Friday, September 28, 2012

ATC Interview with Chris Cosentino, continued

ATC:  This is Laura Kluvo from All Top Chef and I'm on the phone with Top Chef Masters Season 4 Champion, Chris Cosentino.  Congratulations Chef Chris!

CC:  Thank you.

ATC:  You made some bold choices in the finale - which of the four dishes was your favorite?

CC:  You know, all four of those dishes were not only dishes that were carefully prepared and thought through, but they are each very very  special to me.  The Chef's Last Supper is actually in my cookbook, it is the very last page.  I could not choose a favorite.  Each one has a very powerful meaning.

ATC:  Are these available on the menu at your restaurant?

CC:  Yes, I have served three of them for years.  The tripe is always on my menu and the Chef's Last Supper,  but the beef heart tartare with foie gras...unfortunately, in California it is now illegal to serve foie gras so that part is no longer on the menu.

ATC:  When you entered the Top Chef kitchen for the first time and looked around at the other chefs, who did you feel would be your biggest competition?

CC:  Well, Missy Robbins really made me nervous.  Unfortunately because of her injury, she did not have the opportunity to fight for her charity.... I know what Patricia is capable of...  Takashi...of course...  I knew a lot about Kerry but not enough about Kerry.

ATC:  Have you remained in touch with the other chefs?

CC:  Yes, I was just in Seattle and had lunch and dinner with Thierry, I talked to Takashi the other day... I talk to Patricia about once a week.  I talked to Art the other day too.  All of us have been reaching out to one another and it's really a cool thing.

ATC:  Which was your favorite challenge?

Excluding the finale, which of course was great - because we got to cook what we wanted to cook...I feel that for me The Grand Canyon Challenge was extremely powerful.  I mean walking out on the Skybridge and looking down through the glass...  being invited on to the sacred land of the Hualapai Tribe was just a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Even the rainstorm was just beautiful.  This will never be repeated.  The helicopter ride was just hysterical.  Our pilot was so funny and Takashi was able to overcome his fear of heights.  It's just impossible to describe what it was like to be standing on the rim of the Canyon and to look across and see the storm.  It was very very powerful.  Absolutely stunning.

ATC:  Honestly you were very likable on the show - have you felt the fan support?

CC:  Ummm...

ATC:  Have you been recognized in the street?  On the plane?

CC:  Yes, I mean I just took a flight to San Francisco and there were people on the flight congratulating me.  And of course my Twitter just blew up.  It was ridiculous.

ATC:  Besides cooking what are your other interests?

CC:  I am an avid cyclist.  I used to be a professional mountain biker.  Now I ride for fun.  I also really love skiing and I'd like to do more of it.

ATC:  Tell us about your restaurant.

CC:  My restaurant Incanto, is in San Francisco in area called  Noe Valley.  It's an Old-World style Italian restaurant.  We try to cook with an Italian philosophy.   In an average week, we get a 250 pound pig, whole -  and two whole lambs or goats depending on what we intend to serve.  We just work our way through the animals and change things up as we go.

We also have a project called Boccalone. We create 26 different cooked, cured and raw products.  We sell all sorts of salumi.  Five heart salumi...  Fresh sausage...  We have been doing it for about 5 years.

I give people at home the ability to have the unique foods that are not available at the general market.  If you want cheek bacon or back bacon you can order them and we will ship them.   These are the lovely Italian flavor profiles made with the best quality meats available for you to serve at home.

ATC:  Tell us about your charity.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research is an amazing charity.  They are not afraid to really leap forward and to take bold chances in an effort to eradicate this disease.  My Uncle John died of Parkinson's and he was diagnosed with the disease over 30 years prior so he suffered with the disease for a long time.  When he died he donated his brain to research.   He was such a generous and convivial guy - he really taught me a lot.   To have the Michael J. Fox Foundation allow me to represent them is a huge honor.  This is really going to help a lot of people.

ATC:  How much did you win?

CC:  I won $141,000 but I just learned that Google is doubling the amount so the total is $282,000.

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

CC:  Don't be afraid of your food!  These are regular cuts of meat.  Other countries celebrate these cuts.  We are the only country that doesn't utilize the entire animal.  We need to learn to appreciate the whole animal and to create less waste.  Try something new.

All Top Chef Interview with Kerry Heffernan, Continued

ATC:  This is Laura Kluvo from All Top Chef and I'm on the phone with Top Chef Masters Season Four Runner-up Kerry Heffernan, Good morning Chef Kerry.

KH:  How are you?

ATC:  Congratulations on your strong showing.

KH:  Thank you.  I am very proud to compete.  I had an amazing time and I learned a lot about myself and my competitors.  It was really really great.

ATC:  Going in to the finale, did you feel like the underdog?

KH:  From the beginning, the person that I felt I was competing with the most was myself.  It didn't make any difference whether I observed what anyone else was doing.  It was only about me doing the very best that I could do.

So I felt very strong going in for a number of reasons.  For instance, the format suited me.  Serving four plates, a composed meal, a menu, not just a bite, was definitely what I am trained to do.  Honestly I felt very strong going in.

ATC:  If I was at a restaurant and saw all of these dishes on a menu, I would definitely chose yours.

KH:  Yes that seems to be the feedback that I am getting.  That my food was easier to understand.

ATC:  The critics I suppose are very sophisticated but the viewers are just regular fans.

KH:  I seem to have lost the undisclosed "letter-writing" category.

That appears to be much of what the judges were looking for - an eloquence in describing where and when the recipes were coming from.

But hey, all's fair in love and war.

ATC:  Did you watch the previous seasons of Top Chef?

KH:  Yes, yes of course.

ATC:  What did you do to prepare for the show?

KH:  I talked to Floyd and a few people, they said it would be really hard and intense.  You don't know how to prepare.  If you can, memorize a few pastry principles, but other than that, no.   I should have studied a little more because I learned that a right cross to the jaw would be much more effective than some subtle tai chi moves.

ATC:  After watching the show, and seeing the critic's reactions to your food, is there anything that you would have done differently?

KH:  No, I did what I do best. Choose good ingredients, highlight those ingredients and do it in subtle and thoughtful ways.

That doesn't stand up very well, when the person just before has served raw onions, jalapeƱos and cilantro in big doses.  You have to be mindful that the judges will be tasting a variety of things, and usually the big flavors win.

ATC:  That is great advice for future contestants.

ATC:  Which was your favorite challenge?

KH:  I liked the finale.  No doubt.

ATC:  Tell us about your restaurant.

KH:  Well, we recently sold Southgate in the Essex House which is now owned by Marriott.  I am actually looking at three projects right now.  I still maintain a consultancy at 15CPW.  It's a high-end apartment building that actually has a private restaurant just for the residents.  It's very unusual that a restaurant is only for the residents.

I'm also writing a book about Twelve Months in Sag Harbor.

I don't know if you saw Watch What Happens Live.  I actually brought some cups of chowder from clams that I harvested in my back yard.

ATC:  I didn't watch, but I was a little concerned that you might have a hangover if you were on his show last night.

KH:  It's not the show, it's the after after show that you have to worry about.

ATC:  Tell us about your charity.

KH:  My charity is City Harvest.

I have actually been working with them for over twelve years.  They take the food that is left over from restaurants in New York City and re-purposing it in a very quick turnaround and distribute it to people in need.  It has become much bigger than this, not only because of the chefs that are involved but because of the Executive Director,  Jilly Stephens who has done an amazing job.

The effectiveness, drive, outreach and fundraising of this is really really extraordinary.

How much money did you raise?

I raised $17,500 on the show, but there is a continuing campaign.  So for anyone who contributes to City Harvest between now and October, when we have our big event, we will match your contribution.

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

KH:  I was very proud to be part of this season.  It was so much about the food.  Putting the best plate forward.  It was an amazing experience.

ATC:  Thank you Kerry.

KH:  Thank you!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

All Top Chef Interview with Lorena Garcia, Continued

ATC:  This is Laura Kluvo from All Top Chef and I'm on the phone with Top Chef Masters contestant, Lorena Garcia.  Hi Lorena.

LG:  Hi Laura.

ATC:  Congratulations on your very strong finish.  Your elimination was heartbreaking.

LG:  I was very very sad.

ATC:  Did you watch the episode last night?

LG:  To be honest with you, I only saw bits and pieces because I was tweeting and live-chatting with the fans.

ATC:  Well that is very important - to be there for your fans.

LG:  Absolutely,  that's what I tried to do.

ATC:  I do not recall hearing anything in the instructions about creating a "restaurant" dish.  I only heard "elevate the dish to a master level."  Were you told to create a restaurant dish?

LG:  No, really, to my recollection, we were told to "elevate the dish" to something that could be taught to the kids - something that they could learn and reproduce.  It was lasagna, there was only so much we could do.  It had to be something accessible and doable for them.

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

LG:  In the process of making the dish, I learned things about the sudents, like Jojo had type 2 diabetes, and maybe if I had known that, I might have modified things a little, but honestly, I still would have presented the dish family-style and I am imagining that the kids will prepare this again for their families.

ATC:  Which was your favorite challenge of the season?

LG:  The Grand Canyon - WOW.  That was just so amazing.  To cook there in that majestic place, with Art....and whoever won or lost didn't matter, it was just so fantastic to be there...and every Quickfire was just so much fun, just the running around like crazy, and when I got it - like the dart hitting the bullseye, it was just great... And in the boxing ring with Sugar Ray, being able to come out a winner in that challenge was just great.

ATC:  Did you know Art before you arrived for the competition?

LG:  No no no no, we met on the show.  Now we talk about every day, and we are developing some ideas together for pop-up restaurants around the country.

ATC:  I've enjoyed the cantina bowl several times, will you be creating more original recipes for Taco Bell?

LG:  Yes, I am continuing to help Taco Bell to introduce new ingredients to Taco Bell and to continue to develop the cantina menu.  I am up to this challenge.  We want to offer great choices on the menu at Taco Bell.

ATC:  Tell us about your charity.

I started with something called "Big Chef Little Chef" about seven years ago, in the schools just teaching the kids about food and healthy cooking and eating.  Even just the difference between onions and garlic.  The kids and the parents learned together about making good choices.

About two years ago I joined The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, I have the opportunity to teach students how to make healthy food choices - of course all of this is with my latin-inspired ingredients and recipes.

This week, for instance, we are promoting "Healthy Breakfast Week" in the schools and I am having breakfast with the kids and learning what they really like to eat for breakfast.

ATC:  Tell us about your restaurant.

I just opened about three weeks ago in the Atlanta airport.  Of course I have one here in the Miami airport and soon we will open in Dallas/Ft. Worth.

It's very exciting.  I am working very hard.

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

LG:  Wow, I want to say that the support and the love that I have received from the fans of the show is fantastic and I am very grateful.  What you see on the show is the real thing and I just can not wait to see what is there for me next - and again thank you so much to all of my fans for all of your love and your tremendous support.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

All Top Chef Interview with Patricia Yeo, Continued

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

PY:  Hello, How are you?

ATC:  Good, thank you.

ATC:  Congratulations on your very strong showing in the competition.

PY:  Thank you.  I had a lot of fun.

ATC:  What was the best thing about appearing on Top Chef Masters?

PY:  Being with the group of chefs was just wonderful.  I mean Kerry and Missy and Sue I have known for a while and we do events together, but we have never worked side by side.  It was great getting to know other chefs like Takashi and Thierry - and of course Chris, I just love Chris.

ATC:  Did you watch the episode last night?

PY:  No, I actually can't watch myself so I haven't watched a single episode.

ATC:  I totally understand.

ATC:  Have you participated in any other cooking competitions?

PY:  Iron Chef.

ATC:  You did Iron Chef?  How did it go?

PY:  Very well.  It was a lot of work.  The cooking is all very real, you really only have the hour - it was a lot of fun.  [Note:  Yeo went up against Chef Morimoto in "Battle Tofu" in season 3 of Iron Chef America.]

ATC:  Have you been recognized in the street?

PY:  Yes, in the strangest places. Not so much at home in Boston or Cambridge but when I travel.  In New York and Chicago.

ATC:  Which was your favorite challenge?

PY:  Crikey.  Strangely enough, I liked the Thai Restaurant Challenge because I like that cuisine.  I also liked the "Diner en Blanc" challenge.  It was truly amazing how quickly the whole thing was set up and broken down.  It was beautiful.

ATC:  Have you ever heard of the "Diner en Blanc" before?

PY:  No.

ATC:  Tell us about your restaurant?

PY:  I am actually no longer at the restaurant.  I am right now working on development for an equity firm.

ATC:  You are not cooking every day in a restaurant?

PY:  No I am not, I am involved in setting up four different projects right now which will be opening soon and I will be involved in the initial set-up but not in the daily cooking.  I am 52 years old and I don't want to be on my feet from 7:00 am - 11:00 pm.

ATC:  Tell us about your charity.

PY:  My charity is Heifer Project International.  The foundation buys animals - livestock for farmers in various countries.  So you can buy a llama for someone in Peru, or a beehive for  someone in Alabama, or a flock of chickens for someone in Thailand.  Instead of just giving someone a chicken, you give them a flock and they can raise the flock and have eggs.  They actually can build a small business.  It is a wonderful charity.

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

PY:  Crikey, you know, everyone has been so supportive.  I appreciate all of the emails and messages.  I want everyone to know that this really was just so much fun and all of us will remain friends for a long time.  It was a wonderful experience.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ATC Interview with Takashi Yagihashi, Continued

ATC:  This is Laura Kluvo from All Top Chef and I'm on the phone with Top Chef Masters contestant Chef Takashi Yagihashi.  Hello Chef!

TY:  Hello.

ATC:    You were a favorite all season and we were surprised to see you go, were you also surprised?

TY:  Yes, to be honest, I was a little surprised, but all of the chefs are very talented great chefs, so I did pretty well.

ATC:  Which was your favorite challenge?

TY:  I like the Quickfires.  I won three times in a row and I almost won a fourth.  So I think I have pretty good knife skills and my technique is pretty good.  So I  can work quickly.  I like Quickfire a lot.

ATC:  Have you competed in any other cooking competitions?

TY:  I did Iron Chef Challenge on the Food Network.

ATC:  How did that go?

TY:  It was close, but I lost to Chef Michael Symon.

ATC:  Did you watch the previous seasons of the Top Chef?

TY:  Yes, I did.  Actually when they called and asked me to do it, I started watching all of the shows.  I watched very carefully after that.

ATC:  Who are your best friends from the cast?

TY:  I'm very close to Thierry.  He's a great chef and also very funny.

Also, from Kansas City, Debbie Gold.  She used to be in Chicago.

I have also known Art Smith from Chicago.  You know, when I saw them in the studio for the first time, it felt like a reunion.

I also made a lot of new friends.  I did not know Chris Cosentino before this and also Mark and Clark.

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

TY:  Yes.  On the last challenge.  I had to move very quickly and right away I started.  I think I should have taken a little more time to look at the pantry and see what was available.  I think I missed a lot of things I could have used that were hiding there.   Maybe I should have taken another minute.  That was my one regret.

ATC:  Tell us about your charity?

TY:  My charity is the Red Cross.  For the tsunami disaster in Japan.  My town in Japan is about 100 miles away from the epicenter, but even my town had a big problem.  A lot of people died.  Also, my family travels back to Japan once a year, or every two years.  My kids remember what this area looked like before the tsunami.  So this is why I wanted to send some money to Japan.

ATC:    How much money did you win for the Red Cross?

TY:  I think $20,000.

ATC:   What are you working on now?

TY:   I am back cooking at the restaurant.  I know it sounds boring but that is what I am doing every day.  My restaurant, Takashi, fine dining, is almost like a fusion restaurant.   French technique, Asian ingredients.

Also, Slurping Turtle a Japanese tapas bar.  Very comfortable food.  Lots of noodles.

I try to cover two markets.  I alternate between restaurants.

Also, I am working on two new cookbooks, and I am working on a video to promote the restaurants.

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

TY:   I had a really good time.  I wish I could speak up more well, the other chefs are much better.  Cooking is a wonderful thing.  You can put yourself on the plate.  Almost like an artist using a canvas.  It's really fun.  I am very happy to have had this opportunity to express myself.