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Michael Chiarello: Reacting to Curveballs

Chef Chiarello explains what really happened with Dale Talde. First the Quickfire: were you surprised how many ingredients you and your competitors didn’t know?
Quite surprised! I thought I lost for sure as I did not finish each ingredient. My strategy was to take my time and increase the percentage of success. You have to think back through your sensory/flavor memory and it takes a quiet mind. Without sight was the big surprise — I didn’t realize how much I rely on sight.

How to Watch

Catch up on Top Chef Masters on Peacock or the Bravo App. The Elimination process, what was your process around choosing your sous-chefs?
I have interviewed a lot in my career but in those cases I am looking for someone I can groom and grow over a couple of years. In this case I didn’t have time for them to develop and I only needed us to work great together for four hours. By asking them to cut and chop a specific cut of veg while I am asking them questions and pushing them along is exactly how I imagined the challenge would go. Thoughtful cooks that could take good direction is what I was looking for and is exactly what I got. Even Malarkey was thoughtful enough to know what his strengths were and knew he already contributed those when he volunteered himself off the show. (Big high-five to him.) Why did you ask the chefs if they knew how you were? How to pronounce your name?
If you really want to work with someone you would know those two interviewing basics. If they knew who I was I felt they had a better chance of knowing my style of cooking … which would be a huge benefit. What was the inspiration behind your menu? What is your thought behind your sous-chefs sharing their ideas and executing them?
I wanted a menu that represented how I cook and the bold flavors of microregional Italian cooking. At the same time they had to be able to be served room temp (if necessary) and still be wonderful. I also wanted items that could be cooked day or hours before and only get better. Plus a little showmanship of making risotto in front of the guests (the curveball of losing a sous-chef made this a little challenging). The older I get the more I am interested in collaborating. It gave me a great amount of pleasure to get there input.

I had a quick decision to make; Do I disrespect myself, my chef friends I am competing with, set a horrible example to the younger chefs and engage him or simply get cooking. Good news is Fabio wanted to get cooking … You and Dale got into a bit of a tiff; what happened?
When the cameras started to roll we began to organize our food by recipe. When we opened my fridge it was filled with someone else’s product. I asked around to see whose it was. At that point Chef Dale put something in the fridge and I asked him about it. He did not respond. I didn’t recall his name (there were 12 of them running around) so I called to him using “Young Man.” He appeared to blow a fuse and come at me with all his venom. Growing up as a country bumpkin and wrestling all through school I had a quick decision to make; Do I disrespect myself, my chef friends I am competing with, set a horrible example to the younger chefs and engage him or simply get cooking. Good news is Fabio wanted to get cooking … end of story. How much of your menu did you have to change? You said your food had a lot of mayos, etc in it.
Three of the dishes had to be re-worked last minute. What did you think of the outcome? The judges’ comments?
I was thrilled and honored to make it to the finale. Comments were fine … they liked the antipasti, risotto, lamb, and veggies. Mixed reviews on swordfish texture (I think I fell into the same trap as Suzanne and had to rely on a different grade of swordfish then I do at Bottega) and olive oil cake. Did you taste the other food? What did you think?
All the food as prepared was awesome! I didn’t get a chance to taste them off the buffet line. Did your sous-chefs provide any tips on how to compete?
They knew we wouldn’t get all we bargained for and that a curveball would be thrown, and they were right. . What did you think of the sous-chefs you got overall? You and Fabio seemed to work well together.
The all were amazing. Heads down … dedicated … hard-working! The bonus was Fabio could hold the attention of the patrons and throw the party when I had to run back to the kitchen. Anything else you'd like to add?
First and foremost I would like to thank Chefs Malarkey, CJ, and Fabio for the amazing job they did, the huge contribution on “how” to get the work done in the most efficient fashion. It was a great professional favor to share a kitchen with them. I was disappointed that the viewer didn’t get a chance to see their work in action. CJ, you are a machine! Great palate and hands. Malarkey … true Chef organization and drive. Fabio … fabulous cook, incredible to the camera (so sorry the viewer didn’t get a chance to see how much fun we had on the Italian side). In closing I am honored to share some kitchen time with you and am in your debt.

Respectfully … MC

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