Chef Wanted: The Pear Southern Bistro Update

by in Shows, September 5th, 2013

Chef Wanted chefsOn tonight’s Chef Wanted, chef/owner Rodney Worth was looking for an executive chef for his restaurant The Pear Southern Bistro in Napa, Calif. He and his wife, Natalie, own and operate six restaurants in Northern California, and handing over the reins of The Pear to another chef would allow Rodney to spend more time with their kids. Anne Burrell brought in four viable candidates for the job opportunity, but only one got the position. FN Dish has the exclusive interview with the winning chef.

Ashurina YounanIn the end, Chef Ashurina Younan, from Napa, Calif., was offered the position of executive chef. Rodney and Natalie felt that she would be the best fit for the job. Through both initial tests, Ashurina showed a deft grasp of combining Napa style with Southern cooking, which the restaurant specializes in. Although she had many challenges testing her resolve during dinner, Ashurina came out of dinner service better for it.

During pre-shift you got really emotional when Chef Anne called out the presentation of the pea soup. What was going through your mind then?
I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my food. I take great pride in serving not only flavorful food but food that is visually appealing. The pressure of creating a menu and executing it, with the limited time, unfamiliar kitchen and staff that isn’t clear on my expectations, really got to me. I don’t cry when I’m sad; I cry when I am frustrated with myself. I knew what Chef Anne was saying was true, because I had already thought it myself before presenting it, but with the time crunch there was no other option but to get it plated and worry about fixing it later, which was precisely what I did.

During dinner the risotto kept coming back due to inconsistencies. You ended up getting frustrated with the cook, and took him off the line, which Rodney wasn’t too pleased with. In hindsight, what do you think you would have done differently in that moment?
When it comes to being in the kitchen, I am very passionate. I expect nothing but excellence, not only from my cooks but from myself as well. When the risottos started coming back because they weren’t consistent, of course I needed to fix that. I addressed it several times with Caesar before deciding to kick him off the line. This is when you could say my passion got the best of me. In hindsight, I think there was a better way of handling that situation. As a leader you have to look at yourself first when things aren’t going right. If anything, I could have just put him on a different station and took over risottos myself. I’m glad to say Caesar and I have managed to get along great now, and kicking him off the line has become nothing more than a joke that we both remember and laugh about.

What was your mentality going into the show? You seemed determined to win.
My mentality going into the show was to prove to myself and anyone that has doubted me that I am ready for the executive chef title. I worked at a resort for over two years doing the job of an executive chef, but never got the title because I was told by my boss that I wasn’t ready for it. This was my chance to prove him wrong and show the world what I’m made of. I also wanted to win for my mom. She worked very hard to raise our family, especially after losing my dad at a young age. Losing wasn’t an option, and it never crossed my mind. This win was just as much for my mom as it was for me!

How was it working with Anne Burrell?
Chef Anne is tough, because she expects only the best. She is straightforward and is truly there to help you be better. She helps you develop yourself and your food, by hearing out your ideas and using her experience and knowledge to help you perfect them. She has a great sense of humor, as well, and when she is happy with your performance and food, she makes sure you know that as well.

Ashurina YounanWhat has the experience of doing the show taught you?
Doing the show has reminded me of something my parents taught me as a child: that if you want something bad enough, and if you are willing to work hard enough, then you are capable of achieving any goal that you set for yourself. There was a poem that my dad taught me when I was growing up, and the last part of it said: “If you think you’re outclassed, you are. You’ve got to think high to rise. You’ve got to be sure of yourself before you can ever win a prize. Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man, but soon or late, the man who wins is the one who thinks he can.” The show retaught me just that, and I know when I put my mind to something, I can succeed.

How is it working out for you being closer to home and your mom?
My mom is very proud of me! She and I are best of friends, and having had the opportunity to show her that my hard work is paying off has really made her proud! It is very nice to be close to her — and to work in Napa. There is so much going on in Napa, from the daily farmers markets to the Chefs’ night every week in downtown. There are local gardens that I get to pick fresh produce from and fun food and wine events that close down the main street. People dining in Napa are looking for an experience and excellent food; it is fun to showcase the food and wine and all that Napa has to offer! It’s amazing to be able to immerse myself in the culture and to experience the wine country from the perspective of a chef.

What was one of the first things you did at The Pear? Have you reworked the menu? Do you have a favorite or signature dish?
Besides trying all the delicious food, one of the first things I did at The Pear was get to know the staff and build a rapport with them. I want them to know that I am ready and excited about being their leader, and I wanted to make sure I got familiar with them before I started making changes. Right now, Chef Rodney and I are working on the fall menu. We are looking forward to the weather getting cooler, because Southern food is all about cooking comforting food. One of my signature dishes that will be going on the fall menu is the Country Cassoulet: Liberty Farms confit duck leg, slow-roasted pork belly, thyme and fennel sausage, Rancho Gordo black-eyed peas and herbed breadcrumbs.

What advice would you give to other chefs coming onto Chef Wanted?
Be prepared, be yourself, leave your ego at home and take Chef Anne’s advice because if you have watched the show, you know that not taking her advice usually has the chef packing his knives and going home. This is a tough competition that is meant to find the best person for the job. If you don’t bring your best, and come mentally prepared to win, you might as well stay home.

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 (46)

  1. Mona says:

    Congrats to you Chef Rina and please ignore the haters that made negative comments, they are just jealous. You are going to do a great job and your passion is what will ultimately make you successful. It is nice to see someone who loves their mother so much, I am sure she is very proud of you. You are incredible and strong and I know you will do an amazing job for this restaurant.

  2. Margiee says:

    Anne was rude and out of place with Chef Carl and how he was asked to leave. My husband and I enjoy the show but she is out of line most of the time. Unless the producers are paying the first year salary of the chef chosen she should keep her opinions to herself.

    M

    • azuremountain says:

      AGREED! I liked her until she did that. That was soooo rude. The guy was almost in tears. Uncalled for. Reality shows should not be allowed to bully people. She did it without batting an eyelash! That poor chef humiliated on national television. Inappropriate and unprofessional and just really really unkind.

    • VeggieToni says:

      I don't remember as this show aired several weeks ago now. What did Chef Carl do to cause Chef Anne throw him out?

  3. azuremountain says:

    I hated hated hated the way she sent that chef packing saying she'd made a mistake bringing him. So cold, she just humiliated him and cut him dead and didn't think twice. Think of the poor guy coming out so hopefully. Have a little TACT and maybe a little milk of HUMAN KINDNESS. Let's not forget that while you're making money on your reality shows that these are real people who have to live with this real humiliation when you air the EPISODE

    • islandantoinett says:

      I have to agree with this too. I have always liked this show! Always! It has not mattered to me IF the chef later chose to take the job or not that is THEIR life! However this latest show with the behaviour of Chef Anne demeaning the chef and sending him packing was appalling! I was shocked. They made Chef Ashurina in the end dinner service appologize to the line cook she told to leave – WELL Chef ANNE needs to PUBICALLY appologize to Chef Carl!

  4. Patti says:

    Finally, a chef that actually took the job offered!! Usually the chefs say how much they want the position and how it would be their" dream job" and then at the end don't accept it.

  5. islandantoinett says:

    Chef Ashurina we were clapping for you when you won this job! We are so happy for you and hope you will be truely very very happy at The Pear and in your new job. I get a good feeling about the owners they seem to have heart and good spirits. I know your mother is SO PROUD of you and your dear father too! Congradulations you deserve it!! All the very BEST Antoinette Jackson

  6. Steven says:

    Every one of the episodes has a chef that makes mistakes at the beginning and then winds up with a great service, so the fact that Ashurina corrected her mistakes is no big deal. What IS a big deal is that she is emotionally fragile–the very worst quality you can have as a chef in a high-powered restaurant. Good luck to those who work for her and with her–they are going to need it. is she going to break down every time something happens? Can't believe the owners would pick this wreck over someone calm and contained like Branden.

  7. Jordan says:

    I usually like this show but was disappointed by this episode. I would never hire someone who reacts emotionally to every situation. If she did it once, she'll do it again; next crisis in the kitchen she'll be outside crying or throwing out another cook. The other guy screwed up cooking the meat, but that's an easy fix; and he might have been "reserved" but he was calm and level headed. Also, Anne is definitely prejudiced toward the female applicants, which tends to make the show somewhat unbelievable. And the whole "personal" story shouldn't be taken into account when hiring someone, unless they're an ax murderer.

  8. Mary says:

    I have to agree with those who question the final choice, but I'm not sure I would have chosen either finalist. Branden wasted WAY too many expensive steaks, and Ashurina should have gone home after breaking down during pre-shift and kicking off her best line cook during the service. I was rooting for Chef Bruce (LOVED when he won Chopped!).

  9. YouGoGirl says:

    Chef Anne warned that first chef to do more with the duck but he DIDN'T LISTEN so no surprise he got eliminated right away. And I don't get why so many people are commenting on Ashurina's "break down". To me, it seemed a totally natural reaction. I mean, come on, I couldn't even imagine the stress of the whole process these chefs have to go through. Being in an unfamiliar city, kitchen and around unfamiliar people and on top of that having to make the best tastiest food of your life…yeesh! Give her a break. Congrats to you, Chef Ashurina!! I thought they totally made the right decision. She was one of the very few chefs I've seen on this show that actually showed control in the kitchen. Most of these guys just sit back and don't say a word but she had a very commanding presence behind the line. Go ahead and shed a tear now and then….I'd rather see a passionate chef than a passive one any day!

    • Leigh says:

      I totally agree with you! Not to mention there have been many break downs on this show. You can tell they are completely stressed out by the time they get to dinner service and when things start going wrong it is only natural that a person in that kind of stressful environment might shed a few tears or need to step away to regroup for a minute. This is not a typical job interview. As viewers we don't see everything that actually goes on, and I can't even imagine how hard this interview process really is….grueling I'm sure!

  10. mcclain says:

    Today my husband and I went to the pear, chef rina and the line cook looked like two old pals.. the kitchen had a nice harmony flow… wait… did I mention how amazing and yummy our food was!

    • mcclain says:

      Thank you chef ashurina the food was yummy …made the drive worth it..thank god it was great my husband almost didnt go cause of the 49ers game… you guys rocked… will definitely tell everyone about the pear

      • LPC says:

        Question. I didn't think The Pear had an Open Kitchen. So how did you know that the kitchen had a nice harmony flow?

        • gogetthem says:

          They do have an open kitchen. I live in napa and go there all the time. I love this place and Chef Ashurina is such a delight. The other day she even made me a special dish that I saw on their facebook and just had to try. I would guess what mcclain was saying is that it just seems like the kitchen runs smoothly. I like to sit at the bar and watch into the kitchen. They really know what their doing back there. Best seat in the house!

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