Interviews

From the Race to the Chef's Table

Alex Boylan<br />
(Photo by miri)
Alex Boylan
(Photo by miri)
Alex Boylan, part of the winning team for the second season of the Amazing Race and currently starring on PBS's At the Chef's Table, took some time while traversing a golf course with his sister to talk to the TARflies Times.

Had you seen the first season of the race when you applied?
We hadn't seen it because when we applied it wasn't airing yet. Actually, we got the phone call to go to LA for the final cut on the day the first Race premiered.

Oh, really?
Yeah, they called and asked: "are you guys watching the race?" And I said: "yeah, this is really cool" and they said, "Congratulations! You guys made the second round."

After seeing that first episode, did you still want to do it?
Absolutely. It is my kind of life. You know what I mean? I've traveled since I was a kid. I've lived in Brazil and Germany and the Caribbean. I've traveled all over the place, so this was beautiful - perfect, right up my alley.

So how did you guys hear about the show, then?
It's crazy. I had just gotten back from the Caribbean - I was tending bar down there and just happened to be home - and Chris happened to be home, too. He had just graduated from college. I was browsing on the Internet and this thing came up - casting for a reality show, racing around the world. I said: "Wow, this sounds really cool!" So we made our tape and sent it in. Then we kind of forgot about it.

I don't know if you've heard this story before, but the rest of our application process was kind of cool. We were traveling - back-packing in Europe - about two and a half months after we applied and there were only two days that if anyone wanted to find us, they could have gotten hold of us. My parents were in Switzerland too, they were on sabbatical, and we were all sitting there the day before we were about to leave. After that, no one would be able to find us. I didn't know where we were going to be - we were backpacking around with a couple of buddies. All of a sudden the phone rings and my mom says: "the phone hasn't rung since we've been here." It was CBS, they had called Chris' mom and found out where we were. If they had called a day later, we would have been gone.
If they had called a day later, we would have been gone.
So it just seems like total kismet that you ended up on this race.
Absolutely.

You said you spent your life traveling; did you grow up in a traveling family?
No, I just got really, really lucky. My parents took us all on a trip when I was 12 or 13 - it was the last time the whole family was together for a trip because my older sister was going off to college. It was very hard nosed. My parents weren't rich by any stretch, but they always loved traveling. So we all went backpacking through Europe for about 2 months. So that, at a young age, got me really interested. Then when I was 16, I got an offer to play soccer down in Brazil. I got to move there on my own. I couldn't believe my parents let me do it, but they had a host family lined up and I moved down there for about a year my junior year in high school. It was just a lucky kind of thing. Then, during college, a buddy of mine's father knew I was an International Business major and said: "hey, why don't you come work for me," so I took a semester off of school and went to work for him in Germany. After that I was working in the corporate world back in Boston and I just decided: "I'm not doing corporate world anymore." Packed my bags, got seriously in debt, moved down to the Caribbean, and tended bar for a year. I've just kind of fallen into a lot of different travel situations.

It certainly sounds like you've had a lot of cool experiences.
Oh, awesome, awesome.

So, you guys got to see the whole first season before you started racing?
The whole first season, yes.
If they ever had an All-Star? I would bring a tenth of what I brought.
What lessons did you learn from watching it? How did it affect your expectations for the race?
We learned to pack lighter than they did. But still, if I ever did it again? If they ever had an All-Star? I would bring a tenth of what I brought. I'd bring a little Jansport backpack if I did it again. We saw them with tents and stuff on the first one, but the race doesn't really require that kind of stuff.

I'm trying to think of what else we learned. It's always a judgment call. I'm not really sure how much you can learn from one race and apply it to another. Each race, each country, is so unique that you can't always carry lessons from one situation to another. For example, what works in India may not be the same for Brazil. Also, the specific tasks are so different on each leg that even when you are still in the same country, the lessons you have already learned may not apply. The most important skill a Racer needs is the ability to think quickly on his or her feet and to make good judgment calls.

So you think that mental agility is a more important trait than physical agility?
I do think the so-called "alpha-male" teams do have an advantage, but perhaps not for the same reasons other people think they do. It is not simply an advantage of brawn or speed. As the race wears you down and fatigue sets in, Racers begin to make dumber and dumber decisions. Anyone who starts the race being younger and more physically fit than other teams can last longer before fatigue starts to screw up their mental capabilities.

Something the production folks told us over and over again was that we'd never lose the race due to something that was 100% out of our control - a production issue or something similar. It might seem like an "hours of operation" task might be the straw that broke the camel's back, but you could always trace that mistake back to a wrong decision you made that led you there. The race is really about weighing your options, limited as they may be, and making the right choice.
The race is really about weighing your options, limited as they may be, and making the right choice.
Many people feel that you and Chris "road Tara and Wil's coat tails" to the end. Would you care to address that?
Firstly, it is impossible to follow any team for too long. During the race you are always getting split up and separated, so you lose track of people. We did follow them during the last leg, but that was just good strategy on our part. We knew that Tara and Wil were familiar with San Francisco, so why not follow them? Also, we were very confident that we could beat Tara and Wil in a foot race, so we felt that even if both teams got out of cabs at the same time and ran for it, we would beat them to the finish line. In fact, when Wil got out of the car in an attempt to send us off in the wrong direction we kept them in sight, but also went across the bridge to try and get directions since we could tell that Wil was screwing with us. Wil's move did put some additional space between us - when they got back in their car we had to turn around, and our cab ended up behind a soccer mom who was driving very slowly. Tara and Wil had a good-sized lead on us in the run to the finish line, but we still passed them.

Some people think that Tara's asthma held her back at the end…
We passed Wil and he was running full-out, as fast as he could.

We did have an alliance with Tara and Wil right from the start of the Race. I was a good friend of Wil's at first, but that changed after I saw how Wil treated Tara and after Wil tried to screw Chris and I over a few times. We also teamed up with them in Asia because they knew the region. Chris and I were familiar with South America from our previous travels there, but we didn't know anything about Asia. Tara and Wil were the opposite of us in that way. We helped them out a lot during the early legs in South America; we even taught them a few Portuguese phrases to help them get by. None of that was shown on television, probably because at that time there were still so many teams to cover during the one hour show.

Did it upset you that the early part of your alliance with Tara and Wil was left off the show? It did lead many viewers to think the alliance you had was one-sided and that you and Chris were just followers.
I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for the Race. I knew that the producers could pick and choose whatever they wanted from the footage and that it would be silly of me to be worried or upset about that. It's something you just have to accept when you sign on to the show. I also had a pretty good idea of how Chris and I would be portrayed on the show when I saw our bios on the CBS web site and we were described as "bouncers." Chris has two engineering degrees, I was an International Business major, we've both traveled a lot, and we spoke a few languages… yet we were listed as bouncers!

I thought the perception of your team was also skewed because the bios on the CBS site and the show editing insinuated that Tara and Wil were still together, but now it doesn't seem that they were.
That did make me look bad. To this day, I'm still not sure if they were married during the show or not, but Tara told me they were divorced. In her defense, I think the whole situation was complicated. This is a question for Tara. Besides, after seeing how Wil treated Tara, I didn't feel bad about flirting with her at all.
You kind of forget about the cameras after a while.
Was it weird to start something as personal as a relationship on national TV?
You kind of forget about the cameras after a while. Whatever happened, happened. It wasn't planned, but it was really nice to have someone to attend all the press and party events with after the show. A relationship on a reality show where both people make it to the end is a huge emotional experience that I could probably never explain. I have always said it was a good thing.

Besides Tara and Wil, what other racers impressed you?
I was very impressed with the racing skills of Tara and Wil, and Danny and Oswald. They were strong teams, excellent Racers, and had a lot of travel experience to draw on.

Were you surprised to see Blake and Paige in the final three, despite their lack of travel experience?
Blake is extremely competitive, and he worked very hard to get ahead. Blake and Paige also complemented each other very well as a team - he was intense, and she was good at being calm. They also got along very well. I think that sibling and "buddy" teams can sometimes have an advantage over the "dating, married, or romantic" relationship teams because siblings or friends have a lot less tension between them.

Do you keep in touch with any of your fellow racers?
I still keep in touch with a lot of people from my season - Shoyla and Doyin, Danny and Oswald in particular. A lot of times it has to do with where I am at the time and who is close by. I also see Brennan a lot and we are both investors in Reality 24/7, Blake's TV channel.
Chris is the exact opposite of me.
What is Chris up to? We don't see or hear from him as much.
Chris is the exact opposite of me. He is not into show business or being in the public eye at all. In fact, the company producing my current show, At The Chef's Table, originally approached both Chris and me to host the show as a team. Chris just wasn't interested.

I feel very lucky to have gotten the hosting job with At the Chef's Table. The company behind it is great, and I'm very grateful to them for the opportunity and the chance to have learned so much. They are a Florida-based company and when they approached me to do the show I had just moved from Florida to L.A.. I was a bit worried about moving back to Florida - trying to get a new show off the ground is far from a sure thing. The production company reassured me it would be okay (but did not lead me on), but it still took a while to get things off the ground. While we waited they even gave me behind-the-scenes jobs within the company. That was really interesting. I like all aspects of the business.

I love doing the show. I was confused at first about why they wanted me for it - I don't know anything about cooking. Now I understand that was the point. I'm the audience's "in" to the world of cooking. I ask the same kind of questions your average Joe would. Now that we've been filming for a while, I have to act a bit more to come across as completely ignorant of the cooking world! That's another skill that I can learn and improve. The show is getting good ratings in the markets where it airs. I'm also working on a few other projects, but those are still hush-hush!

How different is it to be watching the race now that you are close to one of the current racers? Is it kind of a "the shoe is on the other foot" thing?
I have known Marsha for years. It is great to watch her face and see her get excited about the race.

Is it hard not to try and hit her up for information on how she fairs in the race?
Nah. I want to be surprised. I'm surprised that I didn't get bothered a lot more about stuff like that when my season was airing either. None of the Racers I know have said they were pressured to give out Race information.

Do you think that is because the Racer is often racing with the one person who would be the most interested in the outcome?
That might be true!

Was it difficult watching Marsha and her dad being eliminated from the race?
Very hard!! I really thought she went far in the race. I was crushed when I watched that night.

What do you think of TAR5 so far?
It rocks! I certainly think this season has the best cast so far (or at least a close second to Season two). The challenges have also been excellent. I have been loving it!