Bravotv.com: First the Quickfire: What were you thinking when you found out that you'd be butchering?
I really didn't realize what we'd be butchering at first but when I saw the aged rack I was really intimidated. I spent some time inspecting it and I came to the conclusion that a rack is a rack, so that's how I was going to approach it, like any other rack.
Bravotv.com: How important is butchering to a chef's knowledge?
It's one of the most important things because you need to know how to treat your product. Purveyors spend so much time getting you that quality product -- you really need to know how to treat it. As a professional chef you like to get things as whole and as untouched as you can because it's better quality and then you can butcher it how you want to.
Bravotv.com: You really impressed Chef Tramonto and the whole thing seemed fairly easy for you -- how did you learn to butcher so well?
You know, I've been in the kitchen since a very young age and I've had the experience to be around a lot of great chefs and have kept my eyes open. I also think it's in my blood, with both my grandfathers having been butchers. At the end of the day I thought it showed my technical skills were up to par and that's what a chef needs to do -- knife skills are a basic thing. Technical skill is the basis of a great chef because without technique, how can you create?
Bravotv.com: Onto the Elimination Challenge: What was the inspiration for your two dishes?There wasn't inspiration with the pan seared scallops. Initially I thought scallops as a first course is always nice, acidic, refreshing. Then I fell in love with the tomahawk and wanted to clean the rest of them up and what better dish to serve at a steak restaurant.
Bravotv.com: Were you surprised that you came out on the bottom?
No. I would never serve that scallop dish in my restaurant.
Bravotv.com: Did you try the other chefs' dishes? What did you think?
I had no time to try anything else -- too busy soaking water out of the scallops!!
Bravotv.com: The Great Scallop event: Did you consider 86ing them entirely? Why didn't you?
You know, I definitely considered 86ing them entirely but I thought that would definitely land me at the bottom so I tried to do as best I could with what i had. As far as I understood the challenge once I picked my protein I could not go back and switch out so by 86ing the scallops I would have only had one dish, the tomahawk.
Bravotv.com: Harold didn't comment on the fact that they tasted frozen but rather that the scallop dish wasn't texturally interesting, was that a concern for you at all before serving?
Completely. I spent too much time soaking the water out and not focusing on the texture or taste and it showed.
Bravotv.com: You spoke back to Chef Tramonto in a somewhat sarcastic tone during Judges' Table -- what did you think of him as Guest Judge? Do you regret speaking to him like that at all?
I never knew who Chef Tramonto was before I met him on Top Chef. Obviously I loved him after the Quickfire but I honestly could not believe that he was giving me shit about what was in his cooler. Bottom line: I don't use frozen scallops in my restaurant. I felt I said it in a respectful way. Although it came across harsh, I felt it showed I had passion for food and the business. In the end we shook hands and parted on good terms.
Bravotv.com: What are you up to now? Where can your fans find you ... and your hats?!
I'm opening a place in Washington, DC, Good Stuff Eatery. Everyone should come check it out! Handcrafted Burgers, Handcut Fries, and HandSpun Shakes. So I'm splitting my time between NYC and DC and traveling around to different events. I'll be opening up a finer dining restaurant in the upcoming year.
Bravotv.com: Anything else you'd like to add?
At the end of the day I've had the most amazing experience on Top Chef. Meeting great people that I competed with, the judges, and going through the motions of becoming a top chef. I look back on this experience and I feel I'v egotten what I wanted out of it. It's humbled me as a chef and broadened my food philosophy. TV is one thing and real life is another and I hope all the fans come out to the restaurant and meet me for who I am!