Chris Eversole’s first restaurant job came when he was 17, still in school at Mount Desert Island High School, as a fry cook at Bar Harbor’s Fish House Grill. After a few months of frying fish, shrimp and clams, he was hooked. He knew he wanted to spend his life in a kitchen.
Now, at age 28, he’s one of the 20 chefs chosen as a contestant for the 12th season of “Hell’s Kitchen,” a cooking reality program featuring Gordon Ramsay, airing at 8 p.m. Thursdays on Fox. The fifth episode of the season airs this week, and Eversole so far has survived the chopping block — as well as Chef Ramsay’s notorious barbs.
For Eversole, it all goes back to those first formative years cooking on the island.
“When I was growing up in Southwest Harbor I had two older brothers who worked in restaurants, and they always described to me how much fun it was,” said Eversole. “Creating a dish and seeing people’s reaction to it is incredibly rewarding. You get to work with your hands, but there’s a mental aspect to it, too. I knew it’s what I wanted to do.”
Eversole moved his way up the line at the Fish House — from fry cook to saute to expediting to grill, before he finally began running the line around age 20.
“I’m a perfectionist. I always have been,” said Eversole, who still has lots of family in Maine, including his brother Eric, who is a chef at Azure Cafe in Freeport.
After the Fish House, Eversole began working at the now-closed Island Chowder House in Bar Harbor before eventually deciding to head west. He first landed at Lake Tahoe, Nev., cooking at the Kirkwood Mountain Ski Resort, and then headed to California, where he worked on Catalina Island. After a brief stint cooking in the Virgin Islands, Eversole came home to Bar Harbor, where he worked on a yacht on the island for a summer before heading back west to Las Vegas.
“I told myself, ‘If I really want to make it big as a chef, I should probably go to Las Vegas,’” he said. “There are so many opportunities here.”
In Las Vegas, Eversole has worked at places including the Todd English Pub and the Public House at the Venetian. It was there that he was first noticed by “Hell’s Kitchen” producers and was invited to audition for the show. On the show, he has already stood out, earning points right off the bat for a well-executed Cornish game hen on the first episode — though he came close to being eliminated in episode three.
“As intense as my experience on ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ has been so far, I’m still able to separate myself from the mental anxiety and pressure of working with a Michelin star chef,” said Eversole. “Nonetheless, it’s certainly different when the chef I’m cooking for happens to be my culinary idol.”
Eversole describes his culinary style as rooted in classic French cuisine, and more geared towards big, bold, savory flavors. But with every new kitchen he works in, he says he learns something new.
“The skills you need to execute a dish flawlessly is something that is always fascinating to me,” said Eversole. “A good chef learns something new every day, whether he or she is a fry cook or a Michelin star chef.”