For those of you wondering about Colleen I found a story about her in the Omaha paper. It turns out her speciality is teaching home cooks and she’s actually never worked on a line like in Hell’s Kitchen. Here is a segment from the story.
**Though she’d waited tables, she’d never worked in a restaurant kitchen. She’d taken cooking classes. Her training had mostly come from cookbooks and practice. And while few doubted her passion or enthusiasm, many still doubted her ability.
So Cleek hired Cory Guyer, then sous chef at M’s Pub, as the Classy Gourmet’s executive chef. She leaned on him, learned from him and began enticing other local chefs to teach.
Though some derided the school as something less than serious about food, the Classy Gourmet became — and remains — a soft landing for chefs in between jobs.
And those guest chefs drew not just home cooks but culinary professionals. Even Trebbien, a nationally certified culinary administrator and educator, took classes there.
Brian O’Malley, chef instructor at the culinary institute at Metro, taught and did some catering at the Classy Gourmet in 2003. He recalled Cleek as energetic, driven and personable — with a fierce work ethic.
“We’d be out at a catering event for 20 hours and we’d get back to the shop, and it was no dump-and-run,” he recalled. “She’d be washing everything up and putting it all away. . . . She’s always got another hour in her.”
O’Malley credits Cleek for filling an educational void locally for good home cooks who want to become gourmet cooks. Cleek considers time spent with guest chefs those first two years as her culinary boot camp. She stood at their elbows. She wrote recipes and prep cooked for them. She soaked it all up.
One night, when a guest chef couldn’t make it, Cleek led a class. Emboldened, she offered her own down-home cooking series. Everything flowed from there.
Her classes, held nights when most chefs couldn’t leave restaurants, started to fill.
She offered herself to local media as a cooking source. She taped her own “Classy Gourmet Cooking Show,” got it on local cable and passed copies of it to anyone who’d take one.
She started writing recipes and, eventually, food columns for local magazines.
She still seriously considered culinary school. But when she weighed the time commitment and tuition, she decided she’d rather pour the money and effort into her Web site.
“I’ve never looked back,” she said. “And I do call myself a chef now.”
In late 2006, “Hell’s Kitchen” e-mailed the Classy Gourmet and culinary schools across the country inviting chefs to apply.
After ignoring several e-mails — and after her children clarified that this was “the show you won’t let us watch because the guy curses” — Cleek sent in a short application.**
And it seems she wasn’t even that eager to appear on the show in the first place.
**When “Hell’s Kitchen” staff wanted more information, Cleek balked. She didn’t have time for a 30-page questionnaire. She sent them video of her show. When they wanted her to buy a ticket to Los Angeles or Denver to meet the producers, she declined.
When she finally agreed to a Chicago meeting in April 2007, she showed up with her knives, expecting to cook privately for Ramsay. But she ended up standing in line for about eight hours to interview and felt like a fool.
After more false starts — calls that sounded promising followed by weeks of silence, and one week in Los Angeles with a few dozen other finalists and no guarantees — she was selected as a contestant and told taping would be in L.A. in early 2008. On Nov. 3, 2007, she got her ticket and a surprise in the mail: She was leaving in four days for who knew how long.**