If you keep watching TV after the Super Bowl wraps up on Fox this Sunday, you’ll catch the season debut of Gordon Ramsay’s “Next Level Chef” – a show featuring 18 contestants from all over the country.
Among them is 23-year-old Nuri Muhammed, better known in Upper Marlboro as “Chef Stretch.”
“The experience for me was even more amazing than what I expected,” Stretch told WTOP. “All the way from just being on set, filming, the wardrobe, makeup, audio, every morning, you really feel like a true superstar.”
Every day was a “wow, I’m really here” moment for Muhammed, who was 22 when the show was filmed last fall.
On the show, the various competing chefs are grouped into three teams separated into three kitchens. One gets to work in the high-end, top-of-the-line kitchen with the best cookware and the first choice of ingredients. One gets to work in a more typical restaurant kitchen, with second choice of what to cook with.
The team working in the basement has the worst cookware, and all the ingredients the other cooks didn’t want to work with.
“It’s completely messed up,” said Muhammed, of working in the basement. “If you put out trash in the basement, you’ll be” called out, he added. “Sometimes throughout the season some of the most amazing dishes come from the basement.”
Chef Stretch grew up watching all the different cooking shows on TV, from Food Network competitions, to Ramsay’s different shows. And he admitted the traits you might most associate with Gordon Ramsay — the yelling and the temper — were on his mind when he joined the show.
But he also spoke highly of Ramsay.
“He’s really, honestly, a most amazing person,” said Muhammed. “He’s not always just yelling and screaming, especially in this competition it’s more of a mentorship aspect.”
Being on the show gave Muhammed the chance to live out a childhood dream, after growing up and pretending to be on the same sorts of shows he’s now competing in.
“It’s a little different pretending and then having these real cameras and real people and chefs talking to you in your face, and you’ve got to cook and talk and not make a fool of yourself,” he said with a smile. But all that daydreaming and pretending “helped and played a big role.”
So what’s Chef Stretch’s “Next Level” once the show is over? If all goes as planned, you’ll be able to buy a bottle of your favorite Chef Stretch cooking sauce at the grocery store, when you’re not eating at the restaurant he dreams of opening somewhere in the Bowie or Upper Marlboro area.
“Giving back to the community that got me where I am now today,” said Chef Stretch. “That’s what’s next for me for sure. And it’s going to look as good as it tastes,” he added with a smile.