He doesn't lack confidence, that's for sure. "I've watched 'Hell's Kitchen' since season one," says Barret Beyer, sous chef at The Emporium in Patchogue and a contender on season 11, premiering Tuesday at 8 p.m. on Fox, "and always thought, 'Y'know, it doesn't look that hard. One person works one station -- how hard could that be?'"
There's a reason, of course, that the TV cooking competition says "Hell's" and not "Heaven's," "Purgatory's" or "Club Med's": Many who've attempted to win the grand prize of "head chef" at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant -- this time Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris Las Vegas hotel -- have been laid low by rubbery scallops, runny risotto or beef Wellington that's surprisingly often, to quote taskmaster Ramsay, "Raw! Raw! Raw!" followed by the knocking over of pots and pans and a frequent "Get OUT!"
Yet Beyer, of Central Islip, straight off told his instructors at the Culinary Academy of Long Island, where he trained, "I'm going to 'Hell's Kitchen.'" And after earning his degree, he used the casting agency Twins Talent to successfully do just that. "I turn 37 on Nov. 8, the same day as Chef Ramsay -- he's exactly 10 years older than I am," Beyer says. "We finished shooting just before his birthday. I told him that's something we had in common, and that's why I'm destined for greatness."
If so, it'll have been a circuitous route. Born in Holbrook and graduating Sachem High School North in 1994, Beyer enlisted in the Coast Guard and began cooking as part of the firehouse crew at his Governors Island base. Afterward, he tried college, worked for and then owned a car-detailing company and was briefly in the mortgage industry, all while doing part-time club promotion. Then in 2008, he and his wife, Jasmin, had daughter Elenamaria and Beyer realized, "I needed to settle down. My mother suggested I go back into cooking."
He got a job at 1 North Steakhouse in Hampton Bays, two months before starting culinary school, working under chef Chris Cariello. "He taught me to stand up as an individual, taught me to take chances," Beyer says. "I still call him to this day for advice."
Nine months later, he was sous chef at The Black Wolf sports bar in Syosset, becoming head chef, he says, 2 1/2 months later. He quit after returning from "Hell's Kitchen" because "me and the owner had our differences." At The Emporium he's a sous chef once more but, "Sometimes, you've gotta go backward to go forward. I've made it so far in two years; I can't wait to see where I'll be in another three."