Bravotv.com: First, a lot of people are going to ask about your haircut. What made you go for it?
You know, every few years i change my look for the simple reason that i get bored. If you Google Image me you will see so many different looks. Long hair, short hair, clean shaven, beard, etc. I was a club kid in my youth and for a long time changed my hair color often, including bleaching it out to a silvery platinum blond. Another reason I changed it was it became a focal point of people. I'd rather them pay more attention to the chefs and their skills then my sideburns and pompadour. Plus, I was a bit to easily recognized on the street. I like my anonymity
Bravotv.com: You and Gail seemed a little disappointed with the number of banana splits made during the Quickfire. What was your first impression of the chefs through these desserts?
Well sure, we are all excited to see what the chefs can do -- but to their defense, they were working with a limited pantry in a quasi-kitchen working in teams with other chefs that they have never met. Some chefs definitely showed more creativity then the others and were faster thinking on their feet. We could definitely begin to see who had some of the stronger personalities of the bunch.
Bravotv.com: What might you have made if you were competing in the Quickfire? Well it's funny, that is always the question I ask myself when we announce each challenge. What would I make? This challenge was about creating a modern twist on a classic soda jerk preparation. I would take all the flavors of a root beer float or egg cream and rebuild them in a new form changing the perception of the dessert by providing texture and turning something classically served in a cup into a plated dessert that, when you eat it, would still transport you and instantly evoke those emotional memories.
Bravotv.com: Onto the Elimination Challenge! What do you think the key was to creating a successful showpiece and plated dishes?
When working in a team effort, you must first identify each member of the teams strengths and weaknesses. Then there always has to be some sort of a team leader, it always becomes an issue when there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians. A competition is not the place you should be trying out new techniques or pretending like you are more comfortable with your skills then they really are -- especially when your teammates are counting on you. When creating desserts that are served with a showpiece there must be a strong theme that carries between the two. They don't have to look the same exactly but they should both be easily identifiable and easily connected either through flavor or design. A play on words doesn't really fall into this category.
Bravotv.com: What do you think the biggest mistake the teams made? br>Some teams tried to do techniques they weren't familiar with. They should have done what they knew best and used their time more wisely to make sure the desserts they served made up for any shortcomings of the showpiece. The teams really needed to divide and conquer, rather then having to go back a remake and fix things over and over again. They needed to be honest with each other regarding their abilities and then use those same strengths to push their team to the win.
Bravotv.com: Orlando wasn't too keen on Rebecca's original rice pudding idea. Do you think rice pudding could have been successful?
I think Orlando was smart in advising Rebecca to use the oats rather then rice for the porridge. I think if she would have just made rice pudding that for sure would have drawn some harsh criticism from me. By using the oats it showed adaptability, creativity, and finding a way to connect to the teams fairy tale theme. The point of competition is to raise the bar, not just make the things you make every day in your home kitchen. It has to pop and grab attention.
Bravotv.com: I think some viewers might have been surprised Craig didn't go home. What would you response be to that?
Well, if Craig had been on the losing team then there would have been a strong chance that he would have gone home. But, all in all, Craig's team was not the worst that day. After all it was a team competition and not an individual one. This is one of the benefits and flaws of team challenges. A team challenge, in a sense, may protect the weak because it then becomes an average of total talent. We never really know what people are capable of until the only person they can rely on is themselves.
Bravotv.com: The episode stressed how creating showpieces is a different skill set. Is it something taught in pastry school? Where would one hone their showpiece-making skills?
Showpiece work is one of many specialized skill sets within the vast genre of pastry. More often than not chefs who are really great at showpieces work in either hotels or schools that allow for lots of practice as well as extra space. Chefs that work in hotels are constantly making showpieces for decoration for buffets as well as amenities for guests rooms. Pastry school is great for a foundation and introducing you to basic techniques, but it is really up to the chefs to practice, practice, practice and refine their techniques. Restaurant chefs and bakers traditionally do not make a lot of showpieces (there are always exceptions of course).
Bravotv.com: Which desserts and showpieces blew you away for better and worse?
I think Chris and Orlando are definitely two chefs with the most experience in that category, not only in that they both compete on a regular basis, but that they are both in positions in the industry where they get the opportunity to practice their craft often and work on their chocolate and sugar techniques. I really enjoyed the small details that Chris and his team thought of that did not stand out, you had to look for them a bit. Like the claws of the wolf, granny's glasses, and the fact that they made Riding Hood out of sugar. They also made a very tasty blackout cake dessert. I liked the idea of the pipette for their bomboloni too. I have no idea what a pineapple dessert was doing in the story of Hansel and Gretel. The ginger really blew out the delicate pea flavor on Jack and the Beanstalk, and Megan's cakes really were very bland -- again probably because she had to correct Craig's mistakes. Also the carbonated drink and chocolate cloud were all-ill balanced and just not delicious.