Thursday, August 30, 2012

ATC Interview with Art Smith - Continued

ATC:  This is Laura Kluvo from All Top Chef and I'm on the phone with Master Chef Art Smith.  Hi Art.

AS:  Hi Laura, how are you?

ATC:  I'm fine but I have kind of a broken heart....

AS:  Ah, thank you, I know I was sorry to leave.

ATC:  Art, first, please share your weight-loss secrets.

AS:  Well, during the first season of Top Chef Masters, I was not feeling well and I discovered that I had diabetes and I knew I had to make some changes.

First - eat clean.  For instance if you want orange juice, eat an orange.  Eat whole clean foods.  You really can't eat processed foods.  Also, I exercise an hour a day.  I like to listen to music and to dance on the treadmill.  I have run two marathons...I can't believe I did that.  Two marathons in three weeks....

For breakfast I have the "Art Start."  Oatmeal, Greek yogurt and and egg white omelet.  I eat this every day.  Even on set, I brought the ingredients with me and prepared it every morning.  I also went running in the desert.

ATC:  Which was your favorite challenge this season?

AS:  Well of course it is easy to say, the one that I won - the tepanyaki grill.  That was a lot of fun.  But I also enjoyed the aphrodisiac challenge.  Dita von Teese was amazing.

ATC:  What went wrong with your wedding cake?

AS:  Oh the wedding cake...  You know, it was the transportation and the time lag mostly.  It was like the leaning tower of Pisa.  I assembled it in the cooler at the restaurant and then by the time it was served it was just falling over.  Thank goodness I saved the top...

I want to say that just two weeks ago I had the opportunity to make the president's birthday cake.  And what did I make? - the pineapple upside-down cake and it turned out beautifully.  I mean I was sweating a little.  It was heavy and I was presenting it thinking, "Oh please don't fall over," but it was delicious.

ATC:  Tell us about your restaurants.

Honey.  We have five restaurants.  Right now I'm at Art & Soul in Washington DC, a soulful southern restaurant just steps away from the Capitol.

Table Fifty-Two is my signature restaurant in Chicago.

We also have Southern Art and Bourbon Bar in Atlanta, which just got named on of the seven top hotel restaurants in America, which I am so excited about, and there is LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto...which is a healthy, quick-serve concept.  We are opening a second one in Culver City.  We have Joanne's with the Lady Gaga family in New York.

I'm opening soon in San Antonio Texas - another hotel project and also in West Hollywood.

I'm telling you something - fried chicken will travel.

I'm excited, we are working on a national concept... I tell you Lorena Garcia and I - the love has not stopped.  We are planning the ultimate pop-up in the ultimate location as we speak...

ATC:  Are you serious?!?!?

AS:  Just put your thinking cap on and think about what would be the highly visible location in the next few days...

ATC:  The Democratic National Convention????

AS:  I didn't hear you....

ATC:  It can't be a secret, please tell us a little more....

AS:  Lorena and I are like sisters...  You know she is Venezuelan like my husband Jesus.  We want to bring Common Threads to Venezuela...

So many of the other chefs are so...

ATC:  So serious?

AS:  So serious.  I mean I think it's important to be serious about your food, but if you aren't having fun, then you need to get into another business..And Lorena and I just laughed and had so much fun.

ATC:  Okay.. so you and Lorena... pop-up...

AS:  Yes, we are working on a very public pop-up and then we will be working on several others.  Please watch out on twitter.   We are very excited...

ATC:  Tell us about your charity.

AS:  My charity is Common Threads.  

After school you know a lot of children don't have enough to do and this program uses cooking as a way to teach children how to prepare food, how to eat well, and most importantly, how to work together.  These are all important life skills.  Just those skills are enough to get you through.

We started with fifteen kids and now we have 7000.   We have programs in Miami, LA, Washington DC, Chicago.  We have eighteen locations and we are growing.  Shows like Top Chef Masters have enabled us to expand and it is very exciting to see how many kids watch cooking shows and have developed a real love of cooking as a result of Top Chef.

ATC:  Did you know Lorena before arriving at the show?

AS:  No!  It's hard to believe because she has become like a sister.

ATC:  Have you tried the cantina bowl at Taco Bell?

AS:  No, but if Lorena has touched it, it is magic, I'm sure.

ATC:  Chef Art, we are almost out of time, is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?

AS:  Most importantly I want to say a big big thank you.... you know I read all of the sweet comments from everyone and on Facebook.  I appreciate all of the love.  Thank you for laughing when I wore that teeny weeny green Speedo, and I have received so many warm wishes from fans who recognize me and who visit me at the restaurants and who are following my weight loss.  I have never felt so loved.  There is nothing like being greeted by a fan who says, "I have enjoyed watching you on the show."  Thank you people like the Magical Elves and Bravo and especially to the fans.

I'm getting ready to do a really great event with the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.  She has the idea of using chefs in diplomacy.  I truly believe that most of the world is hungry and if we just feed people we will have a lot less problems.

When all else fails, remember that a simple, delicious meal, made with love always helps.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

ATC Interview with Thierry Rautureau - continued

ATC:  This is Laura Kluvo from All Top Chef and I'm on the phone with Master Chef Thierry Rautureau.  Hi Theirry!

TR:  Hello Laura, How are you doing?

ATC:  Fine, thank you.  Congratulations on making the cast of Top Chef Masters.

TR:  Thank you very much.

ATC:  What was the best thing about being on the show?

TF:  The best thing about being on the show was forging a strong friendship with the other contestants and also having the lifetime pleasure of cooking over The Grand Canyon.

ATC:  So, was that you favorite challenge?

TR:  That was my favorite location.  I don't know if it was my favorite challenge, even though I won.  I wasn't very comfortable with the banana yucca.  I tell you it was a little bit of a head spin when I tried to figure out what to do with it.  The wonderful thing about the show was cooking on top of the world.  It was very humbling.  I thought it was absolutely magical.  It was the opportunity of a lifetime.

ATC:  I have a question about the Quickfires:  When all of the plates are set on on the table and the judges go down the line and taste them all, doesn't the last plate have a disadvantage?

TR:  Well, I think it depends on who is judging.  When you are the last one you have a disadvantage because things get cold. things fall apart or don't look as good as they used to.  There is quite a time differential between the first plate and the last plate, so yes, there could be a disadvantage.

But on the other hand, the palate may be satiated after tasting eight or ten plates and you may be granted a little bit of leeway on strength of seasoning.  Also, the last plate leaves the strongest impression.  So being last could also be seen as an advantage.

ATC:  Also, in the elimination challenge, how much time passed between plating and serving your dish?

TR:  Enough time for the B├ęchamel to separate.

ATC:  How hot was the temperature at the pool party?

TR:  It was pretty warm.  It was warm enough so that if you were doing a raw dish, you would definitely take a chance that the heat would warm up the dish.

But then a hot dish would cool as the trays were passed.

I made a rookie mistake.

ATC:  If you could go back, is there anything that you would do differently?

TR:  I would definitely do the Bloody Mary and the fruit skewer, but I would probably do a different sandwich and probably not the B├ęchamel.  I would probably still do something classic, but a different dish.

ATC:  Tell us about your restaurants.

TR:  I have two.  I've got Rover's, which is a fine dining establishment, a small house converted into a restaurant.  We have been open for 25 years.  It is very much focused on each diner.  And then next door we have a French-American Bistro called Luc, named for my father who passed away several years ago.  We serve crepes, classic and contemporary French and American dishes, hamburgers, things like this.

ATC:  What is the most popular dish at Rover's?

TR:  The most popular dish at Rover's is probably the scrambled egg and caviar which we have been doing for 25 years.  We take the egg out of the shell, prepare it, put it back in the shell, and top it with lime creme fraiche and white sturgeon caviar.

I would say the most frequently ordered dish is the foie gras.  We are known for this.

ATC:  Tell us about your charity.

TR:  My charity is Food Lifeline, which is an organization that gathers food, repackages it and distributes it to local food banks.

So, if you are a small food bank and you are looking for something like 50 pounds of apples packaged into single-serving containers, you can contact Food Lifeline and they will be able to provide this to you.

Of every dollar donated to this cause, 93 cents goes to food and only 7 cents goes towards operating expenses.

So it is a very efficient and well-run organization.

ATC:  Thierry, we're almost out of time, is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?

TR:  I would like to say to my fans, "Thank you very much for your tweets and Facebook messages, and all that you have been giving me.  It is very warming and don't give up because I am sure that Bravo will be asking me back again for another round."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

All Top Chef Interview with Clark Frasier, Continued

ATC:  This is Laura Kluvo from All Top Chef and I'm on the phone with Master Chef contestant, Clark Frasier.  Hi Clark.

CF:  How are you, Laura?

ATC:  I'm great, thank you!

I interviewed Mark last week and we have already talked about your restaurants and your history, so this week, let's talk about the competition.

Besides Mark did you know any of the other chefs when you arrived?

CF:  Yes, actually, we worked with Takashi a number of times and always enjoy him, and we had met Art, terrific guy, and we also met Patricia and been to her restaurant.  Yes, there were some familiar faces.

ATC:   Which was your favorite challenge?

CF:  I would say the seafood challenge was really fun.  We live right  here on the coast of Maine and we love  seafood, love oysters and so that was very natural for me.

Also, I am from California originally and so the salad bar challenge was also a fun one for me.  I love salad.

ATC:   When you arrived at The Grand Canyon, there was quite a selection of ingredients there for you.  Did you shop for those?  How did that work?

CF:  We knew ahead of time, what our "ingredient" was, in my case that was corn, and we were told that there would be "pantry items" but we didn't know exactly what would be available.

ATC:  Were you able to develop your recipe before you arrived, or did you have to improvise?

CF:  I knew I wanted to make a corn ragout. But, I mean I hoped that every ingredient I wanted would be there.

Actually I would say everything that I needed, within reason, was available.

ATC:  If you could go back, is there anything that you would do differently?

CF:  Well of course, I mean, if I did everything the same, then I would be eliminated again.  So I would change a few things.   This one didn't work, so I would like to go back with plan B.

Two things:  I tend to prep too much.  At the restaurant, we can never prep too much.  I mean if someone says prep for twenty I will prep for fifty.  That was something I didn't have to do.

The second thing is that although I believe that Kerry is a great guy and a great chef, it was obvious that we weren't clicking.

Actually originally, we were supposed to have salmon, but we discovered that the Hualapai do not eat fish, so we got tenderloin which I think is every chef's least favorite protein.  So, we had to punt which is what a Top Chef should be able to do.  I would have done something like a crisp corn cake to offset the softness of the tenderloin.

On Top Chef Masters, as you now, you only get one chance.  At our restaurant, if guests say, "You know, this seems mushy..." you can switch the recipe the next day.  You always have more than one chance.

ATC:   Was that your first helicopter ride?

CF:  Yes it was.  I loved it, it was so much fun.

ATC:   Did you travel back to Las Vegas in the helicopter?

CF:  No actually we spent four hours traveling back to Vegas in a panel van.

All of the chefs were great and very kind, but honestly, when something like this happens you don't really want to hang out with your buddies, you just want to go home and go to bed.

ATC:  After you were eliminated, were you able to join Mark for some fun in Vegas?

CF:  I had about eight hours of interviews the next day and then we just went home.  It was a very busy time of year, we had planned an event for the next week and had guest chefs coming in.  We had to get back.

ATC:    Did you know that you would be cooking outdoors?

CF:  Yes, I believe we did.  The rain was definitely a challenge.  Our grill was pretty much out.  It was definitely a challenge.

ATC:    How long total, were you at The Grand Canyon?

CF:  We got there, I would say, mid-morning and then we left about early evening.

ATC:   Clark, we are almost out of time, is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?

CF:  We have had terrific support from everyone.  We had people in at the Raleigh-Durham airport and again in LA tell us, "We enjoy seeing you on TV," that was very exciting.  It has been terrific to feel everyone rooting for us.  Really very gratifying, very exciting.

Thank you to everyone.

ATC:  Thank you!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ATC Interview with Mark Gaier- Continued

ATC:  Did you do anything to prepare for the competition?

MG:  I watched the prior seasons of the show, sharpened my knives and brushed up on some skills.  When you own and operate three restaurants, you are more into administration rather than cooking on the line, and so I spent some time in he kitchen and became more involved in the kitchen that I have in the last few years.

ATC:  Did you watch the episode last night?

MG:  I didn't because we are traveling and I was actually airborne last night.  This morning I downloaded it from iTunes and so far I have watched through the Quickfire Challenge.  I really enjoyed the Quickfire.  I will finish watching as soon as I can.  I'm dying to see it.

ATC:  It was a great episode, but I have to warn you that there is a heartbreaking ending.

MG:  I'll be honest with you, there was some sense of relief when I was eliminated.  I was so tired, you know, I am not 25 any more and they work you hard there.  It was fun, but there was a moment when I thought, "Well, I get to sleep in tomorrow, go shopping and spend some time with friends in Las Vegas.." so that was kind of neat.

ATC:  Tell us about your restaurants.

MG:  Our first restaurant,  Arrows, is on five acres in the countryside.  We were on the forefront of what is now called the "farm-to-table" concept.   We have an organic garden and we were working on sustainability as early as 1990, before it was all over the radar screen.  We are very proud of that.   We are kind of pioneers, and especially in such a harsh climate.  It is not easy to keep an organic garden going in Maine.

ATC:  Then, our second restaurant, MC Perkins Cove we opened a few years later.  We were so involved in running Arrow and trying to make it better that we were coasting on that and as we entered our late 30's we were ready for a new challenge.

An opportunity opened up for us to get this great piece of real estate right on the ocean and we opened up a two-story restaurant.  Kind of a rock 'em sock 'em with an oyster bar, and off-the-grill items, small plates, salads - still keeping with the sustaibability and using things from the Arrow garden.  A lot of the food is like what Clark and I grew up with.

And then in 2007, Marriot Hotels approached us about opening a restaurant on their Boston property.  We looked at the property and recommended that Marriot just blow it up and start over and that is sort of what they did.  This was the first Marriot that I know of that has a full-time gardener, a greenhouse and a terraced garden right outside of the kitchen. [Editor's note:  This restaurant is Summer Winter.]

ATC:  Tell us about your charity.

MG:  My charity, Equality Maine Foundation, is a cause that is very dear to Clark and I and to many of our friends.  We have a referendum coming up in Maine where the voters will decide whether to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as so-called "normal" couples.  Clark and I have been very involved in many of their fundraisers.

Of course I would have loved to have been able to present them with $100,000 - wow that would have been great - but the $10,000 will do a lot to further the cause, that is certainly more than what I could have done on my own.

ATC:  That is a very important cause.  Chef Mark, we are almost out of time, is there anything else that you would like to say to your fans?

Oh, it has been great.  just on this trip we have been recognized several times.  It is really a lot of fun.  First on the flight from Boston to Los Angeles someone said, "We recognize you guys, you are on Top Chef."

And then at the airport, we were in the bookstore and a woman actually got up from her table at a restaurant across the hall and came over and said, "You're those guys on Top Chef.  I am really enjoying watching you!"

I feel very honored to have been a part of it.

ATC:  Thank you very much for joining the cast and thank you for the interview.

MG:  My pleasure.