HELL’S KITCHEN Interview: Get to know Chef Paulie Giganti
Today we wrap up our three part HELL’S KITCHEN interview series with local chef Paulie Giganti. Our quick chat covered a wide range of topics including why he did the show, what it was like living with 17 strangers, and what he thinks about other people’s opinion of him (“People’s perception is their perception. I don’t give a s***”).
Here are the highlights –
On joining HELL’S KITCHEN: “Honestly, the only reason I participated – my owner threw me into it. I didn’t want to do it, but he thought that I would be enough of a character that they would pick me. I went on the show because I’m a hard worker…. As a life experience, I figured when I’m 65 years old, and sitting at the bar stool, what stories am I going to have to tell? I figured it would be a good life experience. I don’t think I’d ever do it again, you know what I mean, but I think it was good for the one time. I enjoyed it; it was an experience for life.”
On his background: “I never went to school for cooking. I was going to be an engineer. I just wanted to see how I stacked up against other guys, like “school-y” guys and other people. I was basically doing it as a measuring stick on myself. I didn’t care about any preconceived fears and notions. I just wanted to see how I could cook against other trained chefs.”
On how the show affected his approach: “I’m pretty set in my approach. I wasn’t going to let that change me. It didn’t change me. It gave me a little bit more confidence in myself. A little more affirmation when we had challenges; I was getting critiqued by world renowned chefs. They liked my food and gave me more affirmation that I actually do know what I’m doing, but it hasn’t changed my perception on the kitchen, except for those life affirming moments. It’s like a girlfriend – you know, you break up with them. It doesn’t meant that you change yourself. [you learn something or get that affirmation]…and you move forward”
On his family and friends reacting to him being on the show: “People I’ve told are excited. I don’t really think a lot about other people; it’s not who I am. I’ve never really been that needing of attention.”
On his current perspective about life and work: “I know I’m a head chef. I run the business. My owners have basically given me the reins to do it. I know that I’m good at what I do and no one questions me. I don’t really need somebody to tell me “hey good job.” I’m just one of those people; I enjoy working. Some people are meant to go to their corporate job every day. My younger brother, he was a financial accountant. Now he’s a real estate agent who loves what he does. I remember seeing him fucking miserable every day going to work. I just enjoy cooking. This is something I’ve been doing since I was a kid. I grew up humble; I didn’t have the luxury of not working. It’s just part and parcel of who I am.”
On becoming a chef: Being that I was growing up poor, I always just worked in restaurants. In college, I worked in a restaurant and once again I was broke as shit. I got into a little bit of a trouble…and I had a chef, who was working at the restaurant who said, look, kid, you’ve got a little talent for this. You can keep ripping and running and hit that jail cell, or you can do something that you’ll always find work. He kind of took me under his wing, showed me a things. I just worked diligently for him, and it was just a job that I had that I enjoyed. I figured out that I was actually good at it, and then, so the story goes.
On future plans: “I’ve never been one of those kinds who has an ultimate goal; I kind of just go with the flow. Some people have the desire to get to one point. My path chose me, so in that respect, you never know what’s coming down the pike. I might find something else later on in life. Any knowledge is good knowledge, so I’ll take it all. I mean, the man I was at 25 isn’t the man I was at 30. You know what’s coming. As far as I know now, I’m loving it.”
On living and working with strangers for the show: “’m a natural leader; it doesn’t bother me to be in groups of people. Even though you coalesce as a group, I’m always right up front. I’ve always been a boss, I’ve always been a leader; I’ve always been a captain. It’s a personality type. I’m not afraid of conflict. I’m not afraid of alternate perspectives from me, so that was the least of my worries. If you disagree with me, I don’t care if you have a view of something. That doesn’t bother me; I’m able to put that aside. Some people, they have these quirks and these things that make them upset, but me, I don’t care. I’m able to see through that shit.”
On memories he’ll take out of HELL’S KITCHEN: “The places that we ate! If you won a challenge, you got to do something, like a trapeze thing. I would never do that in my personal life. We went to Santa Monica Pier. There are things I’ll take from it, sure; I’ll look back on things with a smile. The whole experience was a good life experience. Was it something life-affirming like “okay, I’ve made it,” but I was happy to do it, and it was cool.”
HELL’S KITCHEN premieres at 8/7c on FOX.