On tonight’s episode of Chef Wanted, Salvatore Lupoli, owner of Salvatore’s in Boston, was looking for a new executive chef for the sixth location of his Italian restaurant chain. Anne Burrell and the Chef Wanted team brought in four candidates for the job: Chefs Gustavo Romero, Robert Lia, Michael Ceraldi and Jonathan Lemon. 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 the chef who showed the most leadership and control of his staff was offered the job of executive chef at the new Salvatore’s restaurant.
The first test required the chefs to utilize fresh seafood right outside of the restaurant, chosen from a fishing vessel docked on the pier. Chef Robert created a seafood pizza with mussels, clams and hot peppers, which proved to be too hot to eat, so he was sent home. For the second challenge, the chefs had to reimagine a classic Italian dish. Chef Jonathan created a pork saltimbocca with mushroom ragu. Anne and Salvatore found the pork too dry, so Jonathan was sent home. It would be Chefs Gustavo and Michael who would make it dinner service.
Gustavo had a pretty smooth dinner service until the pasta started running out. He went back to make more, but in doing so, orders got backed up. Eventually dinner service got back on track and ended well. Michael’s dinner service also started out well, but his gnocchi, which had previously failed him in the first test, failed him again during dinner service. Anne had to step in to show him how to correct its issues and only then was Michael able to recover. In the end, Salvatore was most impressed with Gustavo’s leadership abilities and decided to offer him the job of executive chef.
FN Dish caught up with Chef Gustavo since the show taped to find out what he’s been doing.
Dinner service started well for you — until the pasta ran out and a few dishes came back. What was the hardest part of dinner service for you?
Service was never easy; from start to finish it was stressful. The hardest part was adjusting to the changes that Salvatore and Chef Anne asked me to do. Having to increase the size of all the dishes put me in a very hard situation, since I already had everything portioned. It was like I had to make double the food in no time.
What was your mentality going into the show?
My mentality was always to win. I know I was going against some amazing chefs, and I wanted to show what I could do, but I never expected it to be that hard.
How was it working with Anne Burrell?
Working with Chef Anne was great. She is very knowledgeable and she helped me a lot. She was a great support when I needed it the most.
What has the experience of doing the show taught you?
This was the hardest thing I have done in my career, but at the same time, I learned that I can do anything I want to do when it comes to cooking, that I can go anywhere I want and be good because I love what I do.
You didn’t end up taking the job at Salvatore’s. What are you doing now?
I am helping my mentor in a restaurant in Chicago for now, and looking to work with a restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis so I can stay close to him and the people I love.
Have you been able to bring your family to the States?
No, I am still working on it; it’s hard, but I will get it done.
What advice would you give to other chefs competing on Chef Wanted?
Go for it. The experience is amazing. Nothing that you do can compare to this. If you think working in a kitchen is hard, imagine doing that with all the stress that’s involved with making a TV show. It’s hard! But I would do it over and over again.
Watch Chef Wanted on Thursdays at 10pm/9c and keep coming back to FN Dish for updates with the chefs.