“Hell’s Kitchen”: Robert Talks About Hospitalization & Leaving The Show

by | April 17, 2009 at 1:54 PM | Hell's Kitchen

This week saw no eliminations on Hell’s Kitchen – but one contestant left in a stretcher.

After an exciting day that took the contestants on a private jet from the Hell’s Kitchen to Atlantic City, the chefs got a chance to meet with the business partners they would work with if they were to win the series and ultimately head their own restaurant.

Unfortunately, Robert began to feel ill during this momentous dinner – an illness that took him to the hospital and out of the show.

We talked to the chef about the scary moments when his chest began to hurt, and his marvelous recovery, which has included substantial weight loss and good news about his disease.

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What did you think when the chef said he would be shutting down Hell’s Kitchen at the beginning of the episode?

First of all we had just completed a horrible dinner service. We’re in bed and we get a phone call that he wants to speak to us now. And you never know what’s going to happen on Hell’s Kitchen. It could be go pick through the garbage. You never know with this guy. So I’m sitting there and I’m like okay now this is my time. I’m in bed and I just got my ass kicked. So I’m already aggravated and he’s like I’m closing Hell’s Kitchen. This guy is snatching my dreams. We’re down to five and I’m four away from taking it all? And now you want to go ahead and rip it from me? I was pissed.

And I’m sure it was a whirlwind for him to send you to Atlantic City.

I wouldn’t expect anything less from Gordon Ramsay. He loves to do the flip flop.

So what exactly happened when you started feeling ill? Did it start as chest pains?

Well it started on the jet ride over when we were on the private jet. And I just wasn’t feeling right. I was loving every minute of it so I was ignoring it because I was having such a great time. Then steadily through the day I was feeling very weak and tired. I could see my face turning white. I didn’t know what was going on but I kept ignoring it. Then all of a sudden I was in my room changing and I felt really hard chest pains. I went to the dinner and I had that feeling where something just isn’t right. I don’t care who you are as a human being, no matter what you’re doing in that particular moment in your life you will be like something is wrong with me. Something is not computing right now. It was scary because it’s something I didn’t have control over. It felt like an elephant was pounding on my chest and all of a sudden it got really tight like a basketball. The pressure was huge. And then the pain started and I was like oh man here we go.

Did you think right away oh my God I have to go to the hospital or were you not really sure at first?
At first I was just scared out of my mind because all I’m thinking is oh my God I’m leaving Hell’s Kitchen and I’m going to let down everybody. That’s all I could think about. I didn’t care that I could be dying. I was like I’m not even in the kitchen I’m at a dinner table with the dudes from Borgata. I went from ashy to classy in weeks and now I’m sitting here riding on jet planes and I’m going to throw it all away.

Did you make the conscious choice not to tell the other contestants until you were already in the hospital? Or did that just sort of happen?
When I was at that dinner table they were just talking and I was just in another world. I didn’t even know what they were saying in that moment. It could have been the president giving a speech and it wouldn’t have mattered. The room was spinning and Ben’s face was like turning inside out. I was just like I gotta go.

So tell me a little more about your recovery.

When I got home I hired a personal trainer and loss about 55 pounds and I’m slotted to have the gastric bypass surgery. All of my [heart condition] is cleared up. My experience is that you can’t just say I’m gonna put down the Twinkie, you’ve got to stay away from them. It’s hard work but the same reasons I went to Hell’s Kitchen my family, my new wife, and my career are the same reasons I left. I want to make sure I’m around. I don’t want to be underground you know?
The doctors were watching me very close because of my upcoming surgery and we have heart disease in the family so they didn’t want to push me. But it’s been great. I’m definitely not one of those guys who likes to exercise. Any exercise for me is working my thumbs with my Playstation 3. I’ve been doing twenty ounce curls. I’m just glad that my wife has been a great supporter of me and pushing me so much to do it. It’s been a great ride.

And when did you say your surgery was coming up?
It should be in a couple of months.

What are you doing to get ready for it?
Basically exercise, diet, trying to get used to the amount of food that you’re going to eat, and we have to get ready to go on the table and things like that.

Would you ever think of going on any of those fitness reality shows?
Yeah I would love to be on Celebrity Fit Club or something like that. That would be dope. Or like Biggest Loser. I mean I had a great time from start to finish. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.