Rusted car parts, a surfboard and an upside-down horse — excavated from a pile of trash inside a first-time manager’s garage — hang in a sparsely decorated Jacksonville, Florida, bar that is struggling to bring in customers.

The room is quiet as Jon Taffer, host of Paramount TV’s “Bar Rescue,” walks in. “Can I talk to you for a minute?” he says, pointing at the manager, who scutters over with his head down. Then Taffer, with the camera zoomed in close, delivers the verbal blow: “What the hell is this place?”

The scene has played out in different bar and states for more than nine seasons now, each time attracting viewers, partly stunned and partly comforted by the over-six-foot-tall culinary behemoth’s crass insistence on rebuilding embattled businesses. The platform may seem like a strange place for the show’s new guest host: Baltimore chef Ashish Alfred.

At 38, Alfred is 10 years clean and says he is finally becoming the “calm voice of reason” rarely heard from inside a kitchen’s trenches. He has cooked for the James Beard House in New York City and brings life to the southwestern corner of Broadway Square in Fells Point with establishments like his nationally acclaimed restaurant Duck Duck Goose and cocktail bar Anchor Tavern. He no longer sees the most fired-up person in the room as the one holding the power.

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So what is he doing on “Bar Rescue”?

The show, which airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m., thrives on the drama between misguided bar owners and their staff — often a mix of friends and family members — whose conflicting interests lead to some poor business decisions. Despite Taffer’s reprimands and his crew’s remodeling work, nearly half of the bars and restaurants close, according to data collected by Bar Rescue Updates, a site that tracks the status of the businesses featured on the show.

Alfred knows this, but following Taffer into the chaos is part of a childhood dream.

While growing up in Derwood, Maryland, Alfred loved Julia Child. He watched as she embraced the madness of cooking: turning feats of engineering into Sunday roasts and indulgent afternoon meals, each time shepherding the chaos of the kitchen as if it were all under her control. His father, Rajish, who attended hospitality school in India, would watch along, in awe of how attainable her talent appeared.

“It’s always attractive to me to see somebody who is really good at what they’re doing, somebody who is truly at the top of their game and in control of their environment,” Alfred said of Child.

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Then he found Bobby Flay on the Food Network, enamored by the chef’s ability to create masterpieces out of thin air. Later it was Gordon Ramsay. The British chef’s “Kitchen Nightmares” show left Alfred nodding along with every condemnation. From a young age, he understood what Ramsay was yelling about: perception was reality.

At 15, Alfred worked as a host at his neighborhood Italian restaurant. Presentation was everything — he cleaned the front door, picked up cigarette butts and answered phones. How he greeted customers affected the business, and in his personal life, the way he carried himself made him a target in school.

The bullying was persistent, but when Alfred began using drugs, he became popular, he said in a 2019 interview with The Washington Post. On the “Today” show later that year, Alfred recalled being a small, more vulnerable kid, and one of few Indian people in his community.

He continued to use drugs while attending the French Culinary Institute of New York. An upcoming memoir will chronicle what Alfred describes as a “sordid past,” including when, at 25, he jumped between New York restaurants and ultimately tanked his first business, the 4935 Kitchen and Bar, due to rampant substance abuse. The experience strained Alfred’s relationship with his mother, Veena, who financed his rent, education and his failed Bethesda restaurant in 2012, according to a report by Baltimore magazine.

Since going to rehab in 2014, Alfred has learned how to run a successful business — and when to walk away. He declined to name a former restaurant that failed for fear of upsetting the landlord, but said despite creating a beautiful space and reforming his reputation, the location and other factors related to the building made it too difficult to keep the business afloat.

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“I don’t remember which [“Bar Rescue”] episode it was, but there’s one where Jon [Taffer] is dealing with a group of people who kept saying, ‘Well this is wrong, and this is broken and that doesn’t make sense,’” Alfred said. “And Jon cuts everyone off and says, ‘I don’t embrace problems, I embrace solutions,’ and that’s something that has stuck with me.”

In certain ways, Alfred said, the show has provided a form of therapy to business owners like himself who have watched personal failures result in poor business decisions. But on “Bar Rescue,” Alfred is able to impart the wisdom he once searched for while rising to culinary fame.

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On the episodes featuring Alfred, which have yet to air this season, he tells kitchen staff to look at each problem objectively. Despite a coworker’s shortcomings, no one deserves to be attacked, he says, and arguing over what should have happened distracts from the problem at hand.

Then there’s the matter of fixing the personal dilemmas before addressing the business. When tensions between friends or family on “Bar Rescue” go unresolved, the issues spiral into much larger, existential threats to the restaurant. It’s a lesson Alfred said he has learned through a lifetime of kitchen work and battling addiction.

When it comes to the use of illegal drugs, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration discovered workers in food services were using at nearly twice the rate of employees in other industries, according to a 2015 study. The food service industry also had the highest rates of substance use disorder and reported heavy alcohol use at a percentage far above their counterparts, with the only exception being employees in mining and construction.

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“There are few things inside the kitchen that I have not seen,” Alfred said.

The chance to show up for fellow bar and restaurant workers alongside Taffer is Alfred’s latest evolution, he said. He hopes the opportunity will bring more television appearances and success to the restaurants he has already opened — Italian eatery Osteria Pirata and French bistro Duck Duck Goose’s locations in Fells Point and Washington, D.C. — which operate as “dry houses,” where staff do not drink together on or off duty.

Alfred said the lights and camera could never intimidate a kid who fantasized about joining his idols on screen. There’s a physicality to it, similar to cooking, that allows him to be expressive and work efficiently under pressure. At some points, Alfred said, he saw members of the crew high-fiving during his scenes.

But even if he never attains his long-coveted household-name status, Alfred is eager to embrace a perception of himself that finally seems to match his reality.

“I would hope to appear as a hard-working, blue-collar guy. Regardless of what life has thrown at him, he has gotten up and put his pants on one leg at a time. … That’s the same thing that I’ve wanted, and that’s the same thing that I want [for] these people who I get the opportunity to work with,” he said. “Okay, we have problems. What are we doing about it?”