Manuel: At a Crossroads

Eliminated cheftetsant Manuel thinks somebody else should have gone home instead of him. Find out who.

Bravotv.com: Let's start with the Quickfire, were you intimidated at all when you saw that Daniel Boulud was the guest judge?
I think everyone was intimidated seeing one of the world's "top" chefs in our kitchen. It's always nerve-racking cooking for someone you have a deep respect for and you want them to be impressed by your food. How important is technique in the kitchen? At all levels? Technique in the kitchen is the most important. it's the foundation for creativity and excellence.

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Bravotv.com: Onto the Elimination -- Did you have any reservations about being paired with Spike?
Spike wouldn't have been my first choice, but as things worked out, I felt the progression of the meal supported a fairly nice contrast of his style and my own.

Bravotv.com: Were you happy with the choice of Good Morning Vietnam? Were there any other movies that you would've chose?
The movie I suggested was Como Auga Para Chocolate, but the way that we fell in the progression of courses, I felt that Good Morning Vietnam and direction we took our six- course experience complemented the other groups course order much better. We didn't want the judges to get repeat items on any course. It was also a chance for me to work with something I was not familiar in, which is Vietnamese cuisine.
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Bravotv.com: Were you concerned at all that it seemed like the film was an afterthought? That your team decided what kind of food they wanted to make first, rather than being inspired by a film?

That actually never crossed my mind, but in hindsight, it wouldn't really have been an issue as the judges gave us no constraints on how we chose our movie and what dishes were going with it -- bottom line, we as chefs do what we know and if it works out in the challenge then more power to us.Bravotv.com: Would you have made anything else beside spring rolls? Were there any other ideas thrown out there?
We entertained the idea of going Mexican but opted for a lighter take with Vetnamese. Time constraints and money were tight. We wanted something a little lighter and this seemed the best option on all accords.

Bravotv.com: Obviously, the judges weren't too fond of what you and Spike put out -- what were you most disappointed with?
I was most disappointed that I wasn't more involved in the final assembly of the roll. I was building the plates while that was going on. We were the second course, and the timing of the dishes was not really clear until after our turn came.

Bravotv.com: You seemed fairly upset that it seemed like you were just railroaded by Spike -- what really happened?
I don't think he intentionally "railroaded" me .... I put a lot of confidence in people and unfortunately sometimes the plan on paper doesn't translate as well in real life.

Bravotv.com: Do you think someone should have gone home instead of you?

Spike should have left that night. But I also know that we were a team and I should have spoken up when my gut told me something was off.Bravotv.com: Things got a little tense in the stew room when Zoi started bashing the Willy Wonka dish, but you kept quiet. What did you think of the situation?
Well, Mama always said if you don't have anything good to say ... really -- how many times are we going to smoke something under plastic wrap and make tapioca (faux) caviar? Well, Howie did make pork every time. .. Hung sous-vide at least one component every week ... hmmm.

Bravotv.com: Do you have a prediction as to who will win the whole thing yet?
I have my favorites. I am really hoping a female chef wins it.

Bravotv.com: What are you up to now?
I'm at a crossroads in my life right now. I have presently parted ways with my previous employer and am taking time to spend with my two twin boys and my family. I am traveling quite a lot and enjoying life and all of the opportunities and experiences this has given me.

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