Bravotv.com: OK, cook the meal of your life: What was the inspiration behind each dish?
Talk about pressure! I'm not sure any chef alive can cook the "meal of his/her life" in such a short amount of time, but I tried my best. I was inspired by the ingredients. I cooked a meal that I would want to eat. It was a combination of ingredients, cooking techniques, and flavor profiles that I love. It was the first time all season I felt like I was really cooking my own food. I was very happy with each dish.
Bravotv.com: Did you know before you came what you would cook?
No way! I learned from watching the show that you NEVER get to do exactly what you want. Of course I have some signature dishes I was hoping to present, but I never had my heart [set] on any particular one. My mind was clear until I saw what food was there and how much time we had.
Bravotv.com: Of course there was a twist (there always is), but did you think Stefan would have cooked the alligator so well?
I am not surprised at all that he rose to the challenge. Stefan is an amazing chef and we both know the only real advantage I have on him — my looks! That's for you buddy! Seriously, I respect him a lot. I know it looks like we can't stand each other, but I consider him a good friend and I look forward to hanging out with him soon. As long as we don't have to compete against each other, we will never have harsh words again.
Bravotv.com: Were you happy you got Richard to help you? How much influence did he have on the meal?
Richard was amazing. He is the real deal, one of the best chefs this show (or any) have seen. Richard never tried to make the food his own, he just supported my vision. He had some useful advise when it came to plating and service, and I wouldn't have been able to do so many things if he hadn't been there. His speed, professionalism, and his humility were exactly what I needed. THANK YOU RICHARD!