Bravo’s new hit Around the World in 80 Plates has already taken off to new destinations that will eventually cover 10 countries. Starring Cat Cora and Curtis Stone to guide the twelve chefs along the way, this show challenges two teams of red and black while voting off their own members in the process.
Private Chef Gary Walker spent lots of time in Chicago where he opened Cheflove preparing meals to clients for years.
Nunn spoke to this friend of the family to see what has been cooking in his kitchen recently.
Jerry Nunn: Hi, Gary. I just watched the first episode last night.
Gary Walker: What did you think?
JN: Loved it. Did you watch shows like Top Chef in the past?
GW: Oh yeah, I have been a huge fan of Top Chef and most of the other cooking shows too. I am friends with Dale Levitski and Stephanie Izard from Chicago. Being eight years in Chicago I definitely have a strong network of great chef friends there.
JN: We have the best restaurants in Chicago.
GW: Yes, definitely one of the best towns for eating for sure. It is a place that will always be a home for me. It is where I got my professional start.
JN: Tell our readers about your background.
GW: I was born and raised in Detroit. I graduated from college with a French degree and moved to New York City. It was in New York that I was working as a travel agent for a French pharmaceutical company since I speak French. It was during those crazy highs and lows that I decided to find my way to express myself creatively and make money at it. That is why I went to culinary school.
JN: Is your specialty French cuisine then?
GW: It is always a place to start because of my affiliation with the country but it is the whole Mediterranean that I am truly influenced by. Not only France, but Spain, Italy, and Africa. It is generally the flavor profile that I feel most comfortable with but as a private chef you have to be very versatile. It depends on what your clients ask. One day they might want Thai or Indian food. So I feel pretty comfortable in cooking a vast array of culinary paradigms.
JN: You mentioned that you used to cook for a school on the first episode.
GW: The main job I had was at a sorority house. I was Mrs. Garrett for five years.
JN: Now I get it. I thought you were a Facts of Life fan!
GW: No, I worked at Kappa Phi Delta at the Illinois Institute of Technology. I ran that kitchen for those girls making them lunches and dinner Monday through Friday.
JN: “You take the good, you take the bad!”
GW: It was a great job.
JN: What do sorority girls like to eat?
GW: The number one request was tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. If I made that every day you would have fifty screaming girls!
JN: What restaurants did you work at in Chicago?
GW: In Chicago I ran the kitchen at Tweet Restaurant next to Big Chicks. I have worked for Michelle for many years. It was a great place to work. I also work with Dale and Stephanie at La Tache. I also did some catering at a place also ran by a lesbian.
JN: Around the World in 80 Plates seems like a combo of Top Chef, Survivor and The Amazing Race.
GW: Kinda, sorta , yeah (laughs).
JN: How did you audition for it in the first place?
GW: I was approached and scouted. I have an old friend that did a show on Bravo called Thintervention with Jackie Warner. You remember Work Out?
JN: I do. I have interviewed her before.
GW: My friend Bryan Donovan was on her show. He reached out to me and told me they were casting a new show. I said, “No way. I don’t want to make an ass out of myself on national television!” He said, “Calm down, queen. Let me tell you what it is about.” As soon as I heard there was a travel component then I wanted to hear more. That is basically how it all started.
JN: Have you traveled in the past a lot?
GW: Absolutely. Before I became a chef I was a travel agent for many years. I worked in the travel industry for many years and have traveled quite a bit. It was a big fit for me.
JN: How was it working with Cat and Curtis on the show?
GW: They were awesome. They were incredibly generous with their time and just really wonderful chefs to work with.
JN: That Nigella Lawson the food writer seemed pretty tough.
GW: (laughs) No comment but I am a huge fan. I am sure you saw my reaction on the first episode. I have always been a huge fan much like half the world so when she walked into that pub I thought, “Wow, this is really happening.”
JN: I noticed your shirt “Marry Me and Eat Free.” Does this mean you are single?
GW: I am single.
JN: So you are on the market…
GW: (laughs) The funny thing about that shirt, Jerry, is that when I worked at airlines they had all of their employees buying marketing things at the employee shop. One of the t-shirts said, “Marry Me Fly for Free” and that was a running joke for all of the employees there. When the show was green lit then I had that shirt made.
JN: I saw one of the chefs wearing chef pants but they were shorts. That was a first for me.
GW: You can get them in all kinds of styles. It gets really hot in the kitchen so shorts are actually not a bad idea to wear.
JN: You seem to have a great sense of humor on the show. What is it like behind the scenes as an openly gay chef?
GW: I tend to respect every kitchen that I work in but also with a nice level of humor to diffuse the craziness that can arise in most kitchen environments. That is where I pride myself. I am very respectful but also a lot of humor that will transcend any stress.
JN: I have worked in some restaurants where the chefs get very militant so I didn’t think you were one of those kinds of chefs.
GW: No, its just food.
JN: Where are you working now?
GW: I have recently relocated to Los Angeles and have been here for four months. I am cooking for some private clients. I am starting cooking classes very soon. I am looking for the next opportunity for me.
JN: How can people keep up with you?
GW: My website is being built at cheflove.com but people can follow me on Twitter @chefgary.
JN: When are you coming back to Chicago?
GW: I will be back in June for a lesbian wedding. Two of my dearest friends are getting married.
JN: Exciting. Well, we will see you then!
Tune every Wednesday to see what happens. Visit www.bravotv.com for listings and details.