The winning chef shares why he knew his down-home cooking would win the day.
Bravotv.com: What was your first reaction when you saw who your competitors were?
When I found out about who I was up against? I was like OK, these chefs have years of fancy food experience, being my career has been private for families. Well, my secret weapon is the homeliness of my food. My simple flavors are always well-received.
Bravotv.com: The Quickfire — were you happy with the aisle you got?
Love the aisle I got! Grains, rice, etc. Why? Because you can create a main dish with those foods and it's common knowledge that grains are the wonder food.
Bravotv.com: Why did you decide to go with a risotto?
Everybody loves gooey pudding-like foods, nursery food, sticky delicious, and making that sticky grains salad was an idea that I borrowed from a salad I had at Lotus Star in Las Vegas. The acid in the salad refreshes your palate from the buttery gooey sticky risotto.
Bravotv.com: Now the Elimination: Did sabotage ever cross your mind?
No, because you don't mess with a chef ever. We may make comments, but it's a general well-known rule — don't touch a chef's food or his knives without asking.
Bravotv.com: Why did you decide to make a complete meal on a plate? (i.e. Include a dessert)
Why? Well, I figured it would take the servers time to walk so far between sets and I wanted it easy, and also, to demonstrate that I put a lot of effort into it. OK, was it too much? Well, who doesn't like fried chicken leg, next to some mashed sweet potatoes, and the thigh tastes more polite when it's braised, and one lesson I learn from competing on another popular show, dessert always wins! My peach pie, that I made at Ms. Winfrey's Gospel Brunch, that Barbara Streisand flipped out over surely made them see heaven.
Bravotv.com: Were you nervous that the judges would find the dish too heavy? They commented that they weren’t used to the two preparations of chicken.
No, I knew the other food would be lighter, and more hipper than mine, and I believe that was the secret to my success — they welcomed that taste of home. Odd numbers are better than even. I felt good about it and that was the most important reason. You have to please yourself, because if you do most people respond well to that favorably.
Bravotv.com: Did you get to try the other dishes? What did you think?
No I don't ever eat much when I am cooking. My favorite was Michael's chocolate explosion!!! Wowowwo, that man can make some delicious sinful dessert.
Bravotv.com: You all seemed to form a real bond. Have you all kept in touch? What did they teach you?
I've not seen my fellow chefs since we competed together, but I am in L.A. and plan to go and see Michael at Providence. Roy is in Hawaii, Jonathan in NY, so I'll see him next week. We are all busy with multiple restaurants, staff, and family.
Bravotv.com: How were you feeling at this point, going in to the Championship Round?
Well, I was little concerned about being away from home, restaurants, and trying to compete and being distracted. I also had a gutt feeling things were going to get harder.
Bravotv.com: Anything else you’d like to add?
I love being with fellow chef friends, actually seeing them cook, chatting with them about politics, family etc. You see each other as one, and how we are so connected by so many common threads.