Bravotv.com: First the Quickfire: were you surprised how many ingredients you and your competitors didn’t know?
Quite surprised! I thought I lost for sure as I did not finish each ingredient. My strategy was to take my time and increase the percentage of success. You have to think back through your sensory/flavor memory and it takes a quiet mind. Without sight was the big surprise — I didn’t realize how much I rely on sight.
Bravotv.com: The Elimination process, what was your process around choosing your sous-chefs?
I have interviewed a lot in my career but in those cases I am looking for someone I can groom and grow over a couple of years. In this case I didn’t have time for them to develop and I only needed us to work great together for four hours. By asking them to cut and chop a specific cut of veg while I am asking them questions and pushing them along is exactly how I imagined the challenge would go. Thoughtful cooks that could take good direction is what I was looking for and is exactly what I got. Even Malarkey was thoughtful enough to know what his strengths were and knew he already contributed those when he volunteered himself off the show. (Big high-five to him.)
Bravotv.com: Why did you ask the chefs if they knew how you were? How to pronounce your name?
If you really want to work with someone you would know those two interviewing basics. If they knew who I was I felt they had a better chance of knowing my style of cooking … which would be a huge benefit.
Bravotv.com: What was the inspiration behind your menu? What is your thought behind your sous-chefs sharing their ideas and executing them?
I wanted a menu that represented how I cook and the bold flavors of microregional Italian cooking. At the same time they had to be able to be served room temp (if necessary) and still be wonderful. I also wanted items that could be cooked day or hours before and only get better. Plus a little showmanship of making risotto in front of the guests (the curveball of losing a sous-chef made this a little challenging). The older I get the more I am interested in collaborating. It gave me a great amount of pleasure to get there input.
Bravotv.com: You and Dale got into a bit of a tiff; what happened?
When the cameras started to roll we began to organize our food by recipe. When we opened my fridge it was filled with someone else’s product. I asked around to see whose it was. At that point Chef Dale put something in the fridge and I asked him about it. He did not respond. I didn’t recall his name (there were 12 of them running around) so I called to him using “Young Man.” He appeared to blow a fuse and come at me with all his venom. Growing up as a country bumpkin and wrestling all through school I had a quick decision to make; Do I disrespect myself, my chef friends I am competing with, set a horrible example to the younger chefs and engage him or simply get cooking. Good news is Fabio wanted to get cooking … end of story.