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On tonight’s Chef Wanted, Christy’s on Broadway, a popular restaurant that has been in operation in Long Beach, Calif., for more than two decades, needed a new executive chef to replace its former executive chef who was moving on. Owner Christy Bono and general manager Cori Cauble were looking to find a talented individual who could revamp the menu and take it into the next decade. Anne Burrell had 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 LaJuan Ramsey from Venice Beach, Calif., was offered the position of executive chef. Using his experience as a former football player, LaJuan was able to lead a strong dinner service overall. He did run into expediting problems and many orders did get backed up, leaving diners anxiously waiting for their meals, but after things caught up, LaJuan was able to finish on top. Christy and Cori were impressed with his leadership skills and offered him the position of executive chef at Christy’s on Broadway. FN Dish caught up with Chef LaJuan to chat about his time on the show and his future with the restaurant.
For your second test you presented a really creative version of a classic Christy’s dish, but the fish was overcooked. Did you think you were going to be sent home for it?
Actually, I wasn’t worried if I was going to make it through to the next round or not. Although I really was disappointed that I overcooked my fish, I felt that overall my dishes exemplified what Christy and Cori were looking for.
Except for some issues with the expeditor and a backlog in getting orders out, you ran a pretty strong dinner service that showed your leadership skills, which inevitably impressed Christy and Cori. Do you think your background in football helped? And what were you expecting from your staff?
I definitely think my football playing career helped me a lot in dealing with the pressures of dinner service. I’m used to playing in front of 100,000 fans, so cooking in a kitchen wasn’t that intimidating. I enjoyed the overall dinner service, however, I was getting a little frustrated from the expediter because I knew what kind of control and approach he needed to take in order to run a smooth ticket time and dinner service, but he just wasn’t comfortable in the beginning with barking out orders and controlling the food runners and wait staff.
How was it working with Anne Burrell?
It was great working with Anne. She is someone I look up to and respect highly. She’s not a fabricated cookie-cutter food personality; she’s an actual chef. On top of that, she had great advice and she was on point with everything she said.
What has the experience of doing the show taught you?
Being on the show has taught me that I have what it takes to be an executive chef, despite the fact that I just started in the culinary industry three years ago. It also helped me realize that all of my hard work, passion and dedication is paying off.
You started your culinary career much later than most chefs. Coming from playing football, what did you find most appealing about the culinary world when you decided to make that your next career?
You know, my NFL career ended abruptly, and I was searching for ANYTHING to do that I loved, and then it just hit me, I LOVE to COOK. So I just dove in and dedicated myself. I have experienced marginal success in it so far.
Can you give us an update on your job at Christy’s on Broadway?
I ended up not taking the job at Christy’s. Although it was a great opportunity, I felt that it wasn’t the right fit for me at this time in my career, and instead of starting and becoming consumed, I declined the offer.
What advice would you give to other chefs coming into Chef Wanted?
I would tell the other chefs: Go with your gut. If you want to do something and you believe in what you want to do or present, then do it, but also be coachable. And mainly just enjoy the experience. YOU’RE ON FOOD NETWORK, BABY!
Watch the finale of Chef Wanted next Thursday, Oct. 24 at 8pm/7c and come back to FN Dish for an update with the winning chef.