What did you take away from the experience of competing on The Next Iron Chef?
The coolest thing I took away from the experience was dozens of new friends and acquaintances. Obviously amongst my competitors, but also from “behind the scenes.” I also learned how long and tedious the world of shooting reality TV can be. I have a newfound respect for anyone working in that world, as it’s certainly not as glamorous as it may seem.
How did you feel about the dishes that sent you home when you presented them?
As far as the finale goes, I felt I respected the Chairman’s directive and delivered a nearly flawless meal that “honored tradition.” At this level of cooking, unless someone makes a technical error, it really does boil down to personal preferences.
If you could have a do-over, what would you change about that fateful dish?
In retrospect, I think the “tortelli di zucco” risotto may have been too unfamiliar to the judges’ palates and, while they all thought it was perfectly executed, there was some discussion about using sweet flavors in savory food. Obviously, not everyone enjoys that.
What advice would you give future Next Iron Chef contestants?
Don’t overthink your dishes…less is more! Go with your gut. Focus on the basics. If the secret ingredient triggers an idea, go with it and don’t look back. And remember, no matter how poorly or how well you do, it is not a reflection of your talents as a chef. Cooking as competition and being the chef of a restaurant have very little in common.