Johnny Iuzzini

Johnny Iuzzini explains why it can be harder to create dishes inspired by familiar flavors.

on Oct 11, 2011 Which pies do you think sounded the best? 
JI: I love pies of all types. I especially love rhubarb. I grew up with rhubarb growing on our property, and my mom would make rhubarb pies and jam. I have to admit though, my earliest memories of rhubarb were not fond ones, but over time, I grew to love it. I am also a fan of banana cream pies, but that is one that if the proportions are off in the slightest, and banana isn't the star, it just doesn't deliver, and I think Chris found that out the hard way. As most people will tell you, the best pies have the best crusts. It has to be tender, flaky, and full of flavor. That is the key to a great pie. On to the Elimination Challenge: you expressed some concern over some of the concepts, especially Orlando’s flavors. What were you most worried about? 
JI: Well, when you reference a classic dessert that everyone is familiar with, you shouldn't stray too far away from the original when it comes to flavors. Be creative in the presentation and the plating, but not so much in the stretching the flavors. In Orlando's case, he said his dessert was inspired by a candy apple. Well last I checked there isn't any chocolate in a candy apple, and I believe that these are two very difficult flavors to combine. When you are dealing with desserts of flavors that tie directly into people's flavor memories which have very direct ties to their emotions. they have something very real and substantial to reference and compare it to. It is almost better to give people something they have never heard of or tried before because there is no point of reference, and there is a clean slate. Orlando has a lot of bravado and a big ego. He said he added chocolate because he loves chocolate. Again, he's not thinking about the challenge or his guests. Whenever a chef cooks for his own ego rather than his guests he/she set themselves up for ridicule and failure. In the end, it's the service industry. Our goal is to make our guests happy through our cooking. In a drunken moment, some of the chefs revealed that they’ve wanted to punch you at times. Thoughts? 
JI: Well, I am the first one to understand that when under a lot of stress, suffering from fatigue and under the influence, that sometimes we tend to get over-emotional and say things that we wouldn't say in a normal situation. I understand how the chefs may feel that I come down on them at times. I think what they may forget is that I have worked very hard to achieve what I have in my career, that I am still a working chef who works a minimum of 12 hours a day in my kitchen, leading my team and constantly evolving and creating new dishes and techniques all while being part of a growing professional community where my door is always open to other chefs to share knowledge and experience with. I ride the chefs at times because I believe in them when at times I don't think they believe in themselves. I want them to think outside their own mental box and ask themselves questions. I am proud to be where I am in my career and very proud to be a part of a show that I believe has the ability to shed light on a craft that so few people truly understand. It is up to the chefs to tell that story for all of us. If they want to punch me, that is fine. It tells me that they are frustrated, and if anything I hope my presence forces them to push just a little harder and try just a littler harder. In the end, I hope they will realize that it is never personal and thank me for it.