On the surface, Atlanta’s private chef Jason Ellis comes across as a leader. He’s big, he’s brash, he’s confident.
But on Fox’s reality show “Hell’s Kitchen,” he froze up on occasion, lost focus and got angry at points. He was slow on food prep and his cooking was inconsistent.
At last Tuesday’s episode, with five chefs left, he was targeted for elimination although he was hardly the worst one during service. Nonetheless, Gordon Ramsay cut him.
“Nobody thinks he can actually run a restaurant,” said competitor Holli Ugalde. Jay Santos called him a “home-style barbecue cook,” not a first-class chef.
“Jason was good enough to make it to the final five,” Ramsay said in the final voice over, “but he didn’t instill the confidence I needed to see to be my head chef.”
Ellis said in a phone interview last week that he was working on fumes toward the end and not always thinking clearly. During the final quick challenge to create a great meal for $10, he purchased store-bought frozen ravioli, a dopey move in retrospect that placed him in last place by a mile.
“That was a dumb chess move,” Ellis said. “I was thinking buying something real cheap, not buying the best ingredients and up-selling it.”
But he tried to look on the bright side. “I feel like the Jennifer Hudson of the show,” he said. “Sometimes you lose, you really win. There have been many great opportunities I’ve been presented with.”
He’d like to do cookbooks and eventually run a couple of “branded” restaurants. And of course, he’d like to be on TV. And there are endorsements, too.
“I’m arrogant but America loves me,” he added later. “I think I was misunderstood… In my defense, for eight shows straight, my cooking was on point.”
He was disappointed he didn’t make it past Autumn Lewis, who has been targeted for elimination for weeks but has managed to survive. The others found her annoying as well as less talented than most.
Jason’s take on the remaining four contestants:
Holli: “She’s great with desserts. I don’t know much about her leading. To me, she’s just kind of stayed under the radar.”
Jay: “His strength is presentation and comes up with real crazy concoctions. But some things go over everybody’s head. To me, he’s an excellent chef.”
Autumn: “There’s no way Autumn can lead a big deal like the Savoy. [That's the restaurant the winner is supposed to run.] I don’t think she has the culinary skills and being a full-blown chef.”
Benjamin: “His arrogance is his weakness. He thinks he’s better than he is. He’s good but not that good.”
8 p.m. on Fox Tuesdays