Bravotv.com: What were you thinking when Padma said that you had to create a dessert?
At first I was concerned by looking at the display that we had to bake a cake. Dessert however doesn't worry me. I actually feel like it's a broader base for creativity, and a good way to incorporate some unique flavor combination and wit.
Bravotv.com: Why is making a dessert so difficult for chefs? (especially for past contestants)
I think it's a mental block. People think dessert, and they think cake, they think tuile or crunchy cookie and they think fruit coulis. It's like a cook thinking a savory course has to have a starch, vegetable, protein, and sauce. I don't have any formally trained and embedded knowledge of pastry, so I think that helps me think fluid in terms of pastry/last course. The pastry kitchen, the cocktail bar ... it's all an extension of the kitchen; they are all just stations in a kitchen.
Bravotv.com:What was the inspiration for yours?
I like bananas. I eat them often for breakfast. I like chocolate -- who doesn't? I like coffee and fresh bright flavor. It just came about. As for the salsa, a banana has a similar texture to avocado. Often, that's how I come to a new, or a re-envisioned idea. I observe ingredients, I eat slowly, I try to think when I taste, etc ...
Bravotv.com: You were in Chef Iuzzini's top group AND you got into the Top Chef cookbook -- how did that feel?
Johnny's a rock star -- the guy is an amazing chef, so of course praise from him was great. As for the cookbook ... very cool. I'd rather that than a trip or prize. I'd like a trip or prize, but the book will last forever.
Bravotv.com: Onto the elimination -- What was the inspiration for the dish?
Well, we were dealt the buzz words. It all came around in our think tank session. Tofu was obvious. How to make them perplexing, interesting, try to make them take on a very un-like tofu flavor ... meat, beef in this case. Green curry I find very perplexing. It's one of my favorite dishes. So herbacious (my food uses a lot of herbs) and it's right in Dale's wheel house (very aggressive flavor).
Bravotv.com: Did you get to taste any of the other dishes? What did you think of them?
I thought all of the dishes were strong in flavor, some perhaps uninspired.
Bravotv.com: How was the experience at Second City?
I grew up watching Second City, SNL, Monthy Python with my Dad. So it was a neat experience seeing that live. I also just love being around other artists/professionals and see them do their thing in their medium. Bravotv.com: How does it feel to win again?
I dismiss the good feeling pretty much right away. It's a good feeling for an hour or so, but then it's back to the kitchen with a clean slate. I think of the competition as a sport, and regular season wins don't mean much ...
Bravotv.com: Anything else?
Hmmm ... Well I'd like to address Mr. Dale Levitski, a guy I have never met, and who has never tasted my food, or worked with me. I'd write a response to some of his comments but I'd rather not extend his fifteen minutes any longer. I just think some of his words have been in pretty poor taste, especially coming from a previous contestant who should have an understanding of the show. I can take it, but when my family reads that stuff, and it's not from Joe Blogger, c'mon ....