Vue on 30a executive chef gets ‘real’ about reality TV
By Michelle Farnham
September 25, 2017
As the old adage goes, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Giovanni Filippone, executive chef at Vue on 30a, has proven he is either fireproof or a glutton for punishment – or maybe a little of both. The Season 5 contestant on FOX’s hit reality television show “Hell’s Kitchen” accepted the invitation to come back for the show’s Season 17 All-Star edition.
Having cooled off since filming the show for three weeks back in January, Gio shared his experience while doing a live cooking demonstration during the restaurant’s Fall PreVue dinner. In between courses of new fall dishes like Zuppa de Clams, Fried Green Tomatoes, Vegetarian Risotto, Southwestern Pasta, and his own take on Berries Sauvignon, Gio shared what life’s like behind the cameras of reality TV.
“There’s no outside communication,” he said. “My wife can’t talk to me and I can’t talk to her. When you land, they pick you up from the airport, they take your phone and that’s it. You have no TV, no radio, you don’t talk to your family, you don’t talk to anybody. You just fall off the face of the earth.”
If working in a professional kitchen is grueling, competing in “Hell’s Kitchen” is a serious pressure-cooker situation. The 16 contestants – with all their strengths, weaknesses, and personality quirks – stay in tight living quarters in the back of the restaurant where they compete. Gio said they only get about four hours of sleep each night, and are up filming 18-hour days with no breaks and no time to decompress.
So, just how real is “reality TV”?
“None of it is scripted,” Gio insisted. “They’ve never told me what to say. Everything people say is themselves. Now, they can edit it any way they want. I can say a bad word today, and they’ll put it on Episode 4, but you still said those things.”
In his first go-round nearly a decade ago, in which he finished sixth in a field of 16, Gio went toe-to-toe with show host and celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay. A quick Google search offers vintage footage of one particularly heated exchange between the two – one of the more memorable moments in the show’s 16-season history.
When asked what he might serve Ramsay should he walk in the door, the charismatic Gio – in his trademark Jersey accent – picked up the cookware in front of him and joked, “This pan! Then he’d be in my restaurant – I wouldn’t be in his – and I’d give him what he gives me!
“When (show executives) called me, I’d just finished watching MasterChef Junior and I was like, ‘Look, he’s changed; he’s nice!’ You ever watch him on that? Those little kids mess up, and he’s like, ‘It’s all right, don’t worry! We’ll work on it!’ Then you look at the adults, and he screams, ‘You donkey!’”
For the all-star show, Gio said his main goal – in addition to competing for the grand prize: the head chef position at Ramsay’s new Hell’s Kitchen restaurant in Las Vegas – was to part ways on good terms.
“Whether I made it far or not, I wanted to shake his hand at the end and not walk out like I did the first time,” Gio admitted.
So did he win? Gio’s not talking. He and his fellow contestants have non-disclosure agreements with the network, and face a monetary fine if they reveal crucial information before it airs each week. Not even his wife Jen knows the outcome!
Season 17 of Hell’s Kitchen debuts Friday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. CST on FOX. Vue on 30a is hosting a viewing party that evening beginning at 6 p.m., and will feature an exclusive Hell’s Kitchen-inspired cocktail and beef dish. Reservations are strongly suggested.