Bravotv.com: In the second Quickfire Challenge, the chefs have to make desserts with candy. What would you have wanted to make something with? Did any of them stand out to you?
I’m a huge fan of black licorice. I definitely would have gone more savory like the saltier candies and licorice and stuff, and stayed away from the really sweet stuff and just worked off of those flavors.
Heather C. did a dessert that was inspired by the flavors of the candy, but the whole purpose of the challenge was to utilize the candy in the food, so, for me, it kind of let me down a little bit. I mean, come on, this is a competition, don’t bend the rules and interpret things differently, you know what the challenge was, you're challenged like everybody else, stop playing games. Step it up.
Bravotv.com: And then for the Elimination, the chefs were inspired by cocktails.
I was very excited about this challenge. I’m a big fan of the bar. I work with bars a lot, I work with cocktails a lot. It’s sort of a passion of mine on the side, aside from being a pastry chef, is to some day open a cocktail bar, utilizing everything as a pastry chef, so I was hoping that these guys would really start to kind of show how similar the two mediums really are. It’s a matter of combining flavors, no different than from what we do in the kitchen, just a different medium being liquid verses solids. And some people, I thought, did a really good job, and I thought some people just played it safe and did simple things. I think the winner was definitely a clear winner. The margarita was awesome; a lot of great flavors, a lot of great textures, the salt really brought it all together. She was worried about the salt and if she didn’t have it, it might not have won it for her.
Bravotv.com: We're seeing more salt used in desserts, but it seems some people still reject it.
I use salt in almost everything I do in the restaurant. Almost all my recipes have salt in them, and it’s not a matter of being salty, because you wouldn’t taste the salt in a recipe, but if I gave it to you without, you’d notice a difference. It’s not about being salty, it’s about enhancing flavor gently and helping to balance flavors and balance a dish. And I guess opening up your palate is what salt's great for, bringing out flavor notes that you wouldn’t normally taste otherwise.
Bravotv.com: With this challenge we start to see some people getting worried about their presentation because they’re not necessarily pastry chefs, but they’re bakers. How much does presentation matter?
The show isn’t "Top Chef Restaurant Plated Dessert," it’s just "Dessert," so if your flavors are sound and the dessert is delicious, and it's aesthetically pleasing, it doesn’t have to be a hyper component-driven dessert. It doesn’t have to be Picasso on a plate. If it’s visually pleasing, and aesthetically pleasing, and it tastes delicious, chances are you’re gonna place.
Bravotv.com: In this episode we start to see Seth struggling to maintain his game face with all of the things going on in his life. What was your reaction as a judge?
In the first challenge I really saw glimpses of the fact that Seth does have a good talent. Seth understands how to put flavors together, and they’re unique flavor combinations. And he does have technique, so right away I thought Seth was going to be one of the front-runners, right off the bat, based on the first couple of challenges. But he had some emotional stuff going on with his family, he’s obviously very close with his mother, and I can sympathize. I lost my mom a couple of years ago to cancer, and it does, it screws you up; it’s very hard to be creative in that environment. Having that in the back of your mind, worrying about someone so dear and so close to you, it's very difficult, so I felt bad for him. But he knew this going into the show and he made a conscious effort to give it his all, so it was his decision to stay on or not given what was going on.
Bravotv.com: It seems like at Judges' Table these chefs reveal a lot more about what's going on behind the scenes than the chefs on Top Chef. Do you guys want to hear that stuff or do you couldn’t care less?
If you’re in a team effort and you’re being alienated by your team, it’s going to affect the quality of your work. So it does matter, to a point, but bottom line, we care about the food. We care about the dishes. We don’t care about the previous challenge, we don’t care about who stole whose pillow the night before. We don’t really care. But at the same point, the insight doesn’t hurt.