Rodney Murillo, culinary director for Davio's, was a recent contestant on Rewrapped on the Food Network (which is hosted by 'N Sync's Joey Fatone), although it wasn't Murillo's first time in the reality television realm — he also once appeared on Cutthroat Kitchen. Murillo's Rewrapped episode, titled "Ho Ho You Didn't!", debuted earlier this week and will replay tomorrow (Saturday, September 13) at 1 p.m. Here's Murillo on what it's like to be on reality television (twice).
What was it like to compete on your second Food Network show?
We had a lot of fun doing the show, and it was definitely better than Cutthroat, which was much more intense. This one was just better; there's no pressure on winning the prize, and the only little twist was that this was the season two premiere, and we didn't know. Last season, nobody got voted out; it was just a points system, and then people were first place, second place, and so on. So we're all getting ready in the kitchen and Joey [Fatone, co-host] says that after round one, the first chef will be eliminated — and the tension sunk in. And then the producer told us that she forgot to tell us that one of us was going to get voted off. That was a lot of pressure; nobody wants to get voted off first. Obviously everyone wants to win, but it was pretty harsh to hear at seven in the morning when you're getting ready to compete.
What's going through your head as the cameras turn on?
At this point, we had just learned that the secret ingredient was Ho Hos. I was like, Okay, this should be interesting. So I turn to one of the competitors and asked her what she did — turns out she owned a cupcake shop, and I just thought to myself, I am so screwed. Dessert is not my forte. The other guy that was competing with us owns a bake shop too. I am not a baker at all. Throw me something savory, and I'm okay, but please don't give me a pound of flour and some chocolate and ask me to make a cake.
But I was just trying to do my best and make the cake and some cream when the competition started. For the first round, we just had to make a replica of the Ho Ho. I haven't had a Ho Ho in years. You can't even find them anymore. I've been looking to find one in stores so I can actually eat one, but I haven't been able to find one, and I think I've been to every 7-Eleven in Boston.
Anyway, in round one, it took a little bit of time to loosen up and get comfortable. So I'm baking my cake, and it wasn't really going the way I wanted to, so I switched to trying to make a homemade marshmallow filling. The other two were using Marshmallow Fluff. So when we put the three of ours together, mine looked flat, because I tried to make this marshmallow, and it needed time to set and it was still warm and not as dense as I wanted it to be.
I look over at the guy next to me, and his rolls look like they are out of a magazine. I mean it looked like a perfect little sushi roll. And he looks calm as can be. I look to the other side, and hers are not perfect, but I can tell that they taste good. Mine tastes really good, but it did not look good.
Then I go over to the freezer, and I drop a sheet tray on the guy's Ho Hos. And I'm thinking I'm either going to get voted off right away because it looks like I sabotaged the whole thing, or we're going to start all over again. When it dropped, everyone screamed, and I try to lift the tray and his Ho Hos were all stuck to the bottom. There was just no saving grace. I just said, Dude, sorry, I can't help you out. The freezer was messed up and it wasn't my fault.
Then our Ho Hos go to get tasted. They tasted mine and right away they say that it doesn't really look like a Ho Ho, which I knew, but they loved the flavors. I knew the flavors were there; I just couldn't put it all together. They taste one of my fellow contestant's Ho Hos, and they say that it looks like one and tastes like one, so I knew she was in. (She previously won — or at least made it to the finals — of Cupcake Wars.) I knew from the first moment that she was going to win. Anyway, the judges go to the other guy, and he had used extra-concentrated coconut oil but thought it was just regular coconut oil. The judges took the first bite and asked him if he tasted it. I knew he hadn't, and the only thing that they could taste was coconut, so I was able to move on to the next round.
How long is the process of filming for this show?
We checked in at seven in the morning, and we didn't get out of there until eight at night. They try to keep you separated and isolated all day by taking your phone away, and they do a lot of takes. It was like that on Cutthroat, too.
What was your competitor's winning dish like?
She made a Ho Ho cheesecake, which is hard to beat. I don't want to sound like a sore loser; I tasted hers, and it was good, but I thought I had it on the creativity. But it was up to them. I went a more savory route, and I thought it was a great dish. They said that every component was there but that it didn't remind them of a Ho Ho.
Obviously this was a competition, but did you feel it was competitive on set?
My opponent was such a sweetheart; we had the best time. We are now friends and talk all the time. She was also very supportive of me in round one. Right before we walked out onto stage, I told her that she was going to beat me and that dessert wasn't my forte, and she told me to stick to the flavor. It's funny because we were walking into round two, and she was freaking out, and I told her to stick to flavor. In the end, that's what won — flavor!
It was competitive; the first kid was very pissed when he lost, but she and I didn't feel at all cutthroat. We both wanted to win, but it didn't feel tense between us. It was just great. But I liked the show. There are a lot of shows out there are just not the real thing, like Hell's Kitchen. Restaurants don't function that way. You'd be out of business in a week. The amount of lawsuits that you'd get would be so high. Me, I'm more into shows where it's all about what you can do and what skills you have. I like Top Chef because it's about what you know. They give you the ingredients, and then you have to go cook. Cutthroat Kitchen was one of those shows where the best chef doesn't always win; sometimes it's just the luckiest chef that wins. That's just what happens.
What's it like to try to focus on winning a competition with cameras, lights, and just the general excitement of the show?
It is tough to focus; it's a long day, and I was a little nervous the night before because there's the anticipation about what they are going to throw my way. I was going through all these different scenarios the night before and going up and down the snack aisle, thinking of what I would do if they through me something like Goldfish. I feel like that's a tough one. But Cutthroat was a lot more intense. That was four days of filming whereas, this was just a one-day thing. I think the most stressful part is probably the interviews that they do.
What's that like?
The interviews are the most stressful part. You're just in this small interview room with five cameras all around you. There's a lot of lights and a big microphone, and you're not making eye contact with anyone, so it's sort of like you're talking in a room by yourself. You're just staring at pitch black wall. That just makes me uncomfortable. The interviews go on for about two hours, and you're just sitting in a chair the whole time. And you have to be careful what you say because you don't want your words twisted around. It's tough because they try and give you a certain angle to talk from, and I didn't want to come across as a jerk. I mean, if you're not a jerk, why come across as one? That was the most stressful part.
So what was it like behind the scenes on set?
Behind the scenes was awesome. Joey was so funny. I never thought of him as a funny guy, but he made jokes all day, and people were just cracking up. Right away he asked everyone where they're from, and when I said Boston, he started talked to me about the Red Sox and Patriots. He also F-bombed a lot. That's what took so long; we had to keep stopping because he was swearing.
We all had lunch together, which was great. Joey had lunch with all of us and the whole crew, about 70 people, ate with us. They really want you to feel at home and relaxed, and to me that was the best part. I mean, they are 70 people that work 17-hour days, and they just let you into their family and embrace you. Being on a show like this is such a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and if someone thinks they can do it, they should. If you think you can do things under pressure, trust yourself, and just be yourself, it's a really fun thing to do.
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