Friday, September 28, 2012

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, jalape├▒os 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!

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