Avery Pursell: "I Felt That I Did Not Perform Well"

The 80 Plates winner answers our questions about her finale menu and kicking off Nookie.

Bravotv.com: Going into Uruguay, what kind of state of mind are you in the moment? How tired are you?
AP: I’m so exhausted mentally and physically! It’s really catching up to me now…. I’m just looking at the light at the end of the tunnel and this is it this is the shot to get closest to the prize!

Bravotv.com: How did you decide what dish to make? What went through your mind when you realized you couldn’t make fish?
AP: I went into the challenge letting the shops make the choices for me. I really just went into each store ready to go into any direction so that I could adjust and make changes as needed. Although I really wanted to do seafood, I knew my ingredients would work well with chicken also. I wanted to try and do something a little different since I counted on the other two going for beef.

Bravotv.com: You make a comment that Nookie could vote you off at any moment — why haven’t you voted him off earlier than this? Like in the last challenge?
AP: I’m not sure what the next challenge will be and keeping Nookie around could benefit me. I do want to go up against the best and I think Nookie is extremely talented, but I’m confident I can beat him as well.Bravotv.co: What finally made you decide to vote Nookie off instead of Liz?
AP: I voted Nookie off because he has a tendency to play this game and “work smarter and not harder” as he puts it. I don’t want a repeat of Thailand and somehow he beats me with a tactic rather then pure cooking skill. I think that Liz will battle from her heart and passion rather than on a strategy. Ultimately, I want this to be a cooking showdown. Also, without a doubt Nookie would have sent me home had he the same opportunity. I’m using my smarts in this case and want a safe cooking challenge.

Bravotv.com: How did you feel about your sous-chefs? How did they work out for you?
AP: I was very happy with both my sous-chefs! I would have loved a little time for us all to come up with a game plan before entering the kitchen so that we could have blown some socks off, but ultimately they really worked hard for me in this last battle, and I couldn’t have been happier! They are both very talented chefs, and I respect them in their profession as well as that they both had the integrity to work hard for my win without grudges towards me, since I had voted on sending them both home.

Bravotv.com: When you saw who you were cooking for, what went through your mind?
AP: I‘m honored to once again be serving such amazing chefs that I look up to and respect. The biggest thought on my mind was, “This is not enough time to properly represent what I’m capable of.”Bravotv.com: Did you get to taste any of Liz’s dishes? What did you think?
AP: I did not get to taste any of Liz’s dishes, but I did see them go out. She had a different take on the task of presenting dishes representative of our trip around the world. I replicated dishes we had done and the tips and authentic flavors from the countries. Her dishes were infused with that thought, but she put her own spin on them. I felt that I did not perform well, and in fact it was one of my off days. So I was extremely worried after seeing our differences.

Bravotv.com: Did you find it helpful to have your daughters and aunt there? Or did you find it distracting?
AP: When my girls walked in it completely threw me off! I just wanted to hug and kiss them after being so long without them. It was a complete tease! Also, being so exhausted, it was straining enough to keep myself together. 

Bravotv.com: What went through your mind when Cat and Curtis announced the winner?
AP: I was in shock! I really thought I had done myself in with my off day! Of all days to not be 100% it had to be the finale! WTF! I came into this competition purely for the exposure to new cuisines and the opportunity to compete with other professionals. My only goal was to not be sent home first, and I exceeded my own expectations! Then, I was just so excited that I had made my girls so proud. They never doubted for one instance that I was a winner, and I fulfilled that idea for them. Priceless! I’m proving to my girls what hard work, integrity, and determination will bring.  Bravotv.com: We know you get a car, but what are you going to do with the rest of the money?
AP: The money is a down payment for a new house for my daughters and myself. I’m so happy that I’m able to provide this for them!

Bravotv.com: How has the fan response been so far? Any updates to your career, etc. since the premiere?
AP: The fans have been absolutely amazing! I have gotten such a great response from everyone. It’s still surreal to me how many supporters I have! I’ve also gotten a good amount of other amazing chefs showing support! I’m always so hard on myself, and it’s so awesome to see all these people who seem to really respect my work and talents. I’m so humbly thankful for every person who has shown support -- truly amazing!

Careerwise, I’m looking forward to a few amazing opportunities. I have had offers continuing work with Chef Ramsay and his incredible team! I look forward to working with other chefs and hoping this might open those doors. I will always continue to cook at private parties and events and hoping that this will peak potential clients interest in contacting me. I also am looking forward to doing some more restaurant consulting! Of course a show of my own would be a dream come true, and I might even invite Nookie to come on. Ha! Honestly, that would be a great show!! Ha!

Bravotv.com: What was the most memorable moment for you all season? What was your best dish?
AP: Most memorable moment would have been arriving in Morocco! My eyes opened to the possibilities of adventures in countries I would have never imagined visiting! Hearing the chanting and being in that city with the chaos and people was life changing for me. I am so thankful for the traveling experience.

Bravotv.com: What celeb chef would be her ultimate to cook for?
AP: Cooking for or in Thomas Keller’s kitchen would be amazing!! 

Bravotv.com: Anything else you’d like to add?
AP: I am so extremely thankful for the opportunity of being on the show the overwhelming support from my two inspirations in life Zoe and Sophie, friends, family, other chefs, and fans. Thanks to all the other talented chefs on the show and of course Chef Stone and Chef Cora for being great mentors and the whole production team! Life has a way of throwing some serious curveballs, and perseverance and faith in the opportunities that lie ahead of the dark corners kept me going and paid off tremendously. I believe that remaining humble, thankful, and continuing to be open are the keys to being a great chef and individual, and I will always stay that way so that I can further myself professionally and personally. I look forward to the next chapter and what else life and my career has in store for me….


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Homeward Bound

Avery finally outplayed Nookie.


Well, everyone, we made it. And I for one am exhausted. I'm not saying I'm as tired as our chefs, but, y'know, I might be. We see the chefs heading to Uruguay (No, Uruguay!) on a ferry. I love a ferry ride, so this seemed fun to me. At some point, Avery says "Nookie could change his mind at any point." You know who can also change her mind at any point? Avery! But I will stop asking why no one has kicked Nookie off until this point, but it's moot. 

The chefs are issued their Course: they have two hours to shop and prepare a traditional Uruguayan dish, and they are only allowed to obtain their ingredients from three markets. Not only that, but their diners are Cat and Curtis! Liz doesn't seem to have too much trouble shopping, but she does forget to ask the butcher for salt. I was actualy surprised Nookie and Avery thought to ask for salt, knowing it wouldn't be provided. Avery bought her wine before she bought her protein, so she was surprised by the fact that she couldn't get fish. White wine? Chicken it is! Nookie has a seemingly nice idea behind his dish saying, "If I learned anything, it's to talk to the locals." Well, one local led him to a jar of onion jam. But she also said to make a traditional tart. That didn't happen. Nookie made -- and I mean "made" in the most generic way possible -- chorizo (my fave) with the onions. Cat and Curtis weren't too happy that Nookie didn't really cook anything. Even Avery said, "This is a cooking competition, not a reheating competition." Ouch. Also, the jam was too sweet. Liz made a successful steak salad, but it was missing salt. Curtis could tell the addition of sausage was made in an attempt to add some salt, but it wasn't enough. I really do wonder why LIz asked Nookie for salt and not Avery. Any thoughts?!

So, Avery won the Course. Some of the chefs seemed to be confused about whether this was the final challenge -- it wasn't. By winning the Course, Avery won the exceptional ingredient, and definitely the most exceptional of them all -- the ability to choose her finale competitor.And she did it. Finally. She voted Nookie off. Hallelujah. Since i finally met Nookie this past week at our amazing Sneak Peek Finale Party, I feel compelled to say here that I'm not writing "hallelujah" because I don't not like Nookie -- I've just never understood why everyone was OK with him holding all the cards. 

around-the-world-in-80-plates-blog.jpg Me with Nookie and Avery at the 80 Plates Sneak Peek Finale Party

So, Avery and Liz head to... Los Angeles -- their home turf. In L.A., the chefs are met with their Takeover: first they have to choose one chef from each store to act as their sous chef for the Takeover. The chefs are their fallen comrades from countries past. Avery ends up with Jenna (did you see her give Liz the side-eye after her team was done cooking?) and Nick, and Liz ends up with John and Chaz! And all the sous-chefs seem genuinely interested in helping their respective chefs win. Whileeveryone's in the kitchen, Avery and Liz get a very welcome surprise -- their family members! Avery's kids and aunt come to say hello and we meet Liz's boyfriend, Ryan. I always wonder if these little surprises are helpful or hurtful. While Avery obviously wants to see her children, I'd have to assume a little surprise like that would break anyone's focus. And how funny was Nookie with her kids? Ha. 

The other surprise was who the chefs were cooking for. Although they knew they'd be serving Wolfgang Puck since they were cooking in his kitchen at red seven, they had no idea the caliber of their diners -- James Beard winners, nominees, etc. And despite all these pressures and curveballs, they both kind of killed their menus… for the most part. Avery started her meal with her and Jenna's winning papaya salad; then moved on to an apparently perfectly-cooked beef dish with chimichurri. She finished it with tea and a pannacotta. I thought serving tea with dessert was ballsy because if that gets cold, it's ruined. Did anyone else notice that her kids seemed to eat all her food? I was very impressed.

LIz's starter was the majority's favorite dish of the night. She then served a dish that was criticized by someone (forgive me I can't remember who) for not seeming Italian. Mmm it was a simple dish served with dino kale -- seemed Italian to me! She then finished with a play on an empanadas, but her custard didn't set up.

From where I was sitting, it seemd to come down to the best dish vs. the best meal. And Avery was just more consistent, so… she won! Congratulations, Avery! And congratulations to Liz on doing such a fantastic job. 

I'll be recapping Masters which premieres next Wedneday, so hope to see you all over at that site then. If I may say so, I've peeped some of the episodes already, and I swear they're amazing. Until then, Have a Nosh!


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