Exclusive interview with Fire Masters Judge and former Hell’s Kitchen Chef, Andy Husbands

SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, TENERIFE ISLAND, SPAIN - 2020/02/23: Different kind of sausages, steaks and pepper are displayed on a big barbecue. (Photo by Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, TENERIFE ISLAND, SPAIN - 2020/02/23: Different kind of sausages, steaks and pepper are displayed on a big barbecue. (Photo by Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images) /
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Domenic Marinelli for Guilty Eats: Andy, if you can fill us in on your background in the cooking industry.

"Chef Andy Husbands: “In fourth grade, which is a long time ago, baking donuts…I’ve always wanted to cook, wanted to learn how to cook. I worked in some fancy restaurant called the Pillar House when I was a senior and I applied to go to Johnson and Wales. It was the best thing for me. I was an awful high school student and it taught me discipline…Johnson and Wales taught me discipline…then became a straight A student, loved every minute of it. “That kicked off my career. I loved not just the cooking part…I went for two years of culinary and two years of business. I love business, I love numbers. I’ve always been a math guy, so to me that was super fun. Then I just worked hard. Many years; a lot of hours; giving up everything to learn my craft, which I just love. “I’m in my fifties now and the one thing I like to tell people: ‘In your twenties, your paid for your back,’ and I don’t necessarily mean physical, even lawyers, they’re doing a number of hours a year to become partner and you’ve gotta put the time in; you’ve gotta do the reps. That’s what I did and now thankfully I’ve just opened up my fifth restaurant and I’m opening up another one this Spring—that I own now—I’ve had eight restaurants altogether, some widely successful and some failures, awful failures (smiling).”"

DM for Guilty Eats: What can you tell us about your experience on Hell’s Kitchen? Did it affect your career?

"Chef Andy Husbands: “Just to be clear, I don’t do many interviews about Hell’s Kitchen. You know, I did okay, 9th or 10th off. I didn’t get a black jacket. I don’t think it affected me one way or another. Certainly didn’t learn anything. I didn’t enjoy the show. I don’t like liars. I’m sure they’re good people. I know it’s a TV show, and I’m not trying to disparage Chef Scott who was the sous-chef, and chef Ramsay. “I’m sure they’re great people, I’m sure their family loves them and they have a great product. I believe Chef Ramsay has the busiest restaurant in the United States right now so it’s pretty impressive, but that TV show…the part I liked about it was to see how far I could push myself. I enjoyed that challenge. “But it didn’t really help me. In fact, I would tell you it probably set me back a good half year. If you look at people that are held hostage…with people trying to break their mind…that’s pretty much how they do it. It takes about 30 days to break someone’s mind. And that’s where I found my mind—and this doesn’t happen to everybody—it’s just me, my experience, but my mind went to mush on about the 30th day. “I couldn’t focus anymore. It’s very hard when they take all of your control away. You don’t know when you get up, you don’t know when you go to bed, you don’t know what you’re doing every day, you don’t know if you’re eating, you don’t know when you’re eating…for me, it screwed me up, and I think for six months after I was off the show, and the show hadn’t even been out yet, it was hard for me. I was having like, I don’t want to say PTSD, nothing compared to what those in the military go through, much respect to them, but it was definitely traumatic for me. So I didn’t really enjoy it; I really didn’t learn much.”"

DM for Guilty Eats: You caught my eye when I watched back then, and you inspired me, a writer who worked the line, and you handled your stress really well on camera.

"Chef Andy Husbands: Well, thank you. I appreciate you saying that and so… ‘did I get anything out of it?’ This is what I got out of it, and I like that. Thank you very much."

DM for Guilty Eats: Absolutely. Much respect. But I guess that answers my next question, which is, do you still watch the show?

"Chef Andy Husbands: “I haven’t watched one episode, but my friend Jason’s on it – Jason Santos (of Season 7 of Hell’s Kitchen, now sous-chef on the show), and he actually used to be one of my sous-chefs, so I’ve seen parts of it when he’s on it, but maybe I’ll watch the British Baking Show. I like that format and how nice they are to people. “Someone tried to put our restaurant on film, doing a story about our restaurant, and make it a TV show, our old restaurant, and they came and they watched us for about a  week, and they came back to me and said ‘you’re boring.’ And I was like, exactly, this is a business. Has anyone really thought about it? No chef shuts down their kitchen. “When a chef screams and yells, it’s because they have not prepared their team for what needs to come, and that’s for any coach. It’s your job to train your team to be able to execute. If they’re not executing, you haven’t trained your team well. If you say that your team is a bunch of idiots, you hired them, right? You have to step back and say, maybe we can’t do that full menu; maybe we’re just doing peanut butter and jelly.”"