Burning Questions

The winning chef describes the inspiration behind his dishes and the problems he faced.

Jul 15, 2009

What went through your mind when you saw who you’d be competing against?
Did I just throw myself under the culinary bus?

First the Quickfire: You were the only chef who really stuck with the “fried” aspect of the dish. What was the thought behind that?
Trying not to throw a 60 yard pass for a 20-yard receiver. In other words, make sure you pick something you know the judges will understand.

Do you watch Flipping Out? Were you prepared for how tough the cast would be?
I did and soon after it was MC flipping out. How do you prepare yourself for that?

So you were on the top going into the Quickfire, what was your plan of attack for cooking so many dishes in such a short period of time?
Spray them with big flavors ... but I would have to move my a-- to get it done.

What were the inspirations for your three dishes?
I was looking for three dishes that would not just taste great but stick in their memories as wildly clever but approachable … back to the 20-yard receiver. At Bottega my customers LOVE these combinations.

You ran into a bit of a problem with the ice cream maker — can you describe what Lachlan taught you?
Little problem … HA! If you mean the machine on the set wouldn’t freeze my anglaise? Yes that would be a problem!! Lach showed me how to use the crazy fancy new age Paco Jet and saved the day. He now has one large favor to be called in any time of my life (Italians hate owing someone so huge.)

Have you used basil in desserts before?
Yes…back in the 90’s it doesn’t come thru as basil … more camphor-like.

Do you think having the diners help you plate was “cheating?” :)
Its only cheating if you get caught!

What did you think of the judges’ comments?
I have learned over the years to listen with my mind not my pride and look for the truth in their statements.

Did you get to taste the other chefs’ dishes? What did you think?
Yes! At my funeral I want them all cooking for me

How are you feeling about the championship round at this point?
FREAKED … look at the talent, and my friends here have been cooking 70 hours a week for the last eight years so I am 29,120 hours of practice behind them. Bring it on!!

Anything else you’d like to add?
This show is fabulous, fun and crazy to do … and with the talent on Top Chef Masters, “on any given Wednesday, each of us is great enough to win!”

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