Accidental Chef

Amber Rebold | June 11th, 2024 (Volume 4)
Amber Rebold recounts her unexpected journey from a giggly Sonic slushie lover to competing on a Gordon Ramsey cooking show (season 1 of Next Level Chef), all sparked by an impromptu Instagram post. With no culinary background, she navigated the intense and surreal world of reality TV, facing both the pressures of competition and the harsh glare of public scrutiny. Despite experiencing what she dubs "luxury trauma," Rebold emerged transformed, finding unexpected opportunities in the culinary world and inspiring home cooks everywhere.


So how did not a chef end up competing on a Gordon Ramsey cooking show, thusly becoming a chef? The answer is actually Sonic slushies and uncontrollable giggle fits. I will explain. Two years ago, I was on season one of Gordon Ramsey’s Next Level Chef. And what people ask most of course is, “What’s Gordon like?” But the next question is, “How on earth did somebody with no background in culinary come to compete on a cooking show?” And again, the answer was Sonic slushies and giggle fits. Because in 2019, I was reached out to by a casting director on Instagram saying that they were looking to replace the two dudes who had done the commercials forever. They wanted real customers, like Sonic enthusiasts. Well, if you rewind a little bit, I had recently gone to a Sonic, had a really stupid giggle fit with a girlfriend. I was ordering a flavorless slushy, which is a real thing. Her a sweet tea.
And we just had this crying fit. And for some reason, not only did I post it, I chose to geotag that. And then there I was sitting on my couch checking my DMs, thinking it was a prank, but I was in the casting process for a national TV campaign. And that went on for weeks, which was weird. But eventually, as all things do, it rolled around that the casting directors let me know that alas America was sick of copy paste blondes. And I was like, you know what? Bet. I’m sick of me too. I get it. Thanks for the chance. And they were like, “No, no, no, no.” Her name ironically was Amber. She and her casting partner were like, “We actually love you. We think you’d be great TV. We want to put you on something. Can we stay in touch?” And I was like, “Yes, if you would like to. I would be willing to entertain your offers.”
And so, she reached out several times over the course of months. A bunch of swing and miss things until eventually she calls late one night with great enthusiasm. And she’s like, “What about a Gordon Ramsey cooking show? I see you cooking on your stories.” And I was like, “What are you on? Because I post some time lapses. I’ve set my kitchen on fire a couple times. That does not mean I belong with Uncle Gordon.” And she was like, “No, no, no. That’s the whole point. It’s a new concept. It is home chefs versus the pros. And I can’t tell you more than that, because it’s brand new. But hypothetically, are you interested?” And my first gut reaction was, “No, dude, I don’t want to be your sacrificial lamb.” I think I even said that to her.
But then I was looking around my apartment that I had vacuumed 11 times that day thanks to lockdown, and was like, “Actually, see if I care. Slaughter me on national television. At least it’s not in these four walls.” And then months, I mean months of rigorous essays, interviews, auditions, phone calls, I got approved to go film season one of this TV show. Which brings us to the chapter that I have called Luxury Trauma. And this little term I’ve coined is because when you experience some stuff and it messes with you, but it’s not going to war, it’s not a car crash, it’s not anything that anyone wants to hear was anything less than a privilege. But you’re not right after it. That’s when this happened. I’ll set the scene for you.
So I fly to Las Vegas. I’m in a hot parking lot in a giant tent competing against actual pro culinary beasts. 27 cameras on me, under the watchful eyes of the three biggest names in the food industry. It basically kind of feels like I am playing basketball against Kobe Bryant in front of Michael Jordan. Everyone’s watching, but I’m like an elementary school kid. On top of that, this is peak COVID. So we are testing every morning. We are wearing masks all day. We’re not allowed to talk unless we’re on set. We’re not allowed to go to the gym. We’re not allowed to leave our room for any reason. We’re working like 15 hour days, to which I come home and I’m not sleeping in this hotel room. I’m worried about whether the next day is my dream ingredient or if I’m just going to humiliate myself and go home.
So I was pretty twisted up to say the least. I won’t ruin the season for you, but let’s just say I made it through what I was making through. And there came a period between wrapping up filming and airtime where I found some peace and normalcy back home, until editing and public opinion. But first, my friends and family are so proud of me. They’re expecting this underdog story of triumph from America’s sweetheart. But what they actually got was something more like a really chaotic, loud, blonde Texan who made really good TV, but not the best portrayal of skill or grace probably. And subsequently, to be honest, the hate mail rolled in. Y’all, when I tell you strangers will say the weirdest, darkest, nastiest things to you. I had to quit reading the comments I had to get some thick skin.
My brother and sister had blocks on their calendar to fight with people online. I would get a cute note here, and then it would be like, “Exit the earth.” I got called things like, “Brain dead rat. Britney Spears ordered off Wish. Talentless set up.” You get the point. And at this point, I think it would make a great line of kitchen accessories, but at the time it really broke me. And I had this moment where I was like, who told me this was a good idea? Who thought I could do this? In all seriousness, I got depressed. I was like, what have I done to my life? I’ve humiliated myself. Why on earth did I let anyone con me into thinking this was a good idea? And it just totally broke me for a while.
The good thing is eventually that luxury trauma paid off. When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, all of a sudden I had never had a paid moment in food and people were trying to hire me. I was traveling with my friends I made on the show. I was competing in big competitions with well-known chefs. I had risen from the ashes of all of my luxury trauma. And I was all of a sudden getting to make beautiful food that people took pictures of and smiled over and even cried over sometimes, which is really my favorite.
And then furthermore, I got to be this inspiration for home cooks who found out, “Hey, I can cook for Gordon Ramsey. I can be on TV. I can be gifs, I can be memes.” And that just exploded my heart and made it all seem so worth it. Now that to be said, I still get major imposter syndrome every time I cook. I feel the need to body people at the grocery store for the best looking steak. I still, I’m not kidding, will stay up till 4:00 in the morning randomly just obsessively cooking things over in my head and just fantasizing about cooking for the mentors again, just doing it over. So I’m still kind of experiencing a lot of that luxury trauma, but I’m also living this beautiful story that I never previously imagined. And it is all because I had a horrible giggle fit at the Sonic on South Lamar, where I still absolutely love getting a flavorless slushy.

Amber Rebold
B2B marketing director, private chef & Next Level Chef (Season 1) contestant.