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Jed Sanford, the owner of Abigaile, a gastrobrewery in Hermosa Beach, Calif., needed a chef de cuisine for the restaurant while he and his executive chef Tin Vuong open a sister restaurant. They were looking for someone who could keep pushing the restaurant’s edge. Anne Burrell and the Chef Wanted team had four candidates: Chefs Juan Pedrosa, Ben Diaz, Chris Mack and Jamil Peden. Two initial tests would narrow down the chefs to two finalists, who would each get to run the restaurant’s dinner service on separate nights. In the end, both Jed and Tin were clear in their decision, which was a surprise for both chefs.
The first challenge would test the chefs’ ability to show who they are as a chef, however there was one very particular requirement: the dish had to be vegetarian. Everyone adhered to the requirements except for Chef Chris who used chicken stock to glaze his tofu. Even so, it was Ben who was sent home for his dish of crusted potatoes, which he called faux scallops. His accompaniment of sliced pears fell flat for Tin and Jed was not a fan of the idea of faux scallops. For the second test, the chefs were asked to create a favorite fast food and turn it into an upscale dish. Juan’s decision to make his take on the fish sandwich without a bread component did not impress Tin, so he was sent home. Chefs Jamil and Chris would move onto the dinner service.
When it came to prepping for dinner service, Tin advised Jamil to change his approach to something more like fast food, but Jamil wasn’t comfortable with the idea. His duck rillettes were sent back and customers didn’t like the color of his eggplant puree. A special request for a vegetarian dish threw him off when he had to make it twice because the customer found the first one too spicy. Anne felt that Jamil wasn’t listening to his customers or the advice.
Before Chef Chris’ dinner service, Tin came in and reworked his menu and gave him soft-shell crab to serve as a special that evening. Chris’ crab sandwich sold out immediately, which left him with a predicament when a VIP requested the dish. Chris decided to make the customer his specialty “Elvis on Acid,” a banana, bacon jam and Thai peanut sauce dish he originally made in the second challenge, which was well received.
Jed and Tin had two very different chefs to choose from. Jamil showed he wasn’t very flexible, even though he put out a smooth service. Chris didn’t have the best service, but at least none of his dishes were sent back. In an unprecedented ending, Jed and Tin decided not to hire Jamil or Chris because they didn’t feel either was a good fit for Abigaile.
Watch Chef Wanted on Thursdays at 10pm/9c and keep coming back to FN Dish for updates and behind-the-scenes content.