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On tonight’s Chef Wanted, the owner of Cité, a restaurant on the top of the Lake Point Tower in downtown Chicago, needed a new executive chef to replace the preceding chef of 30 years, who was retiring. Owner Evangeline Gouletas and general manager Sami Mikhail were looking for someone who could innovate their outdated menu to bring in a new generation of diners. 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 Maxime Michaud from Savoy, France, was offered the position of executive chef. Maxime showed great innovation during the two initial tests and went on to cook in the dinner service. Except for problems with one of his appetizers, which needed an immediate fix, and a special request for a vegan dish, which threw him off-guard, Maxime had a successful service. Both Evangeline and Sami felt that Maxime was the right person for the job, and they offered him the executive chef position at Cité. FN Dish caught up with Chef Maxime to chat about his time on the show and get an update on his job.
When you found out you would be going on to the dinner service, what was going through your mind?
I was extremely excited and ready to battle, but at the same time I knew it was going to be very hard. I needed a game plan. So to prepare I locked myself in my hotel room and put my menu together, taking into consideration all the details that would be very important: delicious food, an executable menu, learning to work in the unfamiliar kitchen with the staff. I took a full night to organize myself, put together recipes and get ready for a service that was like no other!
Except for a few dishes that got sent back and a special request that put you behind, the dinner service seemed to go well. What was the hardest part for you? And when did you feel you had found your stride?
The beginning of the dinner service went well and the cooks put out some really nice food. I went in confident because everyone seemed to know their duties well. The organization was successful and the flow was good! But then Anne showed up asking for special requests, including VIP dishes, dietary restrictions, and luckily I was able to accommodate them. The hardest part for me was definitely when a lot of my shrimp appetizers came back to the kitchen. That shook up my morale. But thanks to an awesome team, and a good sense of positivity, we got through it and found our pace again.
How was it working with Anne Burrell?
Working with Chef Anne was an amazing experience. You can tell that she has worked in some of the finest restaurants. She’s a great chef and has a great sense of refinement, but she’s also an amazing leader, and she knows how to push you in the right direction. You almost feel like she knows what people are capable of doing, just by looking at them. It was truly enriching working with her.
What has the experience of doing the show taught you?
This show was my first time on TV. I was very excited but also under a lot of pressure because I wanted to do well and show everyone what I’m capable of achieving. I also learned how intense it is doing such a show on top of an already difficult competition. In the restaurant industry, we consider our jobs some of the hardest around, but now I see a TV show is way more demanding. I want to acknowledge the entire production team for such an amazing job they do.
Can you give us an update on the new job?
Since I don’t have U.S. citizenship or a green card, the owners have to provide me with a visa, and unfortunately it’s taking much longer than we thought. I’ve been in contact with Sami and Evangeline since the show, and I’m looking forward, when the time comes, to taking on the new challenge of executive chef at Cité.
How did your family in France take the news of you winning the job?
My family was very proud of me, especially my dad. He had always pushed me to do the right thing in my career, and he’s the one who taught me the culinary basics, so he’s really happy to see where I am today.
What advice would you give to other chefs coming into Chef Wanted?
Do it, but do it right! Think about your strategy, go there to win and don’t stop fighting. Also, get some good sleep the week before because you are not going to sleep for two or three days!
Watch Chef Wanted on Thursdays at 10pm/9c and keep coming back to FN Dish for updates with the chefs.