Local contestant to compete on Hell's Kitchen

 

Food truck owner Robyn Almodovar battles other chefs for prized spot

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By Maddy Marr

Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?

Robyn Almodovar, a little.

But that didn’t stop the Hollywood, Fl., resident from trying out and nabbing a spot on Hell’s Kitchen, the Fox show hosted by hot-tempered chef Gordon Ramsay, premiering 8 p.m. Monday. The Scottish restaurateur channels a boot camp drill sergeant, cursing, insulting (“you f---ing donkey!’’ is among his favorite phrases) and chucking things. “He’s definitely a scary individual,’’ says Almodovar, 32. “My opinion of him has not changed.’’

In the past nine seasons, the foul-mouthed foodie has tortured his cheftestants mercilessly. But the one who makes it through the gauntlet gets a top spot at a major restaurant. One Hell’s Kitchen local survivor, season 5 winner Paula Da Silva, has done quite well for herself. The executive chef at 1500° at the Eden Roc Renaissance, Miami Beach, was a 2012 semifinalist for a James Beard Foundation Award.

So, worth the abuse, right?

“Gordon makes you fight for what you want, but he’s basically just showing you what happens in a kitchen,’’ says Almodovar, whose previous employers include DeVito South Beach and The Forge. “I’ve gotten a plate of raw chicken thrown at me before. I wanted to take the heat and withstand the pressure he gives you.’’

The intense atmosphere upped her game.

“I love cooking. I love competition,’’ says the Brooklyn native, who was raised in Staten Island, spent some time in Atlanta and came to South Florida in 2006. Keeping her head down and eye on the prize were her main strategies in dealing with various culinary tasks and Ramsay’s, um, perfectionist personality.

“My first interaction with him was all about nerves. You think of this celebrity chef and mentor and all the emotions go through you,’’ she recounts.

“But once you get past that, he’s just a chef, then you forget about all the cameras and everything.’’

As a longtime fan of Ramsay’s and his other projects like TV’s Kitchen Nightmares, when he revamps flagging eateries, Almodovar knew he doesn’t suffer fools, and she had to do her homework.

“Right before I left I watched all the past seasons of Hell’s Kitchen for a week straight and figured out what he always picked on,’’ she says. “I took notes. But the biggest challenge I would say is with yourself.’’

Win or lose, Robyn still has a fun job: taking her food truck, called The Palate Party, around South Florida. Food is “eclectic’’ — e.g., fish and chips, corn and crab fritters, mushroom risotto bowls and meatball sliders. “We basically go anywhere. We bring the party to you.’’

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