Earlier this week, Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen 3 (the one that's not Top Chef) wrapped up, crowning D.C.'s Rock Harper the champion over L.A.hailing Bonnie Muirhead. Since they stopped filming way back in February, Harper's had to keep mum about his future move to Las Vegas (FOX's prize for winning the series). Before he scoots off to Green Valley Ranch Resort's Terra Verde, he's been training his successor chef at the landmark Washington joint B. Smith's inside Union Station. Before boarding trains, presidents used to sneak through the "Presidential Suite," B. Smith's dining room, to avoid crowds inside.
So what's Harper really like? And where was he chilling at 10 p.m. two nights ago? Right outside B. Smith's, chatting with co-workers in street clothes. Coincidentally, this food blogger was skipping by, and after a few seconds of staring wistfully, finally shook the guy's hand. The next thing you know, Rock is telling me about Bonnie's rack and his shopping sprees at "Tarjay." (He knew the Isaac Mizrahi line almost freakishly well.) A few Grey Goose vodka on the rocks later, and Rock is my new best friend.
Here's a transcription of our impromptu chat. (Note: His cell phone was vibrating throughout. Pop-u-lar guy.)
Since "up-and-coming chef that won Gordon Ramsay's reality show" wasn't that popular on Career Day, what were your dream jobs growing up? I thought either chef or comedian. But of course, where is there a comedy school? I actually looked into it, but all I found were real-life clown schools. Being a celeb chef of course didn't really exist, but nowadays all chefs want to be on TV. It was really Emeril and Wolfgang Puck who brought the idea of "chef" to a whole new level. Even if Emeril makes peanut butter and jelly, people still obsess over his every move.
Well, mister celeb chef—now that you are one officiallyhas the idea of living in Vegas sunk in yet? How do you feel about slot machines? Ehhh, I'm not a big gambler. I probably won't do that shit too much. I've been in touch with Heather, the previous season's winner. She's at the Terra Rossa at the Red Rock Casino, and I'll be at Terra Verde at the Green Valley Ranch Resort. It's pretty bittersweet and shit to leave here, but I'm so excited to start. Such a huge opportunity.
Italian food, right? Yup. Sadly, no room for Southern surf 'n' turf on that menu.
Speaking of which, I heard you were serving vats of it at your restaurant—well, almost former restaurant—B. Smith's, on Monday night when the show aired. Were you around for the big night? Oh, of course. I was hanging out here with everyone. Friends and family. It was so awesome. At least 200 reservations were made that same day. The show finished back in February so I've known for a while, but was sworn to secrecy. Just my wife and two kids knew too. And that's only because they were at the actual taping.
None of your friends tried to get you tipsy so you'd divulge? Haha, nope. Trust me. A five-million-dollar agreement will shut you up. I didn't tell a soul. And my kids didn't either. One's in first grade so it's not exactly a huge topic on the playground. Especially in ol' Spotsylvania, Virginia.
You still in touch with all the cast members? All the time. Just got off the phone with Bonnie yesterday. We're actually collaborating on a business idea. I can't say what it is, but it'll be explosive. That woman is smart as hell.
Not Barbie-ish, like they made her out to be on the show? No no. She's a psychology major and really knows how her shit. Especially how to get inside the heads of people.
Speaking of body parts...her breasts. What was all that talk of implants in the post-show interview? Heh heh. I love messing with her. She'd always complain about her really small breasts, but said she had a nice ass. First of allher ass ain't that nice. And I told her in a year, she'd be in a Maxim or Playboy with fake ones. Then she kept fixing her swooping neckline in the interview, but it was because she had nothing to fill it. I told her, if you had implants, shit, you wouldn't need to be fixing. I was just messing, though.
Hold up. Swooping neck line? Boy, you know your fashion. It's all my wife. She totally loves fashion. So I know all that Top Model and Project Runway shit. Actually when we drove all the way out to Atlanta for my second interview, I stopped at "Tarjay" and bought a really nice sweater vest, shirt, and pants. Pretty fancy. Love that Mossimo brand.
Oooh sweater vests. Do you like dressing up? I love suits. But am usually too broke to afford them. When I drove out to Atlanta for the second interview, I literally had no money. Wife in front seat, kids in the back. I almost didn't go because I had a shift to work. My wife was like, "You're fucking going." And I was like honey, hotels don't take out-of-state checks.
How does it go again? "Behind every great man, there's a great woman"—or something? The trip clearly paid off. Did you leave thinking you had it in the bag? I was confident, but I never think I have anything in the bag. I wanted to show them who I was, more than anything, and I did. Usually I got a street swag about me, but I knew not to bring that. I know how people work. And I wanted to be professional.
And they were all over it? Well, no. Maybe. Actually they were really on the fence about me. But I brought notecards to interviews that said "I will win." Apparently the main casting director noticed, and afterward, pulled me aside to snatch them. She said she saw the fire in my eyes and that's how I made the cut.
And from there you were shaking hands with Gordon Ramsay? Well, there was a bunch of medical check-ups and background clearances. The hardest part was writing a bio, actually. The one on B. Smith's website is old and sucks, but it's so hard to talk about yourself. The casting director told me to imagine GQ called and needed one by tomorrow. So at the time, it was the "Man of the Year" issue with Jay-Z on the cover. With him, it's always about moving from bottom to top. His struggle, and I like that. I modeled mine after his.
So you mentioned being tight with Bonnie. Who else did you hit it off with?
Brad is a fucking riot. Oh—and by the way. You can quote me on all cursing. He's from Boulder's Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, and was the life of our team. Aaron's the only one who doesn't want to stay connected. I talk to everyone else all the time.
And then there's Bonnie, of course. You guys and that "explosive" idea. How about you have another Grey Goose on the rocks and expand a bit? ...
Needless to say, Rock didn't expand. Apparently he knows how to keep secrets pretty well.