Chef James Robinson

James Robinson’s love for the culinary arts allowed him to enhance his passion through several low moments – including a span of homelessness – to being one of 18 aspiring chefs competing in season 13 of Fox series Hell’s Kitchen with Chef Gordon Ramsey.

“I auditioned for Hell’s Kitchen because I knew it would be a great opportunity for exposure, and it would be a new challenge for me,” he told the AFRO Sept. 9. The show premiered Sept. 10.

Robinson is owner and executive chef for Kitchen Cray, a mobile dining service-based in Bowie, Md. He has several years of experience working in kitchens in the District, Maryland, and New York.

Robinson said his experience as a chef in kitchens similar to the one on Hell’s Kitchen was a plus that helped him in the contest. “Going to Hell’s Kitchen, I had experience that actually helped me like working in places similar to Hell’s Kitchen like working in Park Hyatt. We didn’t have a ticket machine, the chef would just yell dishes to us,” he said.

When asked about what he learned in the competition, he replied patience and “making sausage.”

“I learned how to be patient, because you would wait for everything,” Robinson said. “I learned how to make sausage from scratch using the old school grinder,” he continued.

Though he had one break over the rest of the contestants, Robinson realized that concepts such as trust were not apparent. “I learned not to trust team members in the competition,” he said. “The experience was rough. I see why they call it Hell’s Kitchen, they put you through hell.”

According to Robinson, one of his biggest challenges was becoming a different person. “It’s like you’re stepping out of your comfort zone,” he said.

After his experience in the competition, Robinson said he would change some of the specialty items on Kitchen Cray’s menu. “I want to get to experience the stuff I cooked on the show,” he said, referring to foods such as risotto.

Robinson attributes much of his success as a chef to being able to set and stick with his goals. One goal he hopes to accomplish is to help children get into the culinary world by opening a Kitchen Cray Academy for children ages 11 to 18 that teaches them culinary arts, nutrition, and fitness along with standard academic courses. “I think if the kids had an opportunity to learn from professionals at a young age, they would stay on track,” he said.

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