Bravotv.com: Let's start with the Quickfire. Were you intimidated at all when you saw that Daniel Boulud was the guest judge? Where had you worked with him previously?
I wasn't intimidated by Daniel. It felt more like having one of your parents over to your new apartment -- does that make sense ? I hadn't worked for him in 8 years, and I didn't think he would remember me as I was just a line cook, and I was more nervous that I might be embarrassed by a chef I admire and worked for. I worked for Daniel, at Daniel in 1999-2000 for 9 months. I left him to take an executive position in Atlanta.
Bravotv.com: How important is technique in the kitchen? At all levels?
It's crucial, really. A great chef has to be a technician, and an expert craftsman before personal vision and artistry can surface. Its like a designer on Runway not thinking sewing is important! For me the technical quest for perfection is always ongoing. Presently I'm obsessed with scooping one-handed quenelles. It's a classic technique that can be practiced. You should go buy a few pints of ice cream and have a quenelle party! Technique also is a way for a chef in a competition like this to separate himself. The whole group of us were making turned vegetables one night to see who's a badass ... Yes -- we are dorks! I was really impressed with Dale's avocado in the Quickfire. That's what I love about what I do -- you see something impressive, and then you push to achieve that technique. I saw Dale yesterday; I should have challenged him to an avocado turning battle ...
Bravotv.com:Were you concerned at all with your other teammates, or you knew you would make a good team?
Looking for drama are we? A great chef can make a great team with anyone -- that's leadership. But Andrew and Dale are both passionate and skilled, so there certainly weren't any technical or skill concerns. Of course part of the competition is dealing with a wide range of personalities. Andrew and I are on opposite sides of the chart. I believe Dale picked to be on my team, and that's just a huge compliment, just like last week when a few chefs chose rather quickly to work with me. What an honor ... That made me really want to push, so that no one on my team would go home, and prove that it's a good call to work with me .... Take one step towards me, and I'll take two towards you.