Bravotv.com: What were you thinking when you saw who your competitors are? Have you worked with any of them before?
As soon as I saw who was in the show with me, my intial thought was, "This is a talented, diverse group and that I certainly have my work cut out for me ... this isn't going to be easy." I knew Hubert Keller and Tim Love, having enjoyed their food and friendship for years. Christopher Lee and I had met once prior to the show, but I was a big fan of his cooking already.
Bravotv.com: What were your biggest concerns competing in the Quickfire? You said you don’t really do desserts.
I had several concerns with the Quickfire Challange. One, dessert really is the weakest part of my game. I'm fine with helping create the flavor profiles of the desserts in all of my restaurants, but the actual fabrication of them is something I leave to my pastry chefs, the true masters of eggs, butter, cream, sugar, and chocolate. I comment on taste, texture, plate presentation, menu balance, etc, but rarely get involved with the whipping, mixing, folding, measuring, and everything else that goes into their artform.
The fact that 30 minutes was shaved off of a normal Top Chef Quickfire Dessert Challange certainly wasn't going to help my cause, nor that the Top Chef kitchen was outfitted with equipment that I had never used before in making my very limited repetoire of desserts. The challange would have been hard enough in my own restaurant, but not feeling comfortable with the equipment made making desserts and churning ice cream so much more difficult ... AND IT REALLY SHOWED!!!!!
Bravotv.com: What was the inspiration behind your Quickfire dish? Were you surprised by the Girl Scouts’ reactions?
My inspiration was simple ... this was a dessert I had committed to memory, having just made it two days ago in one of my restaurants, and was something I knew tasted great and wouldn't challenge anyone's tastebuds (seven-year-old Girl Scouts included); plus I knew, having just made it at Radius, that I could be done in 40-45 minutes. Um, yeah, right, sure, 45 minutes!
Well, a good cook is never supposed to make excuses, so I take full blame for not checking my surroundings a little better. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson that day.
As for the Girl Scouts' reaction ... they were tough critics to all of us, except Hubert. Having not completed all five of the required plates, I was pleasantly surprised they gave me 2.5 stars as I felt I deserved less for not completing the task.
Because of their good spirit and generous score, I will be buying triple the amount of Girl Scout cookies this year!!!