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. ritgar says:

    Not another one! I think her advice to others should be don't enter the darn contest if you aren't going to take the job. This is getting too annoying.

  2. krop says:

    So you didn't take the job???? Why did you apply for the job in Chicago if you were not willing to move there?That is just weird. It leaves me to believe that you did it just to be on TV and get your name out there. You really didn't want the job, you just wanted to be on TV. Now I wish the other chef won.

  3. KeepItSimple says:

    Put it in the contract:
    "As a contender, I hereby agree that if I win, I will move to….

    Unless the show is filmed in the winners hometown, which can also be good

  4. Leigh says:

    So, because you chose not to reveal you didn't want the job until after filming none of the other chefs got the job either! How selfish. I just don't get why you would interview for a job that would require relocation unless you were willing to relocate. You live in New York I'm sure you could get a job as a chef in New York….maybe not after you've shown millions of viewers that you applied for this job taking all the other chefs chance at the job and then left the owners with no new executive chef! They chose Chef Anne to come and do the show at their Restaurant so in the end they would have a great new executive chef and all that work with the filming and two nights with new chef applicants and menus all for NOTHING! Smh

    • SKT says:

      As a Chinese American myself, I can understand the pressures of one's parents being insisting that the family structure remain as close knit as possible. It has already been a disappointment when Chef Yeh abandoned her career in architecture, not following in her father's footsteps, but to now move away was probably too much for, more likely, her mother to accept. It's a shame when certain cultural beliefs and traditions get in the way of one's ability to live a happy and successful life. Kind of makes me wonder if she even told her parents about her interview in the first?

      On a side note, the restaurant owners are not getting nothing out of this. It's all free press for their restaurant, their names, their company. Any advertisements from this point on should bring in more candidates, who watch this episode, apply for the position, knowing full well that is expected of them as far as management skills and development of menus and dishes.

      • LPC says:

        Sorry. Chef priscilla is what 35 years old. She should be able to do what she wants at this point and live where she wants. Seriously, a disappointment for not following in her father's footsteps. Your kind of saying that she should be a sheep here and do whatever her parents tell her to do. What's next – her parents should arrange a marriage for her as well.

        Sorry if I offended you here.

        • SKT says:

          If you haven't lived in that cultural environment, you don't know what it is really like. And yes, there are still cultures these days that believe in arranged marriages.

          • LPC says:

            I live in a close knit italian family. All of my relatives lived in the northeast. I had to move across country for a job for a year. They didn't have a problem with me moving away. There are italians that have arranged marriages too.

            Sorry again if im offending you as a chinese american.

            She should have thought of this before she tried out for the position. This show is a joke. A few restaurants have closed before airing. ( Which makes the intro hilarious. Since anne says the top restaurants in the country come to her. Yeah OK Anne ) A bunch of chefs don't take the job. The show is just comical to me now.

            You would think the restaurant would tell the chefs beforehand. This will be your salary as an executive chef here. So you know your salary ahead of time.

            New name for the show. Free Publicity for your Restaurant with Anne Burrell

  5. Guest says:

    She should be sued for breach of contract. On another note, I would like to hear more from the owners of the restaurants than from Anne while the show is going on. I mean it is THEIR restaurant and THEIR choice, not Anne's. She throws chef's under the bus if they don't do exactly what SHE wants… The chefs need to show what they are all about, not be Anne's puppet….
    Just sayin…

    • MizFit says:

      If you can sue the chef for breach of contract, what about owners who rescind/don't make an offer or close, leaving the chef out of job.

  6. Baffissimo says:

    It seems that quite a few of the winning chefs end up not taking the job. I'm just wondering what that's about. I suppose its useful to gauge your development by going through the competition, but why go through all that, take up the owners time and end up not taking it? Don't quite understand that process.

  7. larry says:

    This show is really starting to suck! Even more thsn chef anne!

  8. steve says:

    Now that's funny – applying for a job in a city you don't want to move to. Funny but inconsiderate toward the owners.

    • SKT says:

      As a Chinese American myself, I can understand the pressures of one's parents being insisting that the family structure remain as close knit as possible. It has already been a disappointment when Chef Yeh abandoned her career in architecture, not following in her father's footsteps, but to now move away was probably too much for, more likely, her mother to accept. It's a shame when certain cultural beliefs and traditions get in the way of one's ability to live a happy and successful life. Kind of makes me wonder if she even told her parents about her interview in the first place?

    • patschmidt says:

      AGREE! Why am I wasting my time with this!!!!!!!!!

  9. Jangoptl says:

    I think Ann does have prejudice issues. It's getting to where a lot of the shows are like that if the judges don't like you, hang it up you don't have a chance.

  10. FNGossip says:

    Both the restaurants and the chefs do this for publicity and to get their name out there.

    While many blame the winners for not taking the job, I think a lot of it may be the restaurant too. If someone wants to relocate, there will need to be a competitive salary. As the prize of this is just "an opportunity of a lifetime," it is up to the restaurants to provide the prize and not the Food Network.

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