Niagara Gazette — Before Bobby Anderson made his television debut on a popular network cooking show, he dealt with problems similar to those many youths face on urban streets. It was his passion for cooking that saved his life.
Growing up in Niagara Falls in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Anderson says that he spent a lot of time running with the wrong crowd. Eventually he began to see that he needed a way out if he was going to have any kind of a future.
“Cooking gave me a way out. It gave me an opportunity to become who I am now. I learned not to run from the past,” the self-taught Anderson said. “I had a great life but ... the same place I used to be comfortable in wasn’t comfortable anymore.”
Though he has spent the past three decades in the food industry, starting as a dishwasher and eventually working his way up to the position of chef at several highly rated area restaurants and hotels, Anderson got his biggest break when he was selected to be a contestant on the competitive cooking show “Hell’s Kitchen.”
“ ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ changed my life in two ways. First, it humbled me. It taught me that I wasn’t the best chef in the world,” Anderson explained. “Working with (Chef) Gordon Ramsay taught me a lot too. I didn’t know the metric system, I didn’t know about a lot of ingredients.”
Anderson almost made it to the end of the show’s fourth season, which aired in 2008, before he was eliminated in the 11th episode.
Though his time on TV was cut short, Anderson is still cooking. Now living in Kenmore, he has recently taken to using his skills in a different way — as part of a new program at Niagara Falls High School and LaSalle Prepatory School that seeks to assist city kids with many aspects of their lives, from literacy to lifestyle.