Burning Questions

The eliminated chef has no regrets about his final dish.

Apr 27, 2011

Bravotv.com: How was your overall experience on Top Chef Masters?
SS: Top Chef Masters was a wonderful experience for me to have had. I have the misfortune of having no professional training in my background. That is a good and bad thing. Bad because I can chop onions fast, but I chop them in a way that is not good for my arthiritic hands. If I had gone to school, I would have been trained better. Luckily for me, my working with the Culinary Institute of America and their amazing instructors has given me an adult learning experience that has enriched me in ways that have come to guard me in exams life sends my way.

The very first challenge, I ended up with only eight minutes to cook with marshmallows and corned beef. I had cut my fingers, not one but two. It took 12 minutes to get them bandaged so I could continue working. The dish I made was actually nasty-good. Sadly, it waited too long for the judges to taste it and it lost its texture. It was all about crispy textures that a lot of Indian food has. If the judges had eaten it as I finished it, they would have been shocked at the deliciousness of a dish made with such a nasty pairing of ingredients.

When I opened the box and discovered what I was given, I felt Top Chef Masters was a mockery of my very life and my talents. After tasting my dish, I believed in the show, and life and myself. I was convinced such sheer stupidity also had a place in life. Even if only to show you, that sometimes our talents can give even the ridiculous some meaning.

That first Quickfire told me I had nothing to fear even as I competed alongside legendary chefs like Mary Sue Miliken, Traci des Jardins, Alex Strata, Floyd Cardoz, Celina Tio, and John Currence to name a few. I cook a lot. My restaurant uses recipes from me that our chefs put into practice and action. But where I cook a lot and very often is at our farm and in our kitchen in the city. I entertain more than most people I know. That keeps me cooking, thinking, practicing and learning. I was not out of practice at all. I realized soon after seeing my fellow chefs cook that we all had years of experience. As different as our experiences were, it was not where we studied or what restaurant we worked at or what cuisine that we cooked professionally that mattered on this TV experience. This was a test of our ability to perform and live in the present. I live life each minute, as best as I am able. This respect for each moment I breathe gave me confidence that I was not too shabby to be in this stellar line up.