‘Hell’s Kitchen’ contestant talks about surviving debut show, returning to Euphemia Haye

wtatangelo@bradenton.comJuly 24, 2011 

LONGBOAT KEY -- Jamie Gregorich sported her favorite pink sous chef jacket and flaunted matching shoes.

She wore a stylish silver bracelet and fashionable wristwatch.

Her dark hair pulled back revealed a pair of big, sparkling diamond earrings.

She looked up from her two frying pans of thinly cut red onions, flashed a smile and said, “I try to be as girly as I can in the kitchen.”

Despite the youthful, pretty-in-pink appearance, the 25-year-old acts like a woman with decades of experience while preparing a meal at one of Southwest Florida’s most famous fine-dining destinations.

Gregorich also displays veteran composure dealing with the most obnoxious chef in television history.

When the Herald visited the Manatee native at her Euphemia Haye workplace Wednesday afternoon, it marked Gregorich’s first shift since the two-part season premiere of “Hell’s Kitchen.”

Hosted by mad man celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, the reality cooking shows airs at 8 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays on Fox. Season nine began with 18 contestants battling for an $250,000 salary as head chef of the prestigious BLT Steak in New York City. Gregorich is on the Red Team, made up of all the female contestants. They beat the men’s Blue Team on part one of the season premiere Monday.

The episode featured the signature dish challenge. Gregorich, who has worked at Euphemia Haye for the past four years, prepared her lamb chop lollipops with red onion confiture.

Ramsay took a bite and complained about the meat being overcooked.

He said to Gregorich, “If you are going to call yourself a sous chef, learn how to cook lamb properly first.”

What producers didn’t show was the Bradenton resident explaining that she had been sabotaged.

“I knew it was overcooked because after I had it cooked the way I wanted and placed it on top of the oven, someone threw my lamb back in the oven without me knowing,” said Gregorich, who can only comment on episodes that have already aired.

Euphemia Haye patrons can order the signature dish seen on TV and make their own conclusion regarding it. The lamb chop lollipops are seared in rosemary oil and accompanied by a red onion confiture atop a carrot, potato and blue cheese au gratin. It costs $43.50 and goes nice with merlot.

The Herald watched Gregorich prepare the meal Wednesday.

And then this reporter -- a former restaurant reviewer -- stood in the kitchen and savored every single bite of the dish seen in the accompanying photographs.

Chef du cuisine Mark Keckstein, working next to his protégée, smiled.

“It’s just not like her to overcook a piece of lamb,” he said.

Raymond Arpke, Euphemia Haye’s owner and executive chef, gave Jamie one technical tip before she left to be on the show.

“He told me I was a little weak on my steak temperatures, but other than that, I was good to go,” she said.

As fate would have it, Tuesday’s episode opened with a steak/grill challenge.

“My one weakness,” Gregorich joked while calmly, yet quickly, preparing for the evening rush at Euphemia Haye. “I thought Ramsay picked it off my application.”

Rather than allow herself to get rattled, she focused and won the celebrity chef’s approval.

“Jamie took me aside and thanked me,” Arpke said when reached by phone Friday.

Although Gregorich did great, her team lost the steak challenge.

And the punishment was severe.

All the scraps were pureed and served as a most disgusting meat shake.

“They wouldn’t let us leave the table until we drank the whole thing,” Gregorich recalled in horror. “And it was all we had to eat all day.”

Soon after, she had her moment to speak directly into the camera.

“I think it will be a turning point,” Gregorich told millions of viewers.

The class of 2004 Manatee High School graduate and Manatee Technical Institute alumni/instructor was right.

The Red Team then smoked the Blue Team in the kitchen -- completely crushing the boys who were carpet-bombed by Ramsay’s expletive-laced rants.

Gregorich and several other women were chosen to replace the poor-performing Blue Team in the kitchen and finish cooking its meals.

“It’s the most amazing feeling,” Gregorich told viewers near the episode’s end.

The Blue Team’s second straight loss means on the next show a woman will join the men’s team to assist the struggling fellows.

Could it be Gregorich?

We’ll find out Monday.

She’s sworn to secrecy.

But you can meet Gregorich, who’s already being noticed by strangers at the gym, if you drop in for dinner at Euphemia Haye.

“I don’t mind covering for her while she goes out to the front of the house,” Keckstein said. “She deserves it. What she went through wasn’t easy.”

Gregorich appeared from the freezer and flashed another big smile.

“I’m OK with being a movie star,” she said.

Recipe for Jamie Gregorich’s signature dish:

Lollipop Lamb Chop with Red Onion Confiture

Red Onion Confiture

q 1 red onion, sliced thin

q 1 ounce oil, olive or vegetable

q 1 tablespoon honey

q 2 ounces red wine vinegar

q 2 ounces red wine

q Salt and pepper, to taste

n Heat oil in sauté pan just to hot. Sweat onions in oil until soft. Add honey and caramelize the onions.

n Deglaze pan with red wine and vinegar reduce until liquid is almost gone.

n Onions will last 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Lamb Lollipops

q 1 rack of lamb

q 2 ounce oil, olive or vegetable

q Salt and pepper, to taste

q 1 sprig rosemary

n Heat oven to 350 degrees.

n Take rosemary leaves off of sprig, chop. Rub lamb rack with oil, rosemary, and salt and pepper.

n Heat oil in pan big enough to fit the rack. Place rack in pan sear to a golden brown on all sides.

n In an oven safe pan put in the oven for 5-8 min. For medium rare internal temperature should be between 130-140 degrees.

n When done cooking, take out of oven and let rest for up to 5 minutes. But no longer.

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