EXCLUSIVE: Kamal Grant on Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars Elimination and His Dream Team

Exclusive with Gordon Ramsay's Food Stars contestant Kamal Grant.
Photo Credit: FOX

Season 2 of Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars is bringing the heat. During the third episode, Kamal Grant was eliminated after Team Vanderpump failed to wow the judges with their bar.

For this season, the FOX show features Gordon Ramsay and Lisa Vanderpump. These titans in the restaurant industry have competing teams. In the end, the last remaining contestant will win $250,000.

Kamal pitched his product, Magic Middles, during the premiere episode. Lisa liked the idea and added Kamal to Team Vanderpump. The second challenge for the competition involved creating an immersive bar experience. Team Vanderpump went with a riff on Bridgerton. When Team Ramsay won, Lisa’s team went to The Grilling. And there was plenty of tension among the team members.

Kamal was called out for not greeting guests at the door. Then Lisa decided to send Kamal home for not executing that task.

Reality Tea spoke with Kamal about his experience on Food Stars, why he thought his team lost the bar challenge, and what he regretted about the show.

How did Kamal get his start in the food industry?

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“I am from Marietta, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. [I] always wanted to be a baker growing up my whole life. So, I went into the Navy to get money for college,” Kamal told us.

“I traveled the world [and] baked in the Navy. Then after the Navy, I went to the Culinary Institute of America and learned baking and the pastry arts there. Didn’t really love the baking science of it, so I went to the American Institute of Baking, [and] learned baking science there. Then worked for Flowers Baking Company in Atlanta, Georgia, where I was a production supervisor running big bread lines,” Kamal said.

He continued, “Then decided …  I wanted to open up my own little thing. Saw this little doughnut shop … for lease, and said, ‘You know what? Let me give it a shot. Take it over.’ So this was 16 years ago and we’ve been rocking and rolling ever since. Growing the doughnut shop here, Sublime Doughnuts,” Kamal said.

Kamal wanted to try something fun

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But then Kamal felt that he wanted a challenge. “I love creating a fun product and figuring out how to market that fun product. So, how can I just do that? I was like, ‘Maybe I want to put a product on store shelves since I’ve got all this classical training. Maybe I can take a product and make it better,’” the pastry chef stated.

“So, I was thinking, what is something that I really loved as a kid? Then I remembered Magic Middles, this cookie I used to eat growing up and loved it. And then [I] had fond memories before that of my grandmother making a [similar] cookie, which made me like the Magic Middles that Keebler made,” Kamal told us.

“So, really loved that cookie and decided, you know, let me see if the trademark is there. It was available, so I decided to buy the trademark and reverse engineering it from memory. Finally came out with it, and now we got Magic Middles. So, trying to just promote these Magic Middles and get more Magic Middle love,” Kamal stated. “And with the whole 90s nostalgia … we’re doing a lot of fun things like riffs on 90s songs, creating a 90s video game app that will have the little guy going around eating cookies.”

How Kamal pitched Magic Middles to Lisa and Gordon

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“Right now we just have the original flavor. It’s crispy cookie outside [and] chocolatey filling inside. So, that’s the idea to come up with a range of flavors,” Kamal explained. “The success of the doughnut shop – we got like 20, 30 flavors up there. And do that with the cookies also.”

He continued, “So, that was part of my pitch to show them all the fun flavors that I had and then we can partner up with celebrities or chefs, and do a flavor for them. So, I did a flavor with Gordon Ramsay on the package. It was a sticky toffee pudding one. So that could be fun.”

Kamal added, “And then I had one with Lisa where it was a dog biscuit because she really loves dogs. The Magic Middles is just a cookie with a filling, so it can be anything.”

How Kamal’s grandmother inspired his business

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Kamal’s memories of his grandmother, coupled with some 90s nostalgia, inspired his business. “My grandmother used to make a cookie that was similar to this. It was a shortbread, sort of butter cookie that she would fill with chocolate chips and then close. When you’d eat them fresh from the oven, you know, the ooey-gooey chocolate would come out, and with the crispy cookie outside. So, it was really delicious,” Kamal shared. “I really loved that cookie, and then she passed away.”

Then Kamal noticed that Keebler made a similar cookie. “So really eating that throughout the 90s and my childhood, [I] had fond memories of my grandmother. And now that I’m a big, fancy pastry chef I was like, ‘You know what? Maybe I could bring it back and hopefully give the fond memories back to everybody else,’” he said.

Kamal steps out of his comfort zone

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Eventually, Kamal stepped out of his comfort zone to go on TV to promote Magic Middles. “I’ve never thought of myself being on a reality TV show, so it was a weird experience. Obviously [I wanted] to promote the brand and let the world know about this brand. The thing about owning your own business for so many years … owning your own business is like being on your own private island,” he explained. “So you only meet people on this island that come to your island. You never leave the island. So to be able to leave the island and go experience different things and go to an actual island, the UK, was fantastic.”

While in London, Kamal made it a point to enjoy some special dishes. “I like to eat the most unique foods, so obviously I looked up what is unique to London. So, I went to a fish and chips shop. Obviously, I got the fish and chips, but I made sure I got the jellied eels, too, you know?” Kamal said. “People skip out on the jellied eels, so you’ve got to try those. Very unique. I don’t know if I would eat those on the regular, but it was delightful.” He added, “It was better than the pickled egg.”

Why Kamal felt that Team Vanderpump was a strong team

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What was the most important lesson that Kamal learned from Food Stars? “Committing to your ideas. I mean that’s sort of what I’ve been doing here for all these years. You know you have an idea you keep committing to it. That was sort of the advice you got,” he said.

And Kamal felt that Team Vanderpump was strong for several reasons. “From what I see, we all really worked together well. So, that was good. You know obviously, I just got let go semi-early, so I don’t know if things started falling apart later. But it seemed to be a strong team right there,” Kamal told us.

“We all seemed to be able to work together and talk amongst ourselves. Everybody seemed to have a positive attitude and wanted the team’s success. People want individual success because only one person gets $250,000. But you realize to get the individual success you need team success first,” he said. “So, it seemed like we were on that same path from my short time on the show. I don’t know what happened later.”

Did not having a team leader hurt Team Vanderpump in the challenge?

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“I don’t think so. Some organizations don’t need a team leader. You know, like if people know how to work together, we don’t need someone saying ‘Hey do this, do this.’ And I think we did a great job. I still find it hard to believe what these judges judged,” Kamal stated.

“Obviously, it’s their judging and someone had to lose, but I think probably the way we lost was just small details. I think we did an outstanding job throughout that task and we completed it.”

Kamal continued, “Everyone was happy. Even random people from the bar … guests have hit me up on Instagram and DM’d me. Like ‘Oh my God. Remember me? You served me that drink. You were so great! I hope you did well on the show.’ And I hate to tell them, ‘Oh well. Actually, that’s the episode I’m gone. But thank you for that.’ People seemed to like the experience they had. I don’t think anybody didn’t have an enjoyable experience,” he remarked.

Creating a themed experience

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Kamal felt that the theme that Team Vanderpump selected was a good one. “You know, I loved [my] medieval idea. I think we would have killed it. But the team wasn’t buying into my idea, and I wasn’t about to start acting crazy and yelling and standing on top of tables. I think the Bridgerton idea was a great idea,” Kamal said.

“I mean, I think everybody had a great experience. The Pour Palace isn’t a great name. But the experience was great.” Kamal continued, “Obviously we could have made the experience better. Maybe I should have committed to the first idea and introduced everybody as they came in the door, Bridgerton-style. So that would have been maybe a little bit better.”

The pastry chef did find some humor in the situation. “But my man Andrew [Whiting], he did a great job over there [Team Ramsay]. I joke around [after] I got kicked out. You know, I text him now and said, ‘You out-door-manned me, man. Andrew – you’re the one. It’s your fault! If only I was a better doorman, I could have still been there.’ But it’s cool,” Kamal said.

What Kamal regrets from the show

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“I mean, you know, seeing the show and realizing that obviously I got dinged on not being at the door because I was trying to bus all the tables and make sure everybody had a good time,” Kamal explained. “And greet the guests and talk to them. If I’d known it was just as simple as standing at the door and opening up the door, I could have done that all day. That would have been way easier because it was so hot running around bussing all those tables.”

He added, “So if all I had to do was stand at the door and open up the door … that’s not a problem. For $250,000 I would take that rather than doing the other thing.”

Kamal still felt that tending to the customers was most important. “So, I just kept thinking in my head, ‘They’re going to yell at me if I stand at the door the whole night and watch people’s tables fill up with glasses. That’s what they’re going to yell at me [about].’ Like ‘You stood at the door like a statue.’ So it is that weird thing like if I would have done that, would I have gotten dinged? Or not? So … who knows?” Kamal said.

He continued, “I was kind of … thinking it was still a longshot to win the money when I was out there. The only thing I really regretted about leaving the show early was not being able to do more of the competitions because I enjoyed that. Doing the competitions and then traveling to different places in the U.K. to do these things. And the producers for the show they were all amazing,” Kamal added.

Why being on camera was an adjustment for Kamal

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“That is a weird experience having constant cameras on you and constant mics on you, too. And you want to be loosey-goosey and you’re like ‘Hold up now,'” the Food Stars contestant stated. “Obviously we’re very aware of the cameras because they’re always there but you do kind of loosen up to them after, you know, an hour. You’re just like, ‘We have work to be done. Let’s do work.’ And you sort of just naturally mellow into how you would interact in real life with certain situations. Even watching the show it’s interesting seeing, ‘Is that what I do? Huh. Interesting. I did not know that,’” Kamal said.

“Reality shows. It’s so much. There’s so many things going on. It’s such a mess! Trying to work with people, but then you know certain people got different agendas.” Kamal continued, “My agenda was always let’s work as a team. Team success. Group success can lead to individual success soon enough, you know what I’m saying? And you know, other people were playing different games. And I guess I lost.”

While some of his fellow contestants hoped to be on either Gordon’s or Lisa’s team, Kamal didn’t have a preference. “I think they’re both extremely great entrepreneurs and this is about building a successful business. It kind of doesn’t matter. They’re both great. As long as I’m on a team, and as long as the team is cool. You know what I’m saying?” he said.

Tension on Team Vanderpump

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Food Stars viewers noticed that there was some tension between Kamal and Nicholas Ducos. “He was doing some weird stuff. You can kind of tell people who came, they watch all these reality shows and they’re coming bringing a reality show mentality to it … I don’t watch many of these shows, so I just brought in a ‘I just want to work as a team’ mentality,” Kamal explained.

“It did seem like he was doing things to make my voice not heard. Not only when the cameras were rolling but even outside of the show. I’m not going to sit here fighting with people. I know who I am, and I’ve been who I am for many years,” he said.

“[Nicholas] did seem like he was playing that game … and maybe it worked because I was the first person gone from our team. So, I guess he played the reality show game well,” Kamal added.

“I kind of had a sense that he would be doing something – like he would try to throw me under the bus. And he tried to throw me under the bus. He was on some snake stuff, and I kind of saw that,” the former Team Vanderpump member said.

“That’s the thing, you know, with a snake. Obviously, somebody’s got to cut the grass. I had to cut the grass, and I got bit by the snake. So, it revealed the snake, but it seems like later everybody kind of realized, ‘Oh. This guy Kamal was actually pretty cool.’ [Nicholas] was the one that was the snake.”

Kamal picks his Food Stars Dream Team

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Picking members for his Food Stars Dream Team was a challenge. “I loved everybody, so who would be the best people? Andrew, Jess [Druey], Roman [Desmond], Erica [Levin], Liz [Aust], and my man Tyler [Dirks]. There we go,” Kamal said.

The doughnut shop owner is still in touch with several Food Stars contestants. “I keep up with Andrew. Kyson [Clark]. A few people I keep up with. I need to talk to ‘ole Tyler. See what Tyler is up to.”

Kamal also named his picks to win Food Stars. “That’s a tough one. I would say Andrew – I think Andrew is really great. And Jess from our team, I think she’s great. But Andrew and Jess, I could see them both in the finals,” Kamal said. “They seem to be great and really positive, and good people. And really go-getters. So, I could see that.”

This interview was edited for conciseness and clarity.

Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars airs on Wednesdays at 9/8c on FOX.