Next Level Chef Will Make You Fall in Love With Nyesha Arrington

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It wouldn't be a stretch to call Chef Nyesha Arrington Next Level Chef's breakout star.

She's beautiful, talented, passionate, the epitome of grace, and real. The exact laidback authenticity that comes across in the heated moments onscreen is what you can expect when you speak to the woman in person.

And TV Fanatic had the distinct pleasure and privilege of speaking with Arrington over Zoom. Unfortunately, to our utter heartbreak and dismay and because of a series of misfortunes, we lost our footage of this truly fantastic interview.

Chef Nyesha Arrington -tall

It would've been a privilege to share the full half-hour chat with Nyesha with TV Fanatics because one thing is abundantly clear, America has fallen in love with Nyesha Arrington. After time spent with her one-on-one, it's understandable why that is.

The lasting impression that she leaves on others hasn't eluded her. She was amused when she shared how, from Los Angeles to New York City, it's nothing to hear new fans calling "Chef Nyesha" out to her and expressing their passion and love for her and the series.

She's garnered so many new fans, and it's well deserved as audiences and viewers respond well to her mixed blend of tough love and encouragement.

Arrington made a fan out of Ramsay too. She recalls the times she met him before, the first being when he visited her kitchen, and she was very much a big fan of his.

Next Level Chef Judges

And he was a fan of hers. His people reached out to her later, and she was a guest on Master-Chef: Legends.

We vividly recall the rib-eye challenge during the most recent season, so it's not a surprise that Ramsay showed more interest in Arrington and approached her about Next Level Chef, too.

She's unquestionably thrilled that she agreed to the series. It's clocking in as the number one series in the coveted 18-49 demographic and a bonafide hit on FOX. While she's not surprised that people enjoy the series so much, the pure love for Next Level Chef and its massive success excites her.

I inquired as to what it was about this series that resonates with the audience so much and has viewers coming back for more.

Arrington expressed that the series probably resonates with individuals because of the contestants and their stories and passion. The allure of how relatable the cheftestants are is gripping for viewers.

Nyesha Focuses -tall- Next Level Chef

I agreed, praising the series for its encouragement and hopeful tone that touches something in the masses, especially during a pandemic time when things are bleak. The human experience of the series is poignant, and everyone makes you root for them.

Arrington also mentioned the intrigue and significance of the levels. She geeked out a bit about the construction and setup of the multi-level platform and the dumbwaiter that drops from top to bottom.

It's an incredible sight in person, and it's almost its own personality on the series.

For me, the three-level setup is intriguing, but it's the bottom level that stands out most. I mentioned how the country is at a high point with food insecurity with inflation affecting how individuals shop and consume.

Next Level Chef's Queen -tall

However, there's something gratifying about chefs showing how they can take basic utensils and equipment and sometimes what isn't traditionally deemed low-quality food products and create works of art and delicious cuisine.

It's inspiring that people are capable of great dishes at any level.

Arrington shared that the levels feel very representative of a chef's journey in the industry. She remembers starting at the bottom level, in kitchens not unlike that on the series, peeling potatoes.

The levels are a marker of the humble journey of becoming a chef -- how the levels show that you can place someone at any level, and it doesn't matter... because if they are passionate enough and can make the best out of any situation, their passion, skill, and determination will lead them to success.

Next Level Chef Contestants

At Next Level Chef's core is this focus on mentorship with a series of "cheftestants," as Arrington calls them, not unlike what she was once upon a time.

It's not Arrington's first foray into reality cooking competitions. She hails from Top Chef, and she's been on others series, as well.

It's her experience on the other side of the table, facing the scrutiny and judgment of icons and mentors in the culinary world, that gives her an edge on Next Level Chef.

It wasn't that long ago that she, too, was a cheftestant, and it gives her a unique ability to understand how the Next Level contestants feel and what they're trying to overcome and prove.

Judges and Mentors -tall

And for Nyesha, it falls in line with her mentorship style. She prides herself in her ability to adapt to the needs of her mentees. She understands which style they're most responsive to, and she works around that.

The chameleon-like quality of that does resonate with both the cheftestants and viewers who have the fortune of witnessing it on the series. It's perhaps why many respond so well and gravitate to Arrington.

She has an undeniable competitive spirit that coincides with the drive instilled in her by her father. Coming from the sports world, that combination of both is reflective of how she tackles the culinary world and this reality series.

But noticeably, that competitive spirit falls second to her passionate stance on mentorship. I shared that you could tell how seriously she takes mentoring.

Chef Arrington

While it's apparent she wants the winner of the series to derive from her original team, she prioritizes teaching and molding her mentees over everything else.

And make no mistake, she admitted that she was like a mother hen to her "babies," and even though the groups have dispersed and the mentors don't have their designated cheftestants anymore, she wants someone from her former team to take it home.

Arrington agreed that mentorship was the driving force behind her signing on for the gig. It's something she feels strongly about and a role she finds incredibly important in the industry.

She credits all the mentors in her life for their influence on her, from growing up in the kitchen with her grandmother teaching her how to cook to her father and esteemed individuals in the industry.

Studying Kenny -tall - Next Level Chef

All of them left an impact on her and her culinary career. She knows how invaluable a good mentor is, and she strives to be that for others.

You can sense how strongly she feels about reaching a hand back and helping others to achieve their dreams too. Some of that is rooted in the importance of representation.

We discussed at length the importance of diversity and representation in the industry and how powerful it is that Next Level Chef highlights that so well with a series where the contestants' cultures and experiences are on the plate and celebrated.

Arrington shared how the culinary world is constantly evolving and that there has been a definitive shift since she was coming up in the industry and her culinary school days in the early 2000s.

Heated Comp -tall - Next Level Chef

White-cloth fine dining isn't the only norm these days. There is an expansion of the family-style niche previously reserved for special days or one-night and the kitchen staff, coming to the forefront with everyone bringing their culture into the field more.

I expressed that there has always seemed to be an elitism to the culinary field. Nyesha noted that with more diversity and the shifts made, we're seeing the recognition of how a Caribbean dish (and she used Reule's "Rasta Pasta") is every bit as profound up against fine French cuisine.

For Arrington, cooking is art, and she certainly has the experience, love, and an appreciation for art in all its forms.

Cooking is culture, and through the culture and art of cooking, we best see a reflection of humanity. It's where and how we keep track of society.

Arrington acknowledged the challenges of being both a woman and a person of color in a predominately white male industry.

She recalls the type of microaggressions that crop up, such as people who didn't think she was the chef at her restaurant and her cooks having to inform the doubters, or the many times where her visions were not respected.

However, it's not something of which Arrington dwells on in the least or gives too much focus, as she'd rather forge ahead and make her mark.

It aligns with her advice for aspiring chefs who want to get into the industry. First and foremost, she recommends following the passion and not shying away from the hard work.

But in a vital piece of advice, she also emphasizes the importance of self-care. The culinary field is demanding, and there is a distinction between determination and putting in the work versus getting so consumed in the daily grind that it comes at one's expense and health.

Nyesa Smiles -tall - Next Level Chef

She says it is especially notable for the Black community, who are prone to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Arrington shared how easy it is to get consumed in that daily ground of working endless hours, not getting enough sleep or enough to eat, and how burnout is a very real thing.

Passion, focus, and self-care are among the pearls of wisdom she has for aspiring chefs coming up behind her.

Nyesha Arrington is a trailblazer and inspires, and yes, she's lovable as heck.

Don't forget to tune into the Next Level Chef season finale Wednesday at 9/8c on FOX if you want to get your fill of this beautiful talent and learn who takes home the title.

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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