Thursday, May 21, 2015

Interview with Chef Denine Giordano: Surviving The Heat of Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen.


Chef Denine Giordano 

Surviving The Heat of Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen

At only 23 years old, Philly line cook and bartender Denine Giordano set out to become a contestant on the most intense cooking show on television, Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen Season 13.

She recently sat down with Golden Bay Magazine to take us through her journey, and gibe us a glimpse of what it's really like to be a part of the highest rated cooking show in the country. Who doesn't really want to know what it's like to be yelled at by Chef Ramsay, right?  

GBM -  Hi Denine! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Let's begin with taking us through the process of what it takes to become a contestant on Hell's Kitchen?
DG - I actually received word of an open call from my chef at school, I sent a few emails out, for some info & went to the open call! Not sure if I'm allowed to go into further detail, but they post a lot about it when they're casting!

GBM -  In the first episode, you and your fellow contestants were driven to a movie theater. After watching a short HK video, the curtain dropped to reveal a sea of audience members and Chef Ramsay himself. Right away, the signature dish challenge began in which you presented an inside out chicken Parmesan which the chef liked. What was your overall impression of that first day?
DG - I was certainly relieved to learn that he enjoyed my choice of dish. It was so intense and scary, first impressions stick sometimes! But luckily enough, he enjoyed it! And we went on to take that challenge.

GBM -  Good thing too, because having your dish torn to shreds (as some have experienced) on day one, can be pretty deflating I imagine. Can you tell me something funny or memorable that you experienced which did not make it on tv?
DG -  I think one of my favorite moments was the car ride to the yacht with all the girls as we sang the fresh prince opening credits song!

GBM -  Fresh Prince, love it! Chef Ramsay met you girls once you made it to the yacht and spent some leisure time offering some great advice. The one thing I'm sure that most people want to know is, what is Chef Ramsay like when the camera's aren't rolling? Were there any chances for one on one interaction either there, or elsewhere, that were not filmed? If so, what was that like? What did you talk about?
DG - You're filmed nearly 24/7 while on the show, there isn't a lot of off camera opportunity but Chef Ramsay is absolutely amazing. He's a genuine soul who is passionate about his food!

source -
GBM -  Ok, so let's get to what everyone wants to know. Though they might not admit it, every HK fan loves watching the chef yell during dinner service. From someone who's actually experienced being in the front lines of that war, how stressful and intimidating is it really?
DG - It was honestly one of the most hectic experiences. It's very much such a struggle to impress a chef like Chef Ramsay, but to do it with a kitchen full of competing chefs that you've never worked with is, in itself, another challenge all on its own. It's rewarding though when you receive a compliment. You also never want to come down from that high so you strive for it.

GBM -  So it's a two edged sword. You can be struck down and yelled at, or be complimented and sent to cloud 9. All the while competing to be the best. I'm amazed most chef's don't crack under that kind of pressure.What did you learn from your time in HK that you take with you in your culinary life?
DG -  There is no kitchen without chemistry. Build a solid team and stick together at all times.

GBM -  You were dismissed from the show in the early episodes. You had problems in the fish station which caused you to be nominated for elimination. Though you dodged the bullet for that day, you felt the women threw you under the bus and more or less declared war against them. The following day, the women lost the daily challenge, and for punishment were made to grind coffee beans all day. You refused to grind which caused more friction between yourself and the rest of the women. Dinner service didn't go so well, and you ended up being eliminated. In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently to continue cooking another day?
DG - Honestly, no. I wouldn't change a thing I did or said. It was the choice I wanted to make at the time, and I stand by it today.

GBM -  Great, I like it when people stick to their guns. If given the chance, would you go through it a second time around?
DG -  I would never pass up a chance to work under Chef Ramsay. So yes, in a heart beat.

GBM -  What was the most difficult thing about being on HK?
DG -  Being away from home. Not having your family, friends, significant other there to support you and help you through one of the biggest opportunities of your life.

GBM -  It's no secret that these shows sometimes take their footage and edit it to tell a certain story that may actually not have been how things really played out. Do you think you were portrayed fairly?
DG -  TV is TV. I got what I expected in all honesty. I don't know if I like how I was portrayed, but that's just a chance you take!

GBM -  La Tasha ended up winning, beating out Bryant in the finale. Did you have a favorite contestant that you rooted for after you left? Why him/her? 
DG -  La Tasha deserved that win. She is a phenomenal chef. I can't say I had a favorite, I learned to love all of my cast mates differently. I held no grudges or regrets when I came home?

GBM -  What advice would you give someone trying to become a contestant on HK?
DG - Go in, be yourself, and NEVER settle. If you get knocked down, get right back up & take absolutely no shit from the other competitors.

GBM -  HK season 14 is now on the air. Are you watching it? Any favorites so far?
DG -  I have to catch up on this current season, work is kicking my butt! But I'm sure they're all rocking out HK style & making their HK family proud!

GBM - What has life been like after HK? What lessons, if any did you take back home with you and apply to your life? Finally, what are your goals, what do you hope to achieve in the future?
courtesy - Denine Giordano
DG - Life has been just that, life! Working to become better, more independent & a better chef. Still learning and trying to find my niche in the industry. I learned there, that regardless of any obstacle thrown your way, you just need to push forward, never let the set backs ruin you. That's what life is, trial and error. With all of that being said, I just hope to be happy with anything that I do. That's my one true goal.

GBM - Well, we wish you the very best in all you do Denine. Thank you so much in taking the time to do this interview!
DG -  Absolutely, thank you!

If you find yourself in the Philadelphia area and want to say hello to Denine, she is currently the
sous chef at Molly Malloy's at the Reading Terminal Market. -

Also, The entire Season 13 of Hell's Kitchen is available to stream via HULU. - 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Interview with Catherine Williamson


Catherine Williamson 

Bay Area Musical Theater Performer 

     I have been reviewing musicals and plays since 2003. I've heard many great singers, I've heard even more bad singers, but only three times have I heard a voice so beautiful and enthralling that I find myself completely blown away.

     Catherine Williamson is one of those. I first saw Catherine in December 2012 when she played the Ghost of Christmas past in Curtain Call Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol. The second she sang her third note, I was floored!

     I quickly got a hold of her, we became online friends, and she agreed to someday sit down for an interview as soon as she had something to promote. It took an entire year, but the time finally came as she will be starring in Tri-Valley Rep's production of The Drowsy Chaperone opening January 24th.

It was very well worth the wait, because she's a great interview, very insightful, animated, and full of spunk. Not only that, but very smart and professional. She knows where she wants her life to go which is pretty rare for most 23 year olds. I have no doubts that a Broadway marquee will someday be flashing with her name on it. Here's the interview...

Ms - How long have you been in musical theatre?
Cw – Oh gosh, I started in musical theater back in 2001/2002. I went to Bancroft Middle School (San Leandro), and was a very shy sixth grader. My sister was in eighth grade, I didn't have many friends so I hung out with her and her friends all the time, and that really bothered her. I wasn't cool like she was, but I've always been a singer. So by the time the musical auditions began in January, she wanted me to make my own friends and said, “Catherine, why don't you audition for the musical?” So I did, the musical was Once Upon A Mattress, and I was in the ensemble. I ended having so much fun that I went and auditioned again the following year for The Sound of Music. I was Brigitta, and I had a bunch of lines that I had to memorize which was ridiculous! That was also the year I began dancing by taking ballet at the Conservatory of Classical Ballet. And it all basically took off from there. I continued to do it in High School and began to get more and more passionate about it.

Ms - So the love of theater performing as opposed to just doing it for fun eventually caught up to you?
Cw – Ya, it was around the time I was a freshman in High School. Between ballet, choir, and also playing the trumpet, I was an overachiever in the performing arts. I did everything I could.

Ms - Sure doesn't sound like a shy person to me!
Cw – Not anymore (giggling), I feel like after the seventh & eighth grade when I started to perform more and was exposed to crowds, I became a lot less shy. I find that I prefer to perform in front of bigger crowds now. It's funny, When I was a freshman in HS, my parents asked me to pick between dance and theater, there just wasn't enough time to do both. And at that point dancing was the direction I wanted to go. But right before the audition for the musical, I injured my ankle and had to stop dancing.

Ms - Fate chose for you.
Cw – right, because with the timing of it all, I did the musical. And that's when I realized this is what's happening for a reason and it's the direction I have to go.

Ms – Is musical theater where it's at for you, or are you into dramatic plays as well?
Cw – I did a horrible play in high school, I can't even remember what it was. (laughing) I've done a lot of acting in college. Not full productions, but I take acting classes where I have to perform scenes. I find that the music is what get's me there emotionally. If you hand me an emotional monologue and ask me to recite lines, I'm not going to feel it. But if you hand me an emotional song, I'll be able to put the full emotion behind it.

Ms – How many musicals have you been in so far? Do you even know? Do you have a favorite?
Catherine in Cinderella
Cw – Oh gosh, how many musicals have I even done in the last year? I don't even know that! (laughs) You know, in the past two years, I've done shows back to back. And it's great, because I'm totally addicted to it. Theater is my drug! I'm always telling myself that I'm gonna take a break, I'm gonna focus on school, I'm gonna do other things, but opportunities just show up where I'm asked to audition for.

Ms – Oh, so they seek you out as well?
Cw – They do, yes. I still search, but some of the things I have done in the past two years have been ones that have been brought to me to audition for, and that's extremely flattering. I feel very fortunate in that respect for the experiences and things I've learned during the time as both a performer and person.

As far as favorites, my favorite musical ever is A Chorus Line. I've done it twice. The first time at the Morrison Theatre in Hayward where I played Judy Turner, and then the second at the Lesher in Walnut Creek as Maggie Winslow. If I can play Maggie forever my life would be complete! (laughs) My favorite role so far has been Cinderella which I did last year in Castro Valley. It was such an amazing challenge. There are five version of that musical, but the version that we did, I hardly left the stage. I probably left two times during the entire show for costume changes. When I got cast in the role I wanted to give myself completely to it, I mean, the character is so huge that if I have to be on stage and sing nine songs, I want the audience to enjoy each one. So I developed the character, and since I was given a lot of freedom, I dove in personally and made her a part of me. Like I already said, it was an amazing experience.

Ms – When I look at you I see Eponine (from Les Miserables)

Cw – (with a big smile and excited giddy clap) Oh thank you, someday!

Ms – What is your ideal role to play?
Cw – Eponine is definitely one of them, but my ideal role is Belle from Beauty and the Beast. And the Broadway Musical version, not the movie. It's been here in the area a few times and I've been called back (on auditions), but have yet to be cast. And I think it's probably because the character is a little older and I've always been a little too young. But hopefully someday! (crossing fingers)

Ms – Now that you've brought up Belle, let's talk about your other life as a Princess.
Cw – Ah yes! I am a party princess. I work for the Cinderella Company which is a wonderful children's entertainment company. I absolutely love my job, it's the best job! I go to little girls birthday parties dressed as a Disney character where I story tell, do magic tricks, face painting, and I make dreams comes true (both of us crack up laughing). It's really fun and I have funniest experiences with kids saying and doing the funniest things.

Ms – And if any of my readers were interested in hiring you?
In princess/fairy mode
Cw –You go to the Cinderella website. All the information for party bookings is there and then either email or call them. You can request me directly or choose from a variety of others depending on the characters you're looking for. There are some characters I don't play.

Ms – Cool! Ok, so something exciting happened to you recently. You went to New York City. What was the trip for?

Cw – Oh, it was such an amazing trip! A little back story. Last February I went to The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in Sacramento. I was nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship Award for my performance in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change which I did the year before. It's an amazing festival full of workshops where you can talk to people in the business, be in shows, compete, all kinds of things. One of the workshops I took was called the Broadway Dance Workshop. It was kinda like a dance boot camp, but really fun. At the end of it, the professor announced that the next morning he was holding open auditions for the Open Jar Institute (New York City's most Broadway-integrated actor training program) for anyone who was interested. At that moment I didn't even know what Open Jar was, but I knew it was in New York City so I figured I'd just go for the experience. The next morning I got there early. I didn't have a resume, headshot, or music ready, but I was there. We danced first which was great because I am more comfortable in a dance audition anyways, then for the singing part I sang acapella, but I don't even remember what I sang now. I felt that I did really well, and I did my best. They announced the winner at the awards ceremony that night, but I wasn't there. I had to work a party and had to drive back home early. The next morning I had about 8 voice mails and 10 texts on my phone. I freaked out, I thought someone had died, but it was just everyone congratulating and telling me that I had won the scholarship.

The scholarship was for 5 days of all day New York City Broadway audition technique with people who are currently working on Broadway. We learned what its like to audition, what it's like to live in the big city, pretty much all the ins and outs a young performer needs to know. On top of that we got to see four Broadway shows. And I had never been to New York, so I was in complete awe the entire time I was there. You hear about New Yorkers being mean and with attitudes, but they were all so nice. And everyone at the institute was professional and courteous. I fell in love with the city, I can't wait to go back!

Ms – You're starring in The Drowsy Chaperone later this month at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore. Tell me more about that.
Cw – I play Janet Van De Graaf, and it is a beast of a role. Full of dancing, singing, and to be honest, it's kicking my butt! (laughs with eyes wide open). It's about a man who lives in New York, it takes place in his apartment. He's got the blues and decides to take out and play a record of his favorite musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, and it basically comes to life right there in his living room. We come out of his refrigerator and all of the characters are introduced. The basic storyline is that my character, Janet Van De Graaf, is leaving her life on stage to marry a man she hardly knows, and everyone in the show is trying to make it not happen. It's hilarious, such a great comedy, the music is so fun. I do two numbers that I can't describe in any other way, but epic. I show off with kicks and splits, cartwheels, hula hoops, and all kinds of things while singing constant high notes, and I think I change my costume seven times in that number! It's completely mind blowing!
The Drowsy Chaperone

Ms – I'm out of breath just hearing about it! (both laugh)
Cw – Ya! Then my other song in act two is called The Brides Lament, and it's hilarious. It's a ballad, and it's funny because the lyrics are terrible, but that's the point. And the whole struggle that she has is something I feel most women have had to deal with. Not only in the arts, but in life. Does she choose a career, or does she choose love? Which direction should she pick? You know, she's pulled in two directions. She's a big star in the follies and everyone wants her to stay, but she wants to get married, and it's all a huge inner struggle. But it's all put in such a light, funny, ridiculous way, that you get the point, but are laughing all through it. Aside from that, the cast is fantastic, they were so welcoming to this new girl. It's being put on by the Tri-Valley Rep, a company I had never worked with before. I had seen their shows in the past and the Bankhead is such a beautiful theater, I'm so excited to perform there.

Ms – Well, I'm looking forward to watching it. It sounds like its going to be like you said, epic! Unfortunately we have to wrap this up, but I have one more question. What advice would you give to young performers looking for a career in the performing arts?
Cw – The first is something that goes back to what I learned at Open Jar. And that's knowing that you as a performer are always enough. Even when you go to auditions and get told no. It never has to do with who you are as a person, you can't take it personal. The director has a specific person in mind from the beginning, and unless you fit into his idea, he's not going to pick you. There are so many people who beat themselves up from getting told no, but they have to learn to just let it go and focus on the next audition. Always stay true to yourself as a person and never let the spotlight go to your head. People want to work with humble and fun people. Don't get consumed in the spotlight, especially if you're playing lead. Do it for the love of the theater, for your passion in performing. Not because you think you'll make a lot of money or become a star. If you do it for the love, you're always going to be happy.

Ms – Well thank you so much Catherine. This has been a super fun and informative interview. I'm looking forward to see what the future has in store for you, but I know it will be amazing! My best to you in all you accomplish!
Cw – Thank you, I had fun!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Interview - Matthew Kershaw


Matthew Kershaw 

Disney on Ice Performer

Interviewed By = Mauricio Segura

     Growing up on the Isle of Wight in England, Matthew Kershaw was not a typical grade-schooler.  Starting when he was 6 years old, Matthew woke every morning before dawn, traveled to the mainland to skate, and came back to his small island in time for school.  His hard work paid off; he won his first medal at age 7, and went on to place 5th in the 2005 British Primary Championships and 3rd in the 2007 IJS Junior Qualifier, before landing a spot in Disney on Ice presents Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 3 in 2011.

A member of the United Kingdom’s National Ice Skating Association, Matthew enjoys traveling with Disney on Ice.  “I love being able to bring entertainment to other people,” he says, adding that he wants audiences to feel they get the most value possible from his performances. 

Matthew hopes to tour with Disney on Ice as long as he can, and his ultimate goal is to land a principal role in a Disney on Ice show.  When he someday returns to England, he would like to finish his coaching qualifications and help young skaters achieve their dreams.  His advice for kids who want to become ice skaters is simple.  He says, “If you want it, go get it!”

Matthew was nice enough to take a few minutes to speak with us. Check out what he said...

GBM - When and how did you first realize you wanted to become a professional ice skater?
Matthew - Well, Ive been skating since I was 6 years old, and my parents had always taken me to shows in England. It looked like an amazing experience and I always wanted to do it. I've always enjoyed performing and I new it would be something I would end up doing eventually.

GBM - Great! Now, taking young skaters into account who might wanna follow in your footsteps, how does one get a spot in Disney on Ice. Can you tell me a little about your journey?
Matthew - Certainly! I was competing at a senior level in Briston up until 2010. That was the extent of my skating. I had some friends who were skating for Disney and they gave me the contacts where I had to send a video of my skating skills and tricks. I sent it off and they called me for an audition which was held at Wembley in England.

GBM - Oh wow, Wembley? Talk about intimidating!
Matthew - Ya right? Ha ha! So ya, I nailed the audition, and the rest as you can say is history I guess.

GBM - Exiting process.
Matthew - Yes!

GBM - What would you say is the most enjoyable aspect of being a part of Disney on Ice?
Matthew - Oh, that's tough. There are a lot of aspects. Like being from Merry Old England, I've seen amazing places in California, Florida... But, its definitely gotta be when I'm on the ice, and I see the kids going wild, you know, they're loving it? We have a part in the show called, Throwdown Showdown, from Hannah Montana but with Woody's roundup gang. All the kids get up and start dancing, and it's a wonderful thing to see from the ice.

GBM - I bet! It pumps you guys up at the same time.
Matthew - Exactly, ya. Its the longest part of the show at about 9 minutes, and 6 minutes into the show. So at that point, we're all like, ya c'mon let's party. And we know it's just going to be a wild experience.

GBM - The wilder the better. What character(s) do you play?
Matthew - I'm part of the ensemble. I'm one of the dancers in the Throwdown Showdown, I'm also in the beginning when all the main characters are getting introduced. Everyone loves that bit. Then I'm on again in the finale.

GBM - What goes into putting this show on? How long did you have to rehearse and get down the choreography before stepping into the ice in front of a live audience?
Matthew -We started in Mexico in August. This is the second year of the tour, but my first. We had, I think, five days to learn the entire show.
GBM - Five Days?
Matthew - Ya, nutts, I know. After that, we flew in at night and spent the next three days on ice practicing before finally stepping out in front of the audience. It was very hard, very demanding. But quite rewarding once it was done live.

GBM - And you make it look so easy, Who would've known!
Mathew - Laughs

GBM - What about travel. You're practically in a new city every week. Do you get to sight-see, or is it merely work and no play?
Matthew - Well ya, the majority of time we do. I mean, we got into San Jose at half past ten on Monday. So yesterday we had the day to relax. We won't have too much time away while were here, but hopefully when we get to Florida, we'll have more time to relax and enjoy the area.

GBM - Florida is nice. Any word on moving on to Europe?
Matthew - I'm not quite sure at the moment. It hasn't been determined, but I would love to go to Europe and especially back home in England.

GBM - Right, nothing better than performing for the friends and family.
Matthew - Ya, you got it.

GBM - Do you miss being away from home?
Matthew - Well ya! These days its easier, especially with performing. But like the holidays, Christmas was pretty hard. But at the same time, all of us here are like one big family. We look out for each other and that's good.

GBM - Well said. Back to the show itself, I've often heard it said that if you've seen one Disney on Ice show, you've seen them all. What would you tell those people to convince them to go see Toy Story 3?
Matthew - Yes, well the Toy Story movies are quite popular as it is. In the first half of our show, we have a mashup of Toy Story 1 and 2. But in the second half it just Toy Story 3, where we introduce new characters only seen in that 3rd film. So we incorporate things from all three movies and its fun to watch the reproduced live on ice. They'll see things that will make them say, Oh yes, I remember that part. The younger parents might have grown up with the first two, so their still fans. But its totally different seeing live and its a great experience.

GBM - Great. I'll wrap it up with this. Personally, what are your plans after Disney On Ice?
Matthew - I'd like to get as much experience in this and see where it takes me. I would love to someday coach. Id love to pass on my experiences and professionalism forward. Maybe even tour some more as much as I can.

GBM - Well I wish you the best. It's been fun talking to you and I thank you for taking the time to sit down and share a little of this cool ride your on.
Matthew - Ha ha! Thank you, it was fun!