Chef Wanted: Tavernita Update

by in Shows, September 26th, 2013

TavernitaOn tonight’s Chef Wanted, chef/partner Ryan Poli and managing partner Alfredo Sandoval were looking for a new executive chef to take over the reins of Tavernita, a tapas restaurant in Chicago. Since Chef Poli would be moving on to oversee more restaurants, he needed a chef with great technique who could work well and lead the current staff — and specifically they thought the restaurant would provide a good place in which a young chef could grow. Anne Burrell brought in four candidates for the job opportunity, but only one was offered the position. FN Dish has the exclusive interview with the winning chef.

In the end, Chef Priscilla Yeh from Great Neck, N.Y., was offered the position of executive chef. Initially the owners weren’t quite sure about her skills, as she wasn’t able to finish shucking her clams in time during her first test in creating a shared platter. But by the second test, she put out an impressive and flavorful trio of meaty small bites. When it came to dinner service, except for a few road bumps with returned dishes and extra fired ones, Priscilla was able to lead her staff well and put out a smooth dinner service, impressing the owners. FN Dish caught up with Chef Priscilla to chat about her time on the show and her decision to not take the position.

For your first test, you didn’t finish plating in time. Luckily your second test was better, but it seemed the owners weren’t yet convinced about you. When you found out you would be going on to the dinner service, were you surprised? What was going through your mind?
I felt more confident during my second test. Still, I was surprised and a little nervous to be moving onto the dinner service. It helped to think of it as an opportunity to share more of my food, meet the staff and challenge myself by running a service at Tavernita.

Except for a few extra fired dishes and a couple of returned ones, you had a pretty successful dinner service. Your confidence grew as it got busier and you were great at delegating and leading the staff. What was the hardest part for you? And when did you feel you had found your stride?
Some days, all your customers can arrive at the same time and really bury the kitchen. Other days can be more staggered and service is a cakewalk. That unpredictability is one of the most exciting yet difficult things about being a chef. Add to that training unfamiliar cooks to execute an entirely new menu in a single day. It was about halfway through service when we got into a rhythm and worked out any remaining kinks with the food. Then before I knew it, we were sending out the last order.

How was it working with Anne Burrell?
I enjoyed working with Chef Anne. She was hard on us and supportive at the same time. She had good suggestions about improvements I could make to my menu and food going into service. I felt she truly wanted all of us to do well.

Chef Priscilla

What has the experience of doing the show taught you?
Being on the show really pushed my creative limits and challenged my leadership ability. I learned quickly to rely on my instincts to bring the best out of my food and my staff. The experience definitely gave me more confidence in my current abilities and potential as a chef.

What do your parents have to say about you winning the job?
My parents are proud of me but do not want me to move to Chicago. Even now, restaurant work doesn’t leave me much time to spend with them. They would miss me, and I would miss them.

Your started your culinary career much later than most chefs. Coming from architecture, what did you find most appealing about becoming a chef?
With the advancement of computer software, most of today’s architects spend their days sitting at a desk, clicking a mouse and designing something that will eventually be built by the hands of others. What I find most appealing about being a chef is the immediacy of cooking. It engages all your senses and forces you to really be in the moment every step of the way. You are working with knives, heat and real ingredients. Unlike a building, a meal can come together in a matter of minutes, hours or days, and you have something you can share right away with friends or guests.

Can you give us an update on your job at Tavernita?
Chicago certainly has a terrific culinary scene, but I have chosen to remain in New York for the time being. Chef Ryan Poli and I have kept in touch, and I would welcome the opportunity to work with him in the future.

What advice would you give to other chefs coming into Chef Wanted?
I would advise any chef participating in Chef Wanted to be genuine and true to yourself and to allow your personality to really come through in the food. At the end of the day, I believe it is most important for owners to see if you are a really good fit for them — and if you are able to manage the kitchen, and maintain both quality and cost of the food.

Watch Chef Wanted on Thursdays at 10pm/9c and keep coming back to FN Dish for updates with the chefs.

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Comments (31)

  1. dufrulz says:

    This show should be called, "Have Anne pick your chef". It's obvious from the very beginning of every show who she wants to have the position. Also, by reading these updates it doesn't look like she does a very good job of it.

  2. LPC says:

    One other comment. It seems like Anne knows what chef she wants to win by the first challenge. Id rather hear the owners talk then anne at this point.

    A few weeks ago one of the chefs started crying while giving the restaurant her menu pre shift. Last night priscilla forgot what was in a dish and anne told her hang on and relax. Shocker both of these chefs won.

    Anne should open a restaurant and have her chef picked on her silly show.

  3. Guest says:

    This is actually my favorite show on Food Network, but it's absurd how many restaurants close before the hired Chef can take the job or the hired Chefs decide not to take the job. It's becoming hard to take it seriously–it needs to become authentic and/or authenticated. Still, I'll continue to watch, because I sit biting my nails wondering if the final two (2) are going to make it through their shifts.

  4. shelbycorealtor says:

    Regardless if the chef takes the job or not I like watching the chefs cook.. For instance, I will avoid any place that Chef Mike works in. He thinks it is ok to cut raw fish without gloves, using his hands with a OPEN CUT BLEEDING INTO THE FOOD? If he would do this with the cameras on him, only God Knows what he does without the cameras. Also one of my Pet Peeves is people tasting out of a pot and then letting the remains on the spoon drain back into the pot? EWW. I have seen Chef Anne taste then double dip the same spoon into the pot to stir. Chef Gorden Ramsey would have a fit if he saw that. His standards are the highest of any chef on TV.

  5. FoodienBham says:

    The redneck butcher that lost referred to Chef Anne as "Anne" twice. This is a great insult in the cooking industry. She covered her reaction with a smile once, and replied "Well" once but I knew then he was not going to win. He also said at the beginning he was looking for a place for his voice to be heard. He was never going to follow their directions. He didn't want to pay his dues and work up to Executive Chef. Notice the dismissive way he looked at Chef Anne when she was telling him his food wasn't up to par. He is just looking through her and ignoring her advice. When asked if he had tasted the food he completely lied. In his mind, just because he "thought" he had corrected the salt problem should have been enough to solve the problem. He is another cook who's food I would go out my way to avoid.

  6. shelbycorealtor says:

    If a "Chef" will make raw food while bleeding into fish, I wonder if he even washes his hands after using the Restroom? He has not concerns about his bodily fluids tainting the food. OMG we don't know what we are consuming do we?

  7. Jim says:

    They did not want her. She is not experienced enough to be a head chef. The restaurant just wanted publicity.

  8. Mary Jane says:

    U guys do realize this show isn't real at all and it's all staged and scripted right ??

    It can be entertaining to see some of the dishes created but the shtick gets old after u realize how fake it is , I wish someone would confront chef Anne and get a comment , because food network is selling out , Anne too

  9. mjh1964 says:

    I was checking updates and was surprised to find how many competitors who "won" didn't accept the job. This tells me they weren't interested in the first place and shouldn't have competed. Guess they just wanted to be on TV? I watch every week and, of course, Chef Anne has to keep the show on track. It's fun to watch and I'll continue to do so.

  10. Jenifer says:

    If you don't like the show because you think it is fake ect. Then just don't want it.

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