The eliminated chef wants another shot.
Bravotv.com: What was your first reaction when you saw the other chefs you were going to be competing against?
I was happy. Jonathan Waxman is a guy that I worked with on a couple of occasions when I was really young, like 19 or 20 years old, working at a restaurant in New York City called An American Place. At that time, I mean, Jonathan has always been a star, but he was really huge at that point. He had Jams in New York and he had Jams in London. He was just like the rock-star chef. And I remember when I was 19 or 20 years old just being like “Wow, this guy is just like all anybody ever wants to be as a chef!” He was really talented. It was great. So it was really nice to see him. Roy Yamaguchi, of course everybody knows. He’s just huge and all over the world. Art Smith, I met him a couple of times because he’d eaten at my restaurant, so I had a bit of a rapport with him. So it was exciting. It was great.
Bravotv.com: We’ll start with the Quick-Fire Challenge. First, you got an aisle, which has been a problem for our Top Chef contestants in the past. You got the dessert, or the sweet aisle. Were you worried at all? A lot of chefs don’t like making desserts.
I was just shell-shocked actually, when I first walked into that aisle. The first thing I saw was at the end of the aisle were Power Bars and energy bars and I was just hoping that the aisle kept going. Then I walked down and I saw a whole bunch of stuff that’s really already part of the pantry in the Top Chef kitchen, so I was like, “Oh great. This is great,” because everything is redundant and I have no real use for it. And then I started looking a little harder and I saw some cool marmalade and preserves and chocolate and I figured “Well, maybe this will work out.” I’ve just got to see if I can remember how to make a chocolate mousse.
Bravotv.com: So why did you go with that parfait? Is that a chef's dessert?
No. It’s just something … everybody knows, or everybody should know how to make that. With the time constraints and what I had available to me I just figured that would be the easiest thing to do. And I just tried to pick a couple of other things like those sesame crackers and that ginger preserve, or whatever it was, that I thought would complement the chocolate. I just went for flavors that I like.
Bravotv.com: Were you surprised that your dessert won?
Actually no, for two reasons: First of all because number one, even though I drew second and was supposed to be served second, they served it last, I guess considering the fact that it was a dessert. That gives you an advantage right there because it’s going to be the last thing on the judges’ minds. And then number two; I mean it’s chocolate. My God.
Bravotv.com: So moving on to the Elimination Challenge. You each got to shop for each other. And you and Chef Waxman had a rapport and then he didn’t put any seafood in your box. Were you kind of bummed by that?
No, not really.
Bravotv.com: Was that a surprise at all?
No, No, No, No, I didn’t feel that way at all because I think that Jonathan was looking at the fish the same way I was looking at it. He was looking at it with a highly critical eye and looking for something that he felt that I’d be proud to serve and frankly I didn’t see anything there that excited me. I’m sure he didn’t either and I think that’s why he went the other way.
Bravotv.com: I guess the big downfall of your dish was that you didn’t get the sauce on some of the plates, but then Gail made a comment that she actually liked the dish without sauce. What did you think when she said that?
I was pleased. I was like “Well, great.” That’s good for me. If she didn’t need the sauce, perfect.
Bravotv.com: Did you get to try the other dishes?
Actually, I didn’t
Bravotv.com: What did you think of the judges’ comments overall about your plate?
I was fine with it. Honestly, everybody would have loved to have won. I felt like I prepared a dish that sort of reflected my style and it was pretty technical. My food at the restaurant is all about technique and it’s all about trying to make the most of the ingredients and I think I might have fallen short on a couple of accounts. But I did the best that I could with the time that I had.
Bravotv.com: What surprised you most about competing, that you didn’t think you’d have a problem with?
I think it’s just relying on yourself and yourself alone. I competed before, like I did Iron Chef and was successful with that but in that instance, you’re working with a team and people you’re comfortable with. So when you’re left to your own devices things just kind of creep up on you and it becomes very difficult. At least I know for me, I was pushing myself to do the very best I could and as I said before, try to create something that represented my style and that’s hard to do, in two hours, by yourself, for 15 plates.
Bravotv.com: The judges commented on how you all bonded and everybody respected everybody so much. Did you all keep in touch after?
Yes. I saw Roy not too long ago up in Carmel, and we hung out a little bit and reminisced about the show. Yeah, so definitely. I think when I’m in Chicago or D.C. I’ll definitely look up Art. I mean you could find Roy pretty much anywhere around the world. But the next time I’m in New York, I’m definitely going to Barbuto. So yeah I think those guys were great and I was really to have gotten to know them a whole lot better over the course of a few days. And I definitely look forward to seeing them again.
Bravotv.com: Do you have anything else you want to add about the experience?
I think it was great. I really enjoyed it. And I’m expecting a call when Top Chef Masters 2 comes on. I want my shot.