Burning Questions

The winning chef talks about competing against his brother and the inspiration behind his crowd-pleasing dish.

Aug 26, 2009

Bravotv.com: Your brother won the Quickfire, but you said he sometimes relies too much on techniques (molecular gastronomy presumably), were you worried that he did that here?
You know that was a clever move. I give him a lot of credit for pulling out the nitrogen first. Scares the rest of the group who has never even seen it, proves to the rest this guy has been around. And with something so simple as gazpacho, he elevated it to the next level. He deserved the win.

Bravotv.com: Onto the Elimination challenge, what did you think of the whole concept of Battle of the Sexes?
Mike I. seems to be the expert on this topic, ask him. (Editor's Note: Ha!)

Bravotv.com: What was the concept behind your dish? How often do you make it?
The macaroon is something that I use at my restaurant a lot as part of my canape course on my tasting menu. The idea is to create a very light flavored shell that is crisp so layers of texture can be achieved with a smooth puree or pudding. Using the idea of a margarita and chips and dip came from the bride. She said one of her favorite places in L.A. to eat was a restaurant with authentic Mexican cuisine. Naturally I thought, "How can I take the tequila shot and change it into a margarita with my dish?" Furthermore, why not add the thought of tortilla chips and guacamole; the combination is classic. I must say that normally these macaroons in the Mid Atlantic using a dehydrator takes about 10 hours to prepare; I took a huge risk trying to pull this off. I relied on the environment, being in the desert to dry the macaroons overnight.

Bravotv.com: Were you worried at all the play on “chip and dip” wouldn’t translate?
I was at first; there was a lot of explaining to do here. But I then thought if I just make it taste good and pair well with the tequila then if the concept did not go over well at first, then maybe I would get a second chance to explain at Judges' Table. That is the goal anyway — the food should just make sense and taste good.

Bravotv.com: Traditionally, food is paired with wine — how familiar are you with pairing with cocktails or liquor?
I like the idea; there are so many different things you can do with a cocktail and liquor. Take bourbon for example, the toasted wood, caramel notes, vanilla, so many flavors to build from. At my restaurant we have a 21-course menu. The table has four seats and is literally in the kitchen. The opening course is a cocktail that changes with the season which is typically built around a classic food flavor combination.

Was this aspect difficult?
No, I thought the challenge was a lot of fun. You had to think out of the box a bit.