Jillian Flathers is putting her stamp on the menu at one of the region's popular restaurants.
Flathers, who jumped into the culinary limelight during Season 8 of Gordon Ramsay's competitive show "Hell's Kitchen," is creating new recipes and presenting innovative dishes at Freddy's Steakhouse in Hammond.
The chef joined fellow Freddy's chef Martin Gomez in the kitchen in December, and said she's honored and happy to be on the team at Freddy's, a steakhouse that has won raves in Hammond for five decades.
"I want to make the menu more exciting, fresh and healthy," said Flathers during a recent interview at the restaurant. The menu will still focus on its popular steaks, chops and other supper club-like fare but Flathers said she wants to add a "bit more seafood and more sauces," which she enjoys creating.
Flathers, who grew up in Southfield, Mich., previously worked at The Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza and also at a fine dining restaurant in Colorado. A Griffith resident, Flathers recently returned to the region to be closer to her family.
The chef's love affair with the culinary industry began when she was a teen.
"I started working in a restaurant when I was 13 years old and worked as a buser," she said, adding she became a prep cook at 14 years old and a line cook when she was 18.
Flathers has a down-to-earth cooking philosophy and believes in working hard.
"I believe you should take pride in the food you cook and make it beautiful," she said.
Prior to Flathers' appearance on "Hell's Kitchen," she said she never missed an episode of the popular series.
"I was an avid fan. I watched 'Hell's Kitchen' for all seven seasons before."
Flathers, 32, auditioned for the show when Ramsay's team came to Chicago in 2009 and after she made the cut, the shows featuring Flathers aired in 2010.
"It was a four-audition process and 12,500 people auditioned for the show that year," she said.
Flathers remained a favorite of television viewers as well as Ramsay during the competition. "I made it all the way to the next to the last episode," she said.
While television viewers see a wild and caustic Ramsay on "Hell's Kitchen," Flathers said she "was never afraid" of him.
"He loved me," Flathers said, with a laugh, explaining that Ramsay liked her positive attitude and the fact she wasn't afraid to work hard or even stand up to him.
"I always worked hard and knew what I was doing," Flathers said. She tackled many dishes she'd never made before and was successful with them. "And I always asked questions. If you ask him (Ramsay) questions, he'll teach you," she said.
Freddy's general manager Valerie Martinelli, who knew Flathers from working with her at The Radisson at Star Plaza, encouraged the young chef to join the team at Freddy's Steakhouse. Martinelli was previously the food and beverage manager at The Radisson.
Martinelli said she admired Flather's abilities as a chef. "We wanted her here because she's passionate about food. And I think her natural talent is very abundant," she said. Martinelli and Freddy's owners Jim and Tammy Kamradt have a new vision for the restaurant and Flathers talents align with that.
"We want to do some updating," Martinelli said, adding that applies to a fresh look for not only the menu but the interior as well.
Flathers, the mother of two sons - Dylan, 12, and Collin, 9 - said her children enjoy the recipes she creates for them.
"My youngest son Collin wants to be a chef," she said adding that he'd like to be on Fox's "Masterchief Junior," which features Ramsay, Joe Bastianich and Chicago's Graham Elliott as judges.
Area food fans can meet Flathers and enjoy dishes from her menu during the upcoming "An Evening with Jillian Flathers" from 6 to 10 p.m. Jan. 23. Tickets for the event are $49.95. Visitfreddyssteakhousehammond.com or call (219) 844-1500.