By Allie Duncan
Chris Bukowski never imagined he would be a contestant on Season 8 of ABC’s The Bachelorette. A Bartlett, IL native, he grew up playing football, basketball and baseball and eventually attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He majored in Hospitality with a focus in Food and Beverage before eventually landing a job with the New York Islanders in New York.
“I moved out to New York for work and was happy there,” says Bukowski. “My friend Shannon from Bartlett nominated me for the show without my knowledge. She wrote a three-page letter explaining why I should be on the show. I didn’t get to see it until after filming wrapped.”
What happened next is history. The Bachelorette casting team tried to get in contact with Bukowski a number of times via phone and email to no avail, as Bukowski believed a friend was playing a joke on him. He ignored the team for two months before moving back to Chicago, where the casting team had said they would be conducting interviews at a nearby hotel.
“I figured I would just meet with them since it was near my condo,” says Bukowski. “I knew they wouldn’t leave me alone otherwise.”
After an action-packed season, Bachelorette Emily Maynard eliminated Bukowski from the show after his hometown date in Chicago. Although he did not win the girl, Bukowski still took away some lessons in love.
“I learned that love is possible,” says Bukowski. “I think what the show did was make me open up and realize what I’m capable of emotionally, insofar as expressing myself to a girl. Basically, The Bachelorette is a sped up relationship, a thousand miles per hour. It’s just you and her, and she’s the only girl in the world. If there’s not that initial interest or initial connection, then you won’t have a good time on the show.”
Bukowski’s time on reality television did not end after being sent home on The Bachelorette. He then appeared on Season 3 of ABC’s Bachelor Pad, where he soon became known for being a womanizer.
“I’m really more authentic than I seem on TV,” says Bukowski. “And they didn’t show this on the show, but Sarah and I decided that if we won the money, we were going to give half of it to Habitat for Humanity. I do a lot of charity work now. We realized that there were people out there who need the money more than most of us do.”
Sarah Newlon was Bukowski’s partner on the show, where they competed against other Bachelor alums for $250,000. The two started a romance onBachelor Pad, much to the dismay of the other female contestants.
“Sarah is great,” says Bukowski. “She’s probably the most real girl on the show and the one I could relate to the most. She’s the one who would have been in my friend group back at home. But once you leave the show, it’s just tough. I went to D.C., and she’s in St. Louis. You have that relationship on the show, but after it’s all said and done, it’s not that easy when you’re in different places. But we definitely still talk.”
Newlon isn’t that only castmate that Bukowski keeps in touch with post-show. He cites many of his former cast members as being some of his best friends now.
“I keep in touch with Kalon, Jef, Arie, and Ed, who is a little crazy,” says Bukowski with a laugh. “I’m really good friends with Jaclyn and Rachel. Even people who weren’t on my season, I talk to a lot.”
Aside from staying friends with his former castmates, Bukowski plans to go into business with a few of them. He recently moved to Washington, D.C. to open a restaurant in Clarendon, VA.
“My life changed a lot after the show,” says Bukowski. “I always had dreams and goals I thought I’d reach in my early 30s that I’m reaching now because of the opportunities and publicity from the show. I always wanted to open a restaurant and now I am able to – it’s going to a be an upscale sports lounge with small plates, where you can go to watch the game during the week, too.”
Bukowski’s excitement about his restaurant venture is palpable, and he explains that it’s been a team effort with his friends and family being supportive in helping him. He’s shooting to open the restaurant sometime in the spring with the timing being around April or May.
Bukowski plans to eventually open a few restaurants on the east coast before returning to Chicago.
“I would love to settle down in Chicago, “ says Bukowski. “I miss it so much. Chicago is my favorite place. D.C. is great, too – it’s different, but I definitely love it.”
He says he’d love to try every restaurant in Chicago, and he roots for all of its major sports team. However, the Cubs are closest to his heart, as baseball is Bukowski’s favorite sport. He does note, though, that the Bears are fun to watch.
“If the Bears are losing, I’m throwing stuff in the house,” says Bukowski. “There are only 16 games in the season so it’s intense. But if the Cubs are in the playoffs, I can’t even watch. I’m a mess hiding in the closet.”
Bukowski will be back in Chicago for Christmas, which he plans to spend with his family. He’s still looking for that perfect girl, though.
“I don’t really know what the perfect girl is,” says Bukowski. “I’m still looking for her. As far as her personality, I like a girl who is confident, self-motivated, and someone that will lean on me – but not too much. She has to have her own thing going on, too. Physically, I notice the eyes first, and I love good eyes – they’re number one. A good smile is number two.”
But when it comes to dating, Bukowski says he doesn’t date much. He loves going out to different restaurants and trying new things, but he says dating is tough.
“It’s hard to know who I am going to enjoy having a first date with,” says Bukowski. “There’s a 50% chance that you’re not going to have a good time. But if you go out with someone you already know, then you’ll probably have fun. It’s hard to find someone new to have fun doing new things with.”
Bukowski should have no trouble finding a girlfriend, though, having been voted “Class Hottie” in a high school class of more than one thousand people. But it’s not his only priority.
“What’s next for me, aside from my new restaurant, is finding myself a wife,” jokes Bukowski. “I have all these good things going on so it’d be nice to share it with someone else. But you can’t go out there and make something happen – it has to happen naturally. So maybe I’ll go back on Bachelor Pad.”
Here’s hoping that we have another season of watching Bukowski on Bachelor Pad!