After beating 11 competitors for a spot in the top five, chef Robert Hesse of Quogue left the “unscripted” Fox show “Hell’s Kitchen” during last week’s episode due to health problems.
During the episode, the Quogue native, who weighs in at about 400 pounds, complained of chest pains and was taken to the emergency room out of fear that he was having a heart attack. Although it turned out to be a false alarm, he told the hot tempered host, chef Gordon Ramsay, that he would be leaving the competition.
Mr. Hesse boasted that, had he stayed in the competition, he would have certainly taken home the grand prize, a head chef position at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City.
“I would have won the whole thing,” Mr. Hesse said in a telephone interview this week. “I just had one of the greatest chefs tell me I could have won.”
Mr. Hesse said that one of the highlights of the show and of his career was receiving compliments from the often sharp-tongued Mr. Ramsay.
“It’s like playing one-on-one with Michael Jordan and he tells you you have a sweet three-point shot,” Mr. Hesse said.
Today, Mr. Hesse said he is trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle and has lost 50 pounds through diet and exercise. He also plans to have gastric bypass surgery in the near future.
The former sous chef at Quogue’s Q East restaurant said his career has taken off since appearing on the show.
He said that he and former Q East partner Sean Kehlenbeck are opting to leave the Hamptons restaurant scene and plan to open a new restaurant on Main Street in Sayville on June 15.
“It was too seasonal,” he said. “My customers and my fans will follow me.”
He said that he and Mr. Kehlenbeck have not picked out a name as of yet.
“We’re mulling it around,” he said adding that he invites his fans to e-mail him suggestions via Facebook.
Mr. Hesse has been keeping busy in the months since “Hell’s Kitchen” first aired, making frequent appearances with athletes, including Yogi Berra and Yankee Brett Gardner. He was also invited to throw out the first pitch at a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game later this month.
He said that he is amazed when he is recognized by star athletes and was honored to cook for some of the Yankees, including Joba Chamberlain.
“It’s crazy how food is a medium that brings everybody together,” he said. “Everybody loves to eat a steak.”
Although the chef took a few verbal beatings from Mr. Ramsay on national television, Mr. Hesse said that he has no regrets about appearing on the reality show.
“This show has opened more doors for me in the last year than I could ever do for myself,” he said.