Hell’s Kitchen rookie Chef Jose DeJesus chats about the FOX show and his cooking philosophy


As the Hell’s Kitchen Rookies vs. Veterans is set to premiere on FOX, rookie Chef Jose DeJesus sat down with FoodSided to talk about his experience and his cooking philosophies.

Hell’s Kitchen, the popular Gordon Ramsay driven FOX television show, returns on September 28 with a new season and a twist. This season’s theme is veterans versus rookies. Eight veterans looking for redemption are pitted against eight rookie chefs looking for ultimate glory. The designation rookie versus veteran refers to the chefs’ appearances on Hell’s Kitchen. The rookie chefs competing this year are just as experienced as the veteran chefs.

Chef Jose DeJesus, a member of the rookie team, is one of those well-experienced “rookie chefs” competing on the 18th season of Hell’s Kitchen. Having worked in various restaurants in New York City, DeJesus has built a name for himself in the Bronx culinary scene.

Sometimes referred to as Trill Cooker, DeJesus is the driving force behind Breaking Bread Kitchen, a Bronx pop-up experience. Described as high-concept, progressive cuisine, the multi-course dining event appears to be not the typical restaurant experience. Apparently, this celebration of food features an open kitchen and guest/chef interaction. Maybe this way of cooking has helped DeJesus prepare for the rapid fire commentary by Gordon Ramsay.

With the first episode of Hell’s Kitchen Season 18 premiering on Friday, September 28 on FOX, Chef Jose DeJesus chatted with me about the rookies versus veterans season, his culinary approach and what does Trill Cooker mean.

Cristine Struble (CS): Why did you want to compete on Hell’s Kitchen?

Chef Jose DeJesus (JD): Funny thing is I told my wife a week before I would apply to a show when I saw the castings. A week later I received an email from a casting producer inviting me to a casting call, so I decided why not challenge myself, try something exciting, work with Chef Gordon Ramsay and show my kids they don’t have to be afraid to do random things like….go on a TV show.

CS: In a kitchen, the line needs to work as a team, how do you balance working as a team yet trying to win a competition?

JD: I feel like at the end of the day it’s a competition but we have to realize who are we really competing with, right. I realized I was only in competition with myself and in order to be successful I had to be on my A game and not worry about anyone else. This mindset made working as a team easier because I wasn’t focused on the chefs as my competition at all.

CS: Did you practice any classic Hell’s Kitchen dishes (like risotto or Beef Wellington) to prepare for the competition?

JD: Honestly I didn’t, not because I didn’t want to or feel like I didn’t need to but mainly because I was busy running a restaurant at the time. Also balancing work with my wife and two kids was my main priority. I figured I’d learn the hard way once I got to Hell’s Kitchen.

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  • CS: This season of Hell’s Kitchen features rookies vs. veterans, do you think that either side has an advantage in the competition?

    JD: Well I think the veterans thought they had had an advantage because they’ve been there done that type of [expletive]. They just didn’t know what they were getting themselves into when it came to the rookie squad. We came in hungry and ready for a battle.

    CS: You have been referred to as “Trill Cooker,” could you explain what this name means?

    JD: Trill means “true” and “real”, staying true to yourself while keeping it real and I feel like in my everyday life and career I live by these two powerful attributes. My wife and I make 20 years together this year and she has always considered me one of the realest people she knows hence the Trill. Now my son is 5 and had trouble calling me a chef and would always refer to me as the cooker. That’s how the alias Trill Cooker was created.

    CS: Breaking Bread Kitchen, your pop-up dinners, feature intricate multi-course meals, described as progressive cuisine, why are you drawn to the pop-up dining experience?

    JD: Breaking Bread Kitchen is driven from my love of Breaking Bad the show. I always thought how can I be the Heisenberg of food and take over spaces, whether they are closed or slow and then get out before the sun comes up. Secret locations, secret menus but dope vibes and food. We are inspired by what’s around us and the menu is always evolving with the weather and trends. Hence the NY progressive-Urban Fine cuisine.

    CS: Do you think that your appearance on Hell’s Kitchen will bring more attention to the Bronx culinary scene?

    JD: I think I have brought a lot of attention to the Bronx in the past 2 years and have grown something special out here that’s very organic and real. I would hope that my appearance helps bring more attention to our culture, hustle, community and creative borough for sure.

    Thank you to Chef Jose DeJesus for taking the time to answer my questions and thank you to FOX for facilitating this interview.

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    Will a rookie chef or a veteran chef earn the Season 18 Hell’s Kitchen title, $250,000 prize and the position at the “world’s first Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen Restaurant at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas?” Fans will have to watch this season unfold.

    Hell’s Kitchen airs on FOX on Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. The first episode of season 18 premieres on Friday, September 28.