Burning Questions

Chef Elizabeth Falkner says what she would've done differently.

Jun 17, 2009

Bravotv.com: First, what was your reaction to entering the kitchen and seeing who you were competing against? What is your relationship to any of the other judges?
My first reaction when learning who my competitors were was that I just had to try to focus on my own game and not worry about them, but definitely try to psych them out any way possible. (I played competitive soccer for 28 years of my life!) I don't have any previous relationship to any of the judges. I had never met any of them before.

Bravotv.com: First, Quickfire Challenge: Did you see the original episode of this challenge? Did you know what you would want to get if you had to get items out of a vending machine?

I did see the original episode with the vending machine quick fire and was hoping for something fun like that. I didn't have any pre-conceived idea of what I would purchase out of the machine or what to make, except that I knew I wanted to make an ice cream with liquid nitrogen, no matter what the challenge was. I built my idea around making that ice cream in 10 minutes.

Bravotv.com: What was the inspiration for your dish?
Really it was the idea that I wanted to make ice cream, so for an amuse bouche, I thought a bright horseradish ice cream would be palate-pleasing and then rehydrating the beef jerky with all it's flavor seemed like a good pairing. I found beet powder and that tied it all together for me, as I am extremely fond of beef, horseradish, and beets together.

Bravotv.com: How was it being judged by former Top Chef contestants?
I really thought I had nailed this Quickfire, as the amuse was refreshing and innovative and used quite a few of the vending machine ingredients but not obviously ... but who knew Betty didn't like horseradish.

I wished it had been some of my favorite former Top Chef contestants, who might have appreciated it more, of course! But it's the luck of the draw.

Bravotv.com: Onto the Elimination Challenge, what was it like cooking for Lost’s writers? Do you think knowing the show was an advantage at all?
I was excited going into the Elimination Challenge and cooking for the Lost writers and producers and the judges. I know of the show, but I don't think it really mattered how well any of the competitors know the show or not; this was about cooking within a time frame and making it all come together on the plate.

Bravotv.com: What was the inspiration for your dish?
The inspiration I had was to cook wild boar two ways. I wanted to cook classic braising style and also sous-vide style. It was more about me experimenting with two techniques, parallel.
I wanted to use the fruits as well and wanted to serve those coconut crepes I had made, but "lost" track of time ... had I got my sauce on the plate, I think it all would have melded so much better.

Bravotv.com: Did you get a chance to try the other chefs’ dishes? What did you think?
We really did not get to try each other's dishes. I thought Graham Elliott's presentation was the best, but thought using tuna was too safe (for me). I thought Wiley's use of the egg and the chicken was clever and some of the other ingredients involved made his choice of proteins not as safe, (which I salute), and I thought Suzanne showed everyone that she could cook just about everything on the table and put it all in one dish (I was a little shocked it went over so well.)

Bravotv.com: What is your feeling about molecular gastronomy? The judges seemed to be pretty split on it.
I am a fan of local seasonal cuisine and the avant garde. I believe the two worlds should come together and can. The judges should realize this, and I think they do on some level.

Bravotv.com: Did you agree with the judges’ comments? (You obviously knew there wasn’t enough sauce.) Would you have added more texture to the side they called “baby food”-like?
I think had I got the sauce on the plate, the papaya-yam pudding would have blended in better with the spice and fat that was in the sauce. I think my whole dish would have stood out much more.

Bravotv.com: Anything else you’d like to add?
Now I am beating myself up though, thinking I should have made a boar schnitzel and sous-vide tenderloin and finished with a passionfruit mustard on the schnitzel and a papaya-mango chutney with the sous-vide ... and of course, now I think I could do all that in one hour! Probably could have made dessert too!! Bring me back!!