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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Old Dominion University alumni appear on Gordon Ramsay show

By Sherry DiBari

If you carefully watch the third season of "Gordon Ramsay's 24 Hours to Hell and Back," you might spot two Old Dominion University alumni.

George Culver '12, a U.S. Army veteran and Hampton Roads food blogger, is shown in the background several times on episode six featuring Southern Kitchen, a Richmond restaurant.

Another popular Hampton Roads food influencer, Richard George '19, was invited to participate in the Lowery's Seafood Restaurant episode in Tappahannock.

The contentious reality show features celebrity chef Ramsay as he travels across the United States, surprising failing restaurants with a complete renovation and updated menu in just 24 hours.

Episodes usually involve the discovery of unsanitary kitchen conditions, personal drama and a notable amount of cursing by Ramsay.

Culver, who grew up in Virginia Beach, started cooking when his wife went back to work full time. He soon found that he enjoyed it and started to explore different dishes and recreate foods that they loved from travelling during his time in the Army.

Before Instagram made taking photographs of food popular, Culver was already posting photos of dishes he was making and also of those in local restaurants. He decided to start a food blog and "I Heart Food" was born.

Culver's writing can also be found in VA Growler and in Distinction magazine, where writes the "On the Table" feature. His recipes have been featured in Food & Wine magazine.

On "24 Hours to Hell and Back," Culver discovered that television production is time-consuming.

"There is a ton of editing that goes into making a show. They take hours and hours of footage and then break it down to about 45 minutes," Culver said.

"You're never sure how you'll be presented in the show until it airs. I was surprised by how much face time I got on air with my wife, Shelby. It's weird seeing yourself on national television."

Ramsay's team found George's Instagram blog, Inside Virginia, as they were searching for local well-known food influencers to participate in the Lowery's Seafood Restaurant transformation.

George, who grew up in Richmond, started Inside Virginia while he was a student at ODU. The Instagram blog has over 14,000 followers and features dishes from local restaurants.

George was familiar with the show and he knew how Ramsay's team approached the episodes.

"I always thought it was kind of played out with how absolutely disgusting some of the restaurants were. It made me wonder how they were even staying in business from a health and safety standpoint, along with the poor food of course, too," George said.

During the episode's taping, George had two conversations with Ramsey, once regarding how awful the food was, and again after the restaurant's transformation when he was asked to give feedback on the changes.

"This was something I've never in my life thought I'd have the opportunity to do; (to be) on the other side of the TV with millions of eyes watching," George said.

Season three of "Gordon Ramsay's 24 Hours to Hell and Back" can be found here.

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