Where’s Chef Holli?
In the meantime, it’s not like Chef Holli is sitting around doing nothing. She just relaunched her website (which is dead sexy.) She is working on a cookbook, for which she is trying to get input. If you go right now (and promise to come back), you can tell her ingredients you are scared of and she’ll make recipes based on them.
For instance, I am afraid of preserved duck eggs. What are you going to do with that, Chef?
Also, she’s been doing hotel, restaurant, and beverage consulting and will continue to do that wherever she goes. Though you have to figure that California restaurant consulting is a bit different than London restaurant consulting since California restaurants rarely serve haggis or steak and kidney pie. For this we are thankful.
She is also releasing a line of gourmet olive oils. They are cold pressed and flavored with blood orange, meyer lime, or kumquat. (Yes, kumquat. I don’t get it either.) There is also a white truffle infused oil. In addition to the olive oils, she is very excited about her line of 25 year old balsamic vinegars. They come in traditional, vanilla fig, raspberry, pomegranate, and kumquat. (Yes, kumquat. I don’t get it either.)
Editor’s Note: I am pretty annoyed because it sounds like they won’t be available in Kansas City any time soon. Whole Foods, I’m looking at you here.
She’s also the voice behind her Twitter account @ChefHolli and had enough time to talk crap on my son after he picked Blue Jay to win. (Good use of your time there, Chef!!)
Anyway, with all that going on, it’s probably okay to say that Chef Holli has been a little busy.
And now you know the rest of the story…sort of. While the book of Chef Holli’s time on Hell’s Kitchen has been written, the future has yet to come. Who knows what she will accomplish? Who can say what she’ll do in the future or when she’ll have her shabby chic eatery or whether I can convince her to partner with me in a Kansas BBQ joint.
Still, though, at the end of the day, there is one final question that I fear may forever remain unanswered.
C’mon, really, the halibut…the banana leaf…Indian…really?
3 Replies to “Chef Holli Ugalde … The Rest of the Story (With Spoilers!)”
I am so proud of you. I know it takes a bunch of determination and a whole lot of work.
Know that everyone in Kentucky thinks your the greatest.
Great interview! Loved the first one and the update. Holly was my favorite too. Hey, think you could convince her to cook for our demos at the BBQ? I’d give you a cookie for that!
Ok, I read this interview on my iPod last night then logged on this morning to go find the first one. I was telling the boyfriend how you can tell her an ingredient you hate working with and she’ll come up with a recipe…then lo & behold, the other article mentions fennel. He hates fennel! And cilantro. (Me, I don’t like anise.)
Anyway, I am so glad you got to interview Chef Holli! We watch a lot of food shows in our house – he used to be a chef – but Hell’s Kitchen is my favorite!!! (I got hooked on Master Chef too so I hope Fox keeps alternating the two.) I was rooting for Holli to win, especially at the end because we had this friendly “boys vs girls” thing going on at home. Not only is she talented, she’s just so freakin adorable and YAY for single moms!!
Thanks for sharing the interview, Chris, and congrats to Holli. Hopefully she’ll get her but over to London soon!