Bravotv.com: Going into this final challenge, what were your assumptions about what the challenge or "twists" would be? How did you prepare for them?
I have seen in the past that Tom typically added an “extra course” to the menu. That is the one that stuck in my head the most. What will that course be and how will it be presented?
Bravotv.com: What went through your mind when you saw what the mystery box was?
At first I was concerned about the choice of ingredients, matsutake, bass, squash, meyer lemon, and anise hyssop. Then it naturally occurred to me that these ingredients can be accents to the dish as well; they just have to be included, for example the meyer lemon. I felt much more comfortable after digesting the challenge.
Bravotv.com: What was your immediate reaction when your mom came out?
When my mother came into our room it was a total shock, because at first Kevin hugged someone I had never seen before. At first I was confused, seconds before my mother walked in. Then I knew something was up. However I was very excited to see my mother.
Bravotv.com: Who did you want/not want as your sous-chefs? What was your reaction when you drew knives?
There wasn’t anyone who I didn’t think I could work with. If I had what I considered a weaker chef, then I would only have them working on very simple aspects of the dishes. If I had different sous, then I may have changed my food as well.
I believe that you are as good as those around you. I had a very strong team, I felt that I could rely on them and delegate tasks to them without too much guidance. I was very happy with my knife pull.
Bravotv.com: What was the inspiration for each dish?
The inspiration for the first course came from my mothers ability to feed three children at the table each night while keeping up with a fulltime job, sports, and the day to day. She made a few one pot wonders like her tuna noodle.
The mystery box inspired the second course. I literally take ingredients when given to me and just reach into my repertoire for the best way to present them. This occurs at my restaurant regularly, a farmer or forager drops off a crop or a find and then the menus get pulled and new dishes are created. That is what can be so much fun about being a chef.
Bravotv.com: Did Padma's pregnancy affect your menu at all?
No, I did not think too much into it. I think Michael asked a question to her when we first arrived in Napa about what she would and would not eat. I stuck to the obvious of course or should I say stayed away, just to be sure she tasted all of my food.
Bravotv.com: What was your reaction to seeing who would judge you?
I knew whom almost everyone was sitting at the table. They are some of the top restaurateurs in the country. Then our mothers, I think I was more nervous cooking for them, what would they say?
Bravotv.com: How did your sous-chefs work out?
My sous-chefs were awesome, particularly I have to give a huge thanks to Jen; I know she really wanted to be there competing in this challenge. I also know how much of a pro she is. She pushed for me in this challenge like it was her own. I really respect her for taking that attitude towards it. I told the both of them that if WE win then WE all won, and they set out to win.
Bravotv.com: What was your immediate reaction to the final win?
I must say at first a little disappointed and shocked, but that was taken over by the fact I was standing next to my brother.
Bravotv.com: You said that this will show who is a better chef — do you really believe that?
In this last challenge anyone of us could have taken the title. I take back what I said earlier. We are all great che’s; some have their days and some don’t. I truly believe in that now. I also feel good about saying that because all three of us have said the same.
Bravotv.com: Did your prediction of who might win change when Kevin got cut first?
That was pretty shocking at first. I did not think anyone would get cut in that way. I did feel pretty good after the final decision, because now I feel like I have set placement in the competition. However it could have gone either way.