Sublime Doughnuts owner bemused by his time on Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Food Stars’

Kamal Grant was eliminated this past Wednesday for mildly fuzzy reasons.
Kamal Grant, owner of Sublime Doughnuts in North Druid Hills and West Midtown, poses on June 4, 2024 with a 2009 review of his location by former AJC food critic John Kessler he said helped boost his business. RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@aj

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@aj

Kamal Grant, owner of Sublime Doughnuts in North Druid Hills and West Midtown, poses on June 4, 2024 with a 2009 review of his location by former AJC food critic John Kessler he said helped boost his business. RODNEY HO/

Kamal Grant has run Sublime Doughnuts, a successful shop in West Midtown, for 16 years and a second version in North Druid Hills for six years.

But being an entrepreneur didn’t prepare Grant for the arbitrary nature of being on a reality competition show. He was cast on the second season of Fox’s “Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars,” which feels a bit like “The Apprentice” of yore. And he was eliminated this past Wednesday after three episodes and two challenges.

Grant bought the trademark to Keebler’s Magic Middles cookie, which were shortbread cookies with chocolate and peanut in the middle popular in the 1990s. “It was a cookie I loved as a kid,” he said. Keebler dropped the product around 2001 and let the trademark lapse. Naturally, Keebler wouldn’t give him their formula so he reverse engineered it himself. “I’m a baker,” he said.

Kamal Grant June 4, 2024 at his Sublime Doughnuts in West Midtown with his Magic Middles cookies on the left. He was on "Gordon Ramsay's Food Stars" for three episodes in 2024. RODNEY HO/

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@aj

icon to expand image

Credit: RODNEY HO/rho@aj

He pitched himself and the product “Shark Tank” style on the season debut May 22 and ended up on Team Lisa Vanderpump, the reality star who has multiple shows of her own. Vanderpump’s team of food-related business people compete in challenges with a comparable team selected by Ramsay, the irascible British chef who has hosted more than a dozen different shows on Fox going back nearly 20 years.

He received about 60 seconds of airtime episode one, and just a few seconds in the second episode when his team won a food truck challenge. But he was front and center last Wednesday for episode three when the two teams had to create a themed immersive bar experience in 24 hours in London.

Grant on the show came across as a friendly team player with no Omarosa-style tendencies. When his team was pondering a theme for its bar, Grant suggested a “Game of Thrones” scenario. But the producers told them they can’t use rival brand names so we only hear him talk about dragons.

The team ultimately opted for a period drama-style bar along the lines of “Bridgerton” without being allowed to use that show’s name because this is Fox, not Netflix. They inexplicably called their concept bar the “Pour Palace,” which sounded like “Poor Palace.”

During the challenge, Grant was assigned to man the door. That proved to be his downfall based on the way the show was edited. He had planned to announce everyone who entered by name in grandiose fashion but decided not to do so after Vanderpump told him to dial down the theatrics. The other team’s door greeter Andrew Whiting did a better job explaining that team’s desert hideaway concept up front.

“There was no storytelling and that’s key in an immersive experience,” Vanderpump told Grant on the show during “The Grilling” elimination portion last Wednesday. “You dropped the ball!”

He wasn’t at the door when Vanderpump and Ramsay showed up, which gave the impression he was not doing his job. He said all the guests were already inside when they arrived so he was entertaining them when the two stars showed up.

As Grant noted on the show, he felt he did a good job during the challenge, which he still believes is true. He said the editors cut out Vanderpump’s grilling of team leader Jess Druey and Nicholas Ducos, who handled the drinks, which were not well liked. The 21-year-old Roman Desmond was also targeted for making a lousy mocktail.

Ultimately, Grant felt his departure wasn’t entirely fair. “I think at the end of the day, they wanted bigger personalities and I didn’t make the cut,” he said. “A lot of people were working to get on camera. I wasn’t like that.”

Still, Grant said “it was worth the trip to experience a reality show, to see the back side and bones of it. It’s a story I’ll be able to tell the rest of my life.”


“Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars”

9 p.m. Wednesdays, Fox and on Hulu the next day