Meet LaJuan Ramsey: From the NFL to winning ‘Chef Wanted’

Former USC Trojans and NFL defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey has flourished in his second career as a sous chef at Morel’s French Steakhouse & Bistro at The Grove in Los Angeles.

He has done so well, in fact, that on Thursday night he represented football players everywhere on Food Network’s Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell.

Not only did he compete, but he actually won the whole thing.

Ready for a few fun facts about the sports world’s biggest (literally: He was listed at 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds in college) culinary sensation?

  • Ramsey is a native of Compton, Calif. and played his high school football at Dominguez.
  • Interestingly, Ramsey was a public policy, management and planning major at USC – not exactly hitting the kitchen very hard.
  • He was named Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 as a senior.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles selected him in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
  • He accumulated 24 tackles and one interception in 19 career games with five different teams (Eagles, 49ers, Colts, Titans, Rams).

He explained to Food Network how he got into cooking. It was rather simple, really.

You started your culinary career much later than most chefs. Coming from playing football, what did you find most appealing about the culinary world when you decided to make that your next career?

You know, my NFL career ended abruptly, and I was searching for ANYTHING to do that I loved, and then it just hit me, I LOVE to COOK. So I just dove in and dedicated myself. I have experienced marginal success in it so far.

He also talked about how football helped him win the prestigious competition.

Except for some issues with the expeditor and a backlog in getting orders out, you ran a pretty strong dinner service that showed your leadership skills, which inevitably impressed Christy and Cori. Do you think your background in football helped? And what were you expecting from your staff?

I definitely think my football playing career helped me a lot in dealing with the pressures of dinner service. I’m used to playing in front of 100,000 fans, so cooking in a kitchen wasn’t that intimidating. I enjoyed the overall dinner service, however, I was getting a little frustrated from the expediter because I knew what kind of control and approach he needed to take in order to run a smooth ticket time and dinner service, but he just wasn’t comfortable in the beginning with barking out orders and controlling the food runners and wait staff.