Interview with Hell’s Kitchen’s Jessica Cabo

Jessica kisses girlfriend CourtneyJessica and Courtney

AE: It seems like you were up against stiff competition. Were you surprised that you got so far?
You want to think that you can do anything. So when I first walked in there meet these people and some of them have been chefs for twenty years and gone to culinary school. I had my knife skills down—but there are just ways to do things; a science to cooking. Walking into Hell’s Kitchen, I was like okay this is going to be tough. Right away literally they said “Welcome to Hell’s Kitchen, your first assignment is… and we had to make our signature dishes. Also, this is reality TV and remember reality TV is not reality. You’re given your ingredients and it’s like—these are frozen soft shell crabs.

AE: In terms of the reality factor of reality TV, do you feel that things were edited to portray you in a certain way? To go for a story arc?
You know, it’s funny because when I went in there I figured that I would be the brat and the bitch. I thought I was going to be the Amarosa for sure.

AE: Because you are so strong in your personality?
Totally. It’s a cliché but I’m a cancer—hard on the outside and super sensitive on the inside. I cried the first few episodes but I cry every few weeks—I’m just emotional. As much personality as I have, my down time is really intense. I thought that instead, I sort of came off as the sensitive one, and I was pleased. But sometimes it's nice to be a brat. I think I came off as one a little more at the end. It was pretty true to life.

AE: The way they cut it?
For the most part. There are some things that it were not exactly the way it happened. For instance, “Ralph is helping Jessica with her plating,” when really I cooked the whole thing, and Ralph went to hand it to the chef..

AE: How about that last episode when you’re hungover and you fall asleep during the breadmaking and yet at the end the chef asks you how it went and you said great. What happened there?
The breadmaking was probably like six hours worth…

AE: And there was like one hour or so of sleeping?
Yeah. I helped kneed the dough. I did the starter and I got all the stuff ready and then we had to wait for it to proof. It takes awhile for it to proof—proofing means nothing—it’s sitting around waiting for it to rise, so I was like well you guys do that and I slept, but it wasn’t the whole time. That was definitely editing.

AE: But we get that reaction shot from Michael.
If you look at me—I knew what went on, I knew I slept. But I was having the time of my life and that’s where my passion was. I’ve made bread at my house to make pizza, but here I am making bread for a whole restaurant. It was a first experience and that’s why in shots I was sitting there with a little smirk on my face because I was like—this is f***ing great.

AE: You react with such confidence under pressure. I don’t think we saw you crack in quite the same way that, say, Elsie did.
There were definitely times when it was rough. There were also things that they didn’t show that I’m glad they didn’t show. This one episode I had to clean all of these dishes in the dining hall—it was an entire room full of filth and just disgusting. I was kicking stuff. I think I pushed a producer around. I mean I lost it. I was mad. So I was a little nervous about it. We would have these dark days every sixth day or something like that they would take us out and we would stay in a hotel by ourselves.

AE: Just to get some time away, sleep, relieve the pressure?
Yep, but that was also when you actually had time to think and be like “oh my god!” I remember a day I woke up anxious and they sent a therapist in. They really put you under pressure. There was no contact, no TVs. I couldn’t talk to anyone—because what am I going to do-tell these people that are against me my problems? No. It’s super intense. When we first started the show, they picked you up in a car, took you to a place and you stay in the hotel for five days.

AE: Like isolation.
By myself. For five days. I like hip hop but I’m definitely not the girl that would go watch Honey. So there I am in my hotel room dancing to Honey. I watched some boxing movie and I am shadow boxing in my room for exercise. It totally made me go nuts.

AE: How long were you on the set?
Thirty days. Some people got to leave two days into it, but I didn’t get to leave till the absolute end. During the finale they call us back. So I was literally there the full thirty days.

AE: You’ve done interviews where your sexuality came up, and you mentioned that journalists are overly encouraging about the fact that they don’t have to mention it—almost politely suppressive.
Right. What’s funny is that with Big Brother or something like that they say “there’s a gay contestant.” Fox never said that. And so the kiss came as a surprise—it’s not like people were waiting for it. It was a whole interesting dynamic because it was actually maybe more tastefully done because it is what it is. It was not exploited, but they did put it on there. That was actually awesome.

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