One-on-One with the Winner of Restaurant Express

by in Shows, December 15th, 2013

Restaurant ExpressAfter seven weeks of showdowns, Robert Irvine‘s first-ever Restaurant Express road trip came full circle when the bus rolled into Sin City for the finale. Robert shocked the remaining three hopefuls last week when he announced all of them would make it to tonight’s all-or-nothing competition. But while Adam Goldgell was guaranteed a spot in the last challenge, Jan Charles and Seonkyoung Longest had to go head-to-head in a cook-off for the chance to join him in one night of restaurant service for the chance to claim the win.

Read on below to find out whether Jan or Seon advanced to the end, and get the exclusive first interview with the winner of Restaurant Express and Las Vegas’ newest restaurateur.

Although both Jan and Seon struggled with elements of the dish and menu they presented to Robert, Seon’s was more successful in its flavor and originality, and she earned the chance to face off against Adam for the restaurant opportunity of a lifetime. Adam and Seon had 48 hours to shop for and cook an eight-plate menu, plus decorate their eateries and work with their staff, before they opened side-by-side concepts — America and Jade — showcasing small plates and contemporary Asian fare, respectively. Robert dined with executives from the M Resort Spa & Casino at both restaurants, but ultimately Adam’s inconsistency cost him the win, and Seon became the newest chef at the hotel.

Seonkyoung Longest and Adam GoldgellCongratulations on your win, Seon! Take us back to the moment you heard your name announced as the winner. What was going through your mind?
Seonkyoung Longest: I think when I heard my name I didn’t realize that was my name. I was kind of blank in my head, and I actually asked, I think it was Bianca — she was right next to me. And I looked at her, and she said, “Yes, that was your name.” Then I realized I was the winner. It was crazy. I don’t remember every single moment. All I was to think was, like: “I cannot believe it. I cannot believe it.”

Thinking about the last seven weeks of competition, what was the most-difficult challenge for you, and why?
SL: The most difficult one was probably the very first week’s challenge, because I really didn’t know what to expect from the challenge, and I’ve never had a time limit …. And also, the … [food truck] challenge was a very hard one, too — we cooked three times [in] a day. It was mentally and physically the hardest one.

You seemed to struggle a bit throughout the contest with your confidence, but at the very end you seemed to say, “I can do anything.” What was the turning point in the competition for you?
SL: I always struggle with my confidence. I don’t know why. I just keep telling myself, “Who do you think you are?” and things like that, but I would keep thinking like that [in] the beginning of the competition, too. But then I talked with Robert, just a one-on-one, and he told me lots of good stuff that I needed to remember for myself, that he reminded me of it …. He told me: “You can do anything. If you can put your mind in it, you can do anything.” That’s why I started telling myself: “I can do anything. I can do anything.” He would make me repeat that part – “I can do anything” – that’s why I kept repeating myself. And, yeah, I think the self-talk to myself, “I can do anything,” was very, very helpful, and I cannot say thank you enough to Chef Robert.

Tell us about life on the bus. You, Adam and Jan were on board for the longest time. What would you do to keep busy during the long rides?
SL: Adam, I think he used to sleep in the back. And Jan, Jan is always reading a book. I don’t know how she does it because I cannot read books in the car. She always was reading books, and I’m like … I tried to talk to Jan, or I’m trying to sleep, or watching [a] movie, or things like that. Or playing Sudoku.

Robert Irvine and Seonkyoung LongestWhen is Jade opening, and how is the planning for the restaurant going?
SL: We are opening the restaurant on the 17th [of December] …. The design team of the hotel did a really great job. I was really impressed. The restaurant looks beautiful. All the china, everybody working there is great. Our cook – the back of the house – the cooks are, I think we are, another dream team …. I just cannot be thankful more than right now. I’m so grateful.

Are you sticking with a menu of contemporary Asian cuisine at Jade that we saw you try out on the show?
SL: Yes, I am keeping that concept. It’s not because I cannot do anything else; it’s because that is what I’m most passionate about.

Are you putting any Restaurant Express dishes on the menu at Jade?
SL: They actually want me to do some of the dishes that I made on Restaurant Express. The very first episode I made a crab salad with crispy wontons. They really loved it, and that is on the menu. And there’s several other dishes I made. The Korean fried chicken, that is also on the menu.

So far, how has your experience on Restaurant Express prepared you for being involved in Jade?
SL: I think mentally, actually the competition was a lot harder. I think that was boot camp to open a restaurant, before you open a restaurant, to learn everything [in] a short time with [a] hard-core mentor, which is Chef Robert be[ing] really hard on us …. Every single thing that he taught me about the restaurant — the price point, what people want, thinking about the customers and how you want to market things, people coming to your restaurant, everything — it shined through right now to the restaurant.

Seonkyoung LongestWhat are you most excited about in opening Jade?
SL: People [will] taste my food. ‘Cause I have been making lots of YouTube videos, and I’m still making them (I made all the recipe videos from the Restaurant Express show too). But that is one thing I really enjoy, but [at the] same time, people cannot taste my food or what I’ve made. They just can try my recipe, and this is something that I make, and I serve on their table. And they are actually eating the food instead of trying the recipe. It’s two different things, and I’m very excited about it. It’s my first restaurant ever.

Any last words for Robert?
SL: I want to say thank you to him, like big thank to him, for mentoring me in the right track. And I learned so much from him, and it was an honor to learn from him everything that he knows about the restaurant and restaurant business — and about the food. And I just wanted to say [to] him thank you, and it was an honor.

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Comments (355)

  1. Adaiah Providence says:

    I agree strongly with you Seonkyoung.
    To me you don have to go culinary school to become a great chef. Every and ALL cooking starts from your desire and also starts from home. People tend to look at going to colleges and universities and believe once the go there they are higher than the rest which may be true, however, i believe from my experience in the end if you don remember our first steps and apply it to what you have learned now then it will not work.Whether your cooking for people and also for yourself .I'm from Barbados and we have a culture that says, "Al great cooks start from home." , and i know i don have to go to any fancy school to please my tastes nor cook for my family or friends. But also i don mind learning some new ideas to increase my potential in the kitchen. Seonyoung cooked with passion, from her culture, but more importantly Seonyoung cooked from her heart and that was and is her signature in her cooking.

    • GUEST says:

      SHE GOT HER BUTT FIRED BECAUSE SHE HAD NO EXPERIENCE WHATSOVER.YEH YOU DO HAVE TO GO TO CULINARY SCHOOL IF YOU WANNA BE A GREAT CHEF.SHE LASTED LESS THAN 3 MONTHS AT THE M RESORT BECAUSE SHE COULDNT KEEP UP-DEAL WITH OR EVEN COOK AT THE LEVEL AN EXECUTIVE CHEF DOES-TOTALLY FAILED!!!!!

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  3. guest says:

    seeonkyoung longest was fired from jayde fuzion last week-so much for home cooking and being able to keep the job she got-she got her buns booted out by m resort!!!!!!!!!!

    • guest says:

      MY HUSBAND AND I VISITED JAYDE FUZION A DAY AGO-A WAITER TOLD US BEHIND THE SCENES.THEY TOLD US THE SAME THING-SHE COULDNT KEEP UP-HAD ABSOLUTELY NO EXPERIENCE IN RUNNING A KITCHEN AS AN EXECUTIVE CHEF-WAS GETTING FREAKED OUT BY THE PRESSURE-COULDNT PRODUCE.JUST BECAUSE YOU COOK AT HOME SURE DOESNT MEAN YOURE AN EXECUTIVE CHEF.TOTAL MISTAKE WITH ROBERT IRVINE HIRING HER AS THE WINNER OF RESTAURANT EXPRESS.WE'RE NOT HATERS.IT JUST STANDS TO REASON-NO HOME COOKS GOING TO BE ABLE TO MANAGE A BIG RESTAURANT JUST BECAUSE THEY"THINK THEY CAN" THE WAITER SIAD SHE WAS FIRED BY M-AKA-"LEFT TO GO ON TO OTHER THINGS FAKE SPEIL"GIVENE SEVERANCE PAY ETC.EPIC FAIL!!! SHE HAD NO ABILITY TO HANDLE WHAT THE M THREW AT HER.WAITER SAID IN 6 MONTHS TO A YEAR SHELL BE ABLE TO SAY WHAT HAPPENED BUT HAS A CONFIDENTIALITY CLAUSE SO SHE CANT TALK ABOUT IT NOW.BUT YES-ITS TRUE-SHE WAS FIRED!3 MONTHS AND DONE!THE OTHER CONTESTANTS SHOULD HAVE WON -NOT HER.SHE BUCKLED UNDER PRESSURE !NOW M RESORT HAS A NEW PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED CHEF COMING IN AND THEYLL MAKE MONEY OFF HER JAYDE FUZION NAME FOR THEMSELVES.SAD!

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