Cutthroat Kitchen, 2014, “Thanks or No Thanks”, Special Thanksgiving Episode
Name: Chef Joe Arvin
Location: Schererville, IN
Current job(s): Blodgett Oven Company, Entrepreneur
Position: Corporate Executive Chef, Speaker, TV Personality
Years in the industry: 25
Notable awards: American Culinary Federation two (2) Gold / one (1) Bronze medals, Three-time champion Culinary Fight Club, World Food Championships competitor.
How did you get invited to audition for Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen?
One of the directors from the casting company called me and said they found me through my Mad Love Cooking YouTube Channel. They initially wanted to know how strong of a competitor I was and if I thought that I would be able to handle the pressure of competing on a show like Cutthroat Kitchen.
What was the application process like?
In order to compete they asked me to provide several of my recipes and photographs of my dishes that I’ve created. They also requested that I send them my resume, Chef’s Roll profile and a headshot via email. The entire process from start to finish took about four months to complete. After sending them the required documents and electronic media, I had to participate in two Skype calls with their casting directors and producers. During the calls they wanted to know about my culinary style, my industry awards, my experience and how I performed under pressure. They didn’t let me know how many other chefs I was competing against to participate in the show. The majority of the candidates are found via social media such as YouTube, Twitter and industry websites such as Chef’s Roll. There was never any formal “cooking” audition. Cutthroat Kitchen’s process is to choose the candidates via the steps listed above, listen to how we present ourselves via Skype, evaluate our industry experience, any and all electronic media that was provided and then finally, fly you to the set of the show, located in Burbank, California.
Once you got selected to join the show, what were the next steps?
Once they determined to ask me to be on the show, I flew to Burbank within a month. The show doesn’t provide any sponsorships, public relations or photo shoot. They asked for the Chef Roll profile that I had created. We didn’t have to bring any of our own cooking equipment but were allowed to bring our own set of knives. However, you could only use three during the challenges. I was given a grey chef coat that had to be returned at the end of the show.
How long did it take to film the episode?
We had to sign a one year, non-compete / NDA once we agreed to be on the show. We could not talk about the show until it actually aired, which was about 5 months after we finished filming. It took approximately one 18 hour day and a second day was a half-day of exit interviews with the producers.
Was there any “planned” scenarios? How “real” is reality TV?
There is not any “planned drama” per se, but the producers highly encourage the competitors to bash each other. The one thing about reality TV “game showing”, which is what Cutthroat Kitchen is, is that you have to follow all California law regarding game shows. Therefore, we had a lawyer on-set to ensure that all rules were being followed and there was nothing too “fake” about the contestants. It was extremely strict in regards to providing a real world vs. Hollywood produced experience.
Were you paid to be on the show?
We were not paid to be on the show as a competitor, however, all travel and expenses were absorbed by the network. The winner, however, did receive a $10,000 reward.
What did you get out of the experience?
Oddly enough, participating in Cutthroat Kitchen wasn’t really any different from having to cook in other experiences I’ve had been through. Limited equipment, lost ingredients, last minute pressure situations – it’s an everyday expectation in professional kitchens. So from that standpoint, I would say I didn’t really gain any more “culinary knowledge” than I already had. Probably more than anything, I learned to adapt to being on a studio set and in front of the camera. There wasn’t enough time spent in the overall situation to really gain anything else from it.
What was it like meeting Alton Brown and Chef Tila?
As strange as it may sound, the interaction with Alton Brown wasn’t necessarily what I had envisioned. The way that his personality is perceived is much different than “working” with him on a set. He is all work and no play. There was not much interaction with the competitors. When I was on ABC’s The Taste, the judges and mentors were deeply involved throughout the entire process. I didn’t have any interaction with Chef Tila.
What were the obstacles the other chefs put on you? How did you adapt?
I think the perception that most people have about reality TV is that you are thrown into situations you would never dream of being put into. However, it’s quite the opposite. As a chef, you have to always learn to adapt to the situation- whether it’s being out of a dish during a booked out restaurant, missing an ingredient that you knew you ordered or having to deal with servers who messed up an order. As a culinary expert, you have to be able to think on your feet. So, the obstacles that were thrown at me, weren’t really obstacles; more-so just everyday kitchen situations.
How did you prepare for the show?
Not preparing was the key to preparing. If I would have hyped myself up, I would have never even made it past the first Skype call. You have to go into the show knowing that there is a chance you could fail, and fail soon. Much like a corporate demo – people can love you or hate you; or much like running a restaurant – either they will give you good reviews or they won’t. It’s all about accepting the consequences.
What advice would you give to another chef that is preparing to go on the show?
Don’t give up your personality, culinary style or dreams to be “on television”. Never compromise who you are to be someone you think people want you to be.
Have you gotten more media/press from the experience?
The media certainly helps me at every turn. Along with Cutthroat Kitchen, the majority of my press comes from The Taste, Big Brother and Food Truckers TV.
Would you do it again?
Live with no regrets. I would absolutely do it again. I wouldn’t do anything differently. I was myself and continue to exude a personality that is mine and mine alone…That’s what it’s all about.
What is your definition of success in our industry?
Success is waking up every morning with a smile on your face, regardless of the industry, the job or the situation. No regrets. You work hard for the people you love and you fight for your passion. Success guides you and your actions; it gives you no time to think, just trust your gut and cook for what you believe.
What is your culinary “best case scenario”?
No time limits. No limited resources. No theme. Allowing me to be me and cook my style. You will always be judged, so I would never say “no judging”, “no contests”, etc. Contests make it even more fun. I would just say give me unlimited time and resources and it’s up to me to make it successful or not.
How did you find Chef’s Roll and what urged you to join?
I have always been a believer in those who believe in the industry. Chef’s Roll gives our industry an opportunity to explore all avenues of the culinary world while promoting each other and the organization. It’s been an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
What’s next for you?
I have big plans for Mad Love Cooking, Food Truckers TV and Chef Joe Arvin as a brand. The World Food Championships are coming up in November, my online show just signed with The Food Channel, and I am continuing to work on corporate events. Food Truckers TV is my passion. To be able to travel the world, and promote those who have given up everything for a culinary dream is, well, unmatched. There is nothing greater than hearing the true, cold stories of people changing their entire lives to be great in the world of food. It’s what keeps us going, it’s what inspires us. Life is good. No, life is amazing. I am thankful that Chef’s Roll helps keep that dream alive.
Learn more about Chef Joe Arvin on his Chef’s Roll profile HERE.
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Chef Joe Arvin is a member of the American Culinary Federation