To 'Hell's Kitchen' and Back

By Ung, Elisa | The Record (Bergen County, NJ), September 10, 2012 | Go to article overview

To 'Hell's Kitchen' and Back


Ung, Elisa, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)


HELL'S KITCHEN

A few months ago, Lyndhurst's Justin Antiorio was just an unemployed sous chef.

Tonight, Antiorio enters the finale of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" as a nationally known brand. And whether he wins or loses, experts say, he could end the night with the ability to write his own career ticket - if he proceeds shrewdly.

"Now he's looked at as an expert in his field," said Robert Galinsky, who runs the New York Reality TV School. In order to turn his fame into his dream restaurant, Antiorio has to stay in the public eye. "People's attention spans are very short," Galinsky said. "There will be another kinetic, smiling, warm personality that comes along ... and soon, he will be just a memory. You gotta jump on it."

So far, Antiorio has done his best. He's made numerous public appearances at New Jersey food festivals and has more in the works. He continuously cultivates his thousands of Facebook fans and Twitter followers with frequent postings, retweets and a hashtag (#teamjustin).

"I'm putting myself out there and showing people what my abilities are as a chef," said Antiorio, 30. "I'm not on TV just drinking; I'm really putting myself out there."

And it was a big risk, he points out: The show "could have crushed" his career.

Tonight's appearance in the "Hell's Kitchen" finale (which was taped several months ago) is the culmination of a rather unlikely career trajectory, since Antiorio had never seen the show before walking onto the set.

He graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education, worked at Highlawn Pavilion in West Orange and the 21 Club in Manhattan and was a sous chef at the catering company Sterling Affair. His father, a retired chef, talked him into trying out for "Hell's Kitchen."

If he is indeed the winner - contractually, he was not allowed to say before the episode airing - Antiorio said he will work out the required year at Gordon Ramsay Steak at Paris Las Vegas, but then he'll aim to open his own restaurant somewhere close to home. If he did not win, he said, he'll try to open a restaurant in North Jersey sooner.

"Hell's Kitchen" has certainly brought Antiorio to the attention of restaurateurs such as Ridgewood's Drew Nieporent, the veteran owner of New York City restaurants such as Nobu and Tribeca Grill. Nieporent watches the show, recently met Antiorio, and says his "character is pretty sound and he seems like the type of person who would work hard."

But, "there's a vast cavern between cooking on a reality TV show and owning your own restaurant," Nieporent said. …

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