On tonight’s Chef Wanted, Tapenade, a recently opened Mediterranean-influenced restaurant located in Los Angeles, needed a new chef de cuisine. Chef/owner Ressul Rassalat and general manager Chuck Craig were looking for an individual who could immediately jump into the role so that Chef Ressul could take on running the restaurant in front of the house to ensure its overall success. 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 Suzanne Williams from San Diego, Calif., was offered the position of chef de cuisine. Even though her pre-shift started out shaky with issues that needed to be addressed before dinner service, Suzanne was able to go into the dinner service strong. Though she did run out of one dish during service and had trouble with the expeditor, Suzanne showed she could lead a staff and deliver strong dishes that diners loved. Ressul and Chuck offered Suzanne the position of chef de cuisine at Tapenade. FN Dish caught up with Chef Suzanne to chat about her time on the show and her future with the restaurant.
For your second test you presented a dish without the key component because you ran out of time. Were you surprised that Anne asked you to bring out the tapenade? Do you think it saved you from elimination?
I was definitely heart broken when I realized that I had left off my tapenade on the dish. I was shocked when Anne asked me to bring out my tapenade for her and the owners to try. I thought okay I might still be in this. I’m absolutely positive that it saved me from elimination.
What was going through your mind when you found out you would be going onto the dinner service?
I was extremely excited but anxious for what was about to come. Honestly I thought okay now I have to write a dinner menu!
Going into the dinner service, you had a bunch of changes to the menu to address from pre-shift, and you ran into issues with your expeditor, but by the end everything came together. What was the hardest part of service for you? And what got you through it?
The hardest part of dinner service was working with a kitchen staff that seemed as if they really didn’t want to work with me. They all worked hard but it took a minute to motivate them to do what I needed from them. I work the line every night so a fast-paced dinner service is a challenge that I face regularly, but this was different. What got me through it was knowing that no matter how slow the food might have been coming out, that ultimately the customers would be happy with the meal that I was serving them.
How was it working with Anne Burrell?
It was exciting working with Anne. She definitely gave me some great advice when I needed it. After my menu was torn apart during pre-service she came into the kitchen to help me with the final finishing touches, which was awesome. I would love to work with her anytime she needs me!
What has the experience of doing the show taught you?
The experience definitely taught me to be more detailed in terms of what I expect from my employees.
Can you give us an update on your job at Tapenade? What have you been doing since the episode taped?
Ultimately I did not take the position at Tapenade. As much as I wanted to and can’t wait to move up to Los Angeles to be with my family, I still have some obligations here in San Diego. I am currently Chef de Cusine of Solterra Winery and Kitchen in Encinitas, Calif., and love my crew and have creative freedom over the menu which is very gratifying.
What advice would you give to other chefs coming into Chef Wanted?
Take time to formulate a game plan. Stick with your gut and try not to let the camera throw you off your game!
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