Burning Questions

The winning chef talks about cooking for the "Chef of the Century."

Sep 9, 2009

Bravotv.com: Did you have any reservations about the deconstructed Bearnaise? The way you cooked the fish?
Deconstruction of a dish or sauce is only successful if you pull it off in such a way that the classic favor combination is not compromised. Making a classic Béarnaise is not what Michael I. wanted to do and I agreed. I have experience making this same sauce and knew of ways to incorporate into the dish in a way Michael and I were both looking for. So I was confident in pulling this off. The way we cooked the trout was by curing in a light brine first, to firm the flesh of the delicate trout slightly and to incorporate some of the flavors found in Béarnaise. Citrus, pepper, and tarragon are some of the flavors we incorporated. I then cooked the fish under vacuum or “sous-vide” using an immersion circulator. I find with very delicate fish a delicate cooking technique is a great choice. The temperature of the fish and cooking bath can be precisely achieved using this method. I was very excited about the way the trout turned out. I don’t think I could have done a better job cooking the fish. I was proud to present the fish to the group. We had trouble with the last piece of the dish. I really wanted to rope the whole classic/ modern feel to the dish by adding a pomme soufflé. This is a fun classic potato preparation that I use occasionally at my restaurant. The light crisp potato added texture to the dish without compromising the pairing of trout béarnaise. It was down to the last minute that we executed the soufflés and Michael I. wanted to leave them off. We pulled them off in the end and I was ecstatic that it made the dish. I believe it helped send the message that we stayed true to classic flavors yet presented them in a fun more modern approach. This is very true to my style of cooking.

I won that challenge judged by the Chef of the Millennium — how cool was that?

Bravotv.com: What was it like cooking for Joel Robuchon and the other legendary French chefs?
If I could only win one challenge to date this is the one I wanted the most. I could essentially go home after wining this one. Just kidding! But that is how much it meant to me — the caliber of chef sitting there critiquing your food is not only such a valuable experience as a chef, but also once in a lifetime.

Bravotv.com: How did it feel to have Tom call your food “amazing” and to hear all the positive comments from those legendary chefs?
To have those comments come from the table seemed unreal. I was thinking to myself, “Really?" I was confident of my dish, but did not expect comments like that. I am a pretty modest person; praise is hard for me to take. But this was very cool.

Bravotv.com: Have you completed your prize yet? If not, how are you feeling about it?
I have not completed my prize yet. However, I look forward to the opportunity to cook in Joel’s kitchen. As an up and coming chef I believe that any and all experience you can gain is valuable, just seeing the way he operates his kitchen will be a huge opportunity. I am sure there will be things that will influence the way I cook and organize in my own kitchen at VOLT.

Bravotv.com: How did it feel to beat your brother on this one? (You say you want to on this one.)
I felt very good about winning this challenge not only against Michael but the other chefs; this was a huge challenge for all of us. Ending up on top shows I am here to compete and that I am here to stay. I won that challenge judged by the Chef of the Century — how cool was that?