Guest Judge

The legendary chef answers our questions about his guest judging experience.

Feb 11, 2009 The whole theme of this episode revolved around "the last meal." You chose squab and peas. What does that dish mean to you?
I had a hard time there because I would, of course, want my last meal to be very, very, very long with all the food that I like. When I was a kid the squab was one of the special treats that we would get occasionally throughout the year. The fresh peas, for me, is really a celebration of spring and is very appealing to me. Carla did that very, very well. I remember the peas more than the squab actually. They were really fantastic. You had made a comment that peas would be out of season by the time the show was taped. Do you think that would be a problem for her?
No, there's always a way of finding things. Actually, you can do those peas with tiny frozen peas which are picked out of the pod, specifically if you are picking the very smalls ones, which are higher in sugar and closer to the top. That works very well with it, but of course it's not to be compared with fresh peas. I remember the butter reduction she did with it — it was very good. The chefs seemed a little unsure as to whether they should cook the dishes traditionally or put their own spin on it. What was the concensus at the table?
Well, both. I suppose that if you want to please someone you learn a little about that someone and try to cook to please them. If you live with a husband or a wife you are trying to please your mate and you cook what they like to eat. However, you cannot escape yourself. To cook well you have to cook with your gut. It has to be your food. Tom and Carla agreed that the squab was slightly overcooked. You said that you didn't mind. Tom then went into something about how old school and new school differ on the way they like it cooked. Do you agree with that?
I don't know if it's only older chefs or old school chefs. It's a question of personal preference or taste. It's a question of the fad or the fashion at that time. We used to roast a duck, which I still love. A roast duck you put in the oven for an hour at 400 degree and the skin is crispy and well done. You can do that at home. Many years ago this was the only way that duck was cooked. Now the only way you can have duck is with the breast rare and the leg is confit or whatever and it is kind of ridiculous because one is just after the other. All of a sudden you have the old style coming back new again and you have those types of things. It's more of a question of passion than anything else. It's a question of personal preferences. Sure, I could have had the squab slightly less cooked than it was, but it was quite well seared and satisfying and good.