Hopefully, Fort Mill's Lisa LaFranca will have as much luck - or as thick a skin - as the one and only Lou Petrozza.
The Fox TV show "Hell's Kitchen" announced Monday that LaFranca, 48, is one of the 16 contestants for the show's eighth season.
In 2008, it was Winthrop University cook Petrozza, a mercurial, lovable nice guy - among a few chum-feeding chefs ready to stick a carving knife in somebody's back to win - who took America's TV watchers of kitchen abuse by storm.
Before his appearance on the show, Petrozza was just another 47-year-old cook hustling a living at Winthrop University's kitchens. He was balding and had a gut that stuck out.
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But that was before TV. That was before fame. That was before Brooklyn-born Petrozza was the last man standing through the "Hell's Kitchen" season to the last episode, when a cold-blooded vixen defeated him.
Many of the hundreds watching that last show at a Charlotte hotel booed Petrozza's bridesmaid finish that July 2008 night, and I was one of them. There were screams, yells, insults. Glasses were shattered. Hangovers were born.
But not from Lou Petrozza - a humble, smiling, star was born.
Leggy coeds and pimply frat boys called out on the Winthrop campus and in the dining hall: "Petrozza!" "Louuuuu!" And for geeks out there, somebody even created a Facebook page dedicated solely to Petrozza's being robbed by the judges.
Winthrop might have named a building that cost millions after its president, Anthony DiGiorgio, but in those heady days during and after "Hell's Kitchen," Petrozza was the star of the campus.
"It wasn't bad," admitted Petrozza, who started out in restaurants as a teen-aged dishwasher.
Petrozza's charm turned into a run of TV appearances, a deal with a California sun-dried tomato company and, most recently, filming of a pilot TV show tentatively called "Rosa Petrozza's Kitchen."
"The name's gotta go, but we're still working on it," Petrozza said.
Petrozza moved recently to Myrtle Beach to help start up and run restaurants for some friends from his native New York.
"I wouldn't change a thing; I'd go on 'Hell's Kitchen' again, sure," Petrozza said Tuesday. "People think you get rich off it, but I tell them don't go off and buy a new Ferrari with the money. Maybe a Fiero."
The show is guarded by almost as much secrecy as the spice recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The finalists rarely talk before the season ends and must sign agreements not to tell what happened during the taping of the shows.
Danny LaFranca, Lisa LaFranca's brother who also lives in Fort Mill, said Tuesday he didn't even know his sister was named a finalist. The first episode of the new season, a two-hour special, airs at 8 p.m. Sept. 22.
"It's exciting for her, no doubt, though," Danny LaFranca said. "Cooking runs in our family."
Lisa LaFranca is a corporate food director, and her brother was a chef for 15 years.
Petrozza, the school caterer turned celebrity chef who spent 30 years in kitchens before his break, hopes LaFranca will enjoy her experience with "Hell's Kitchen."
Petrozza went from unknown cook to hearing cheers and a potential TV series while enduring the abuse.
"It's great to hear another person from the area made it; I hope she does great," Petrozza said. "It was great for me."
LaFranca will be encouraged by another local contestant, too. And that guy knows all too well what it is like to get slammed before millions of viewers by a Gordon Ramsey "Hell's Kitchen" tantrum.
The show picks a one cook to work for vitriolic celebrity chef Ramsey, whose shtick in the show is to abuse every cook by throwing out enough metal pans and curses to make a longshoreman turn red.
"Gordon threw my scallops right at me," recalled Dom DiFrancesco, a popular Rock Hill caterer and cook with a stellar reputation in any kitchen, who was on the show the same season as Petrozza.
DiFrancesco, a gentle father of three and not one to curse - ever - was the first person kicked off the show that season.
DiFrancesco is so nice, he and his kids raise frogs for the annual Come-See-Me Mayor's Frog Jump from tadpoles. His cooking is so good, he gives demonstrations at schools.
But "Hell's Kitchen" was not nice for Nice Guy Dom. DiFrancesco was gone faster than the time it takes to de-vein a shrimp.
DiFrancesco slaughtered more seafood in that one show's taping than BP has in the Gulf of Mexico - to no avail.
"I made several plates that time on the fish station - the salmon was great - but I was gone," he said. "They only used the part with the scallops. The scallops..."
But no matter how LaFranca does, the show brings a certain local celebrity - even for those contestants who get tossed off.
"People still recognize me at Wal-Mart," DiFrancesco said.