Interview by Whitney Johnson. Written by Liz Kim.

Bachelorette season 8 contestant Chris Bukowski might seem like he has everything — great looks, a booming restaurant, and the kind of job that allows him to travel all over the country — but he admits that there’s still something missing in his life. “I’m the most single person in America,” he laments. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, the reality star boasts a pretty impressive resume, including senior sales executive for the New York Islanders, V.I.P. Concierge at the Wynn Las Vegas, and currently owner of The Bracket Room in Arlington, Virginia (with plans to open future locations). But at the end of the day, he misses the magic of a real first date with someone special.

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Fans first got to know Bukowski when he was cast on Emily Maynard’s season of The Bachelorette. He initially didn’t have any interest in the show. “One of my friends I grew up with in Chicago wrote a letter to ABC about why I should be the next Bachelor. And you know how it works — you pretty much have to be on The Bachelorette in order to be the next Bachelor.” He got some emails from ABC casting but brushed it off as a prank.

A change of jobs brought him back to Chicago, and he decided to take a chance and audition at a casting call by his condo. Ultimately, it was Maynard’s photo that convinced him to give it a shot. “I never watched the show before, so I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Once they showed me who the girl might be, though, I thought she was right up my alley. Physically, Emily was really hot! I decided then that, if they cast me, I would do it.”

Bukowski didn’t expect to fall for Maynard as hard as he did, but as their relationship progressed from week to week, he quickly became a fan favorite. After making it to the final four, fans were shocked when Maynard let him go, especially because she couldn’t give him a reason as to why he wasn’t getting a rose. “After The Bachelorette, I left my job. I was alone in my thoughts, and I was a little heartbroken,” he says.

Related Link: Chris Bukowski Says He Still Has Feelings for Emily Maynard

Instead of wallowing for too long, he agreed to compete on The Bachelor Pad, a show that featured contestants from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette who play for a cash prize. “It was an outlet where I could go to escape, just have some fun, and maybe win some money. I did it for the experience, and I’m glad I did.”

While he didn’t win the big prize, the handsome Chicago native left quite a different impression on fans than he did during his time on The Bachelorette. Previously, viewers knew him as a hopeless romantic who just wanted to find love, but on The Bachelor Pad, he hooked up with multiple castmates (he attributes this to crafty editing), lied, and exuded a cockiness that turned off a lot of people. Bukowski defends his behavior as a necessary tactic to win the game. “They are two completely different shows,” he explains. “One is a show where you’re putting yourself out there to potentially fall in love and find a wife. The other is a game show. It’s funny because they made me seem so terrible, and I really wasn’t that bad.”

He also shares that his motivations were different than those of his competitors. “I’m very competitive, and no one else on the show had that mindset. I wasn’t sure what they were concerned about. I wasn’t into falling in love with anybody, and I just wanted to have fun.” No matter how he was portrayed, he says that he had the most fun out of anyone in the house and felt that he left a winner.

While the restaurant owner is thankful for his time on television, he also believes that this exposure is keeping him from meeting the right person. “I would say I’m definitely looking to settle down,” he candidly shares. “It’s just tough. People learned a lot about me really quickly because I was on the shows. So when I go out with a girl, they already know about me, and it kind of takes away from the whole first date experience and getting to know somebody.”

Simply put, “it really does suck. To be honest, I would say my dating life is almost zero right now.”

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He also admits that the hopeless romantic who fans met on The Bachelorette is his true self. He dreams of meeting his future wife by chance at the airport and admits that this desire is fueled by his love for chick flicks. “I love the fairytale endings. Sure, these things only happen in the movies, but you still get that little hope that it can happen in real life too.”

Ever the foodie, it’s no surprise that Bukowski’s perfect date is a nice lunch, an even better dinner, and fine wine. “I may not seem like it, but I’m a really laid-back person. I’m happy with enjoying great food, catching a movie, or just hanging out at my place.”

While it remains to be seen if Bukowski will be a future Bachelor, he has some opinions about the current leading man, Juan Pablo Galavis. Although he’s picking Nikki as his favorite to win, “it seems like Juan Pablo is definitely having fun, but I’m not convinced that any of those girls are going to be his future wife,” he shares. “I think he’s using the show as a way to enjoy himself and probably get himself out in the public eye.”

You can keep up with Bracket Room on its website. You can also keep with Chris on Twitter @chrisjbukowski. Be sure to tune in to The Bachelor finale tonight on ABC at 8/7c.