So the thing about Minnesota is, if someone in popular culture has even the most tenuous connection to our home state, we will talk about them like they’ve lived on our block their entire life. They are officially One of Us.
For example: You, normal person from Not Here, may think of Chris Pratt as the actor from Parks & Recreation or Guardians of the Galaxy. But those From Here can’t help but note that this Hollywood superstar lived on the Iron Range when he was a toddler, which no doubt set him up for career success. One of Us. Then they bring up Lizzo or Prince.
On that note, we’d like to point out that one of Surly’s employees is currently cleaning up on MasterChef, airing this summer on Fox.
Kyle Hopkins is Surly’s market manager in Kansas and Missouri. A veteran of the hospitality industry and lifelong cook, Hopkins auditioned for the show before coming on at Surly and got the callback this spring. He’s already won an immunity challenge and displayed some truly sweet dance moves for the Gordon Ramsey-hosted series. That’s right: Despite living in Kansas City, Kyle is One of Us.
We asked him about the parts of the experience he can talk about (the show’s still airing, no spoilers are contained within) as well as the path that led him to both Surly and reality television.
How long have you been cooking beyond noodles and Prego?
KH: Third or fourth grade. I was a smartass, fancied myself a young Gordon Ramsey and liked to critique my mom’s weeknight meals. When one of her pot roasts didn’t turn out and I said something, she said “Why don’t you try it?” So, I did. I got a kids’ cookbook and went from there. I loved it.
After high school I worked in college bars with 10-cent wing nights and for high-end catering companies where money was no object—wagyu beef, caviar, you name it. Saw all sides of the kitchen experience.
What led to you trying out for MasterChef?
KH: Unemployment. I got laid off from my old beer industry job during the pandemic, so my wife and I figured why not. Not too long after my audition, Surly hired me. Then a few months later I got the call.
I’m sure you’re tired of answering this, but what is Gordon Ramsay really like?
KH: He smells like a man worth money. Cologne pays to wear him.
I should note that he’s not that mean, he just has standards. Meet those standards and it’s all good.
How did it feel to win the immunity challenge?
KH: The challenge was to prepare State Fair food. I’m from the Midwest. The premiere culinary event in the country is the Minnesota State Fair. Come on, man. I had to represent. (Kyle’s dish was Beer Battered Lobster Fries with Fennel Slaw and Tarragon Beer Vinaigrette.)
There is no shortage of televised cooking competitions. What is something about a program like MasterChef that viewers don’t see?
KH: How close the competitors get. You’re all going through what can sometimes feel like a televised hazing. You have 45 minutes to make this dish, go. Nothing bonds you like stress.
Also, I know these shows have a reputation for being heavily edited, but reality TV is more real than I thought it would be. What you’re seeing is what happened.
Where did you get those sweet dance moves?
KH: Genetics, baby. Also, an incident at our annual Surly sales retreat paired with a mimosa at 5:45 AM. I can say no more.
Did you win?
KH: Tune in to find out!
New episodes air Wednesday evenings on your local Fox affiliate.
(Image courtesy FOXFLASH.)