Chef: Overrated ingredients, we have obsessions with truffles in this country and truffles are like sort of rare, fungi that grow in very short periods of time of the year, so chefs now have summer truffles, which look like real truffles, but taste of absolutely nothing.
Now, because they get excited with that sort of glamorous side – wow, it’s a truffle, it must taste phenomenal – it doesn’t. Because you’re doing the actual patch of the truffle bed no good whatsoever. Because they’re summer truffles, and then they’re sprayed with this sort of toxic gas as a subsidiary to the real essence of truffle, so overrated, summer truffles and that strong, pungent smell of truffle oil. Every time I walk into a restaurant and I know there is an amazing, broad bean soup or a delicious salad, the minute I hear or watch truffle on the menu, I change my order.
Q: And really quickly, about the one equipment in the home kitchen that people should invest good money in?
Chef: The one equipment, right now I would go for a $45 to $50 stunning pasta machine. The diversity across that is extraordinary.
Q: Did you feel like you treated these contestants on MasterChef any differently than those you do on Hell’s Kitchen?
Chef: First of all, they’re two different scenarios. A chef in a professional kitchen spending the rest of his life in this industry is completely different than how you treat a truck driver or a tank driver coming out of a canister. These are domestic individuals that have all full-time jobs outside of their cooking passion.
To be honest, to begin with they were put under intense pressure with the pressure test and having to cook their signature dishes so, as the competition got narrower, of course it increased the pressure and naturally so. But like I said, I got halfway through the sort of final cut and already I could match 75%, 80% of those domestic chefs as good as any professional chef that I’ve met in brigades.
Q: Do you ever have flashbacks of your early days when you’re judging cooks on the show and you’re thinking, oh my God, they’re doing the same thing I did or whatever?
Chef: Yes, I can relate to them, very much so, whether it’s my first day getting my ass kicked overturning sorbets and sticking the ice creams in Guy Savoy’s restaurant in Paris, or over proving the bread with the… brothers at Gavroche or even poaching a Dublin Bay prawn or a lobster for 30 seconds too long and watching; you need to make these mistakes to understand that you learn through your mistakes.
I’m fine on the first time; I’ll always forgive first time. The second time, I’m going to get a little bit cranky as there’s no excuse. So, yeah, I do and I can explain that, so if it’s a chocolate souffle that comes out of the oven three minutes prior to being cooked I would turn around and say, that’s it, you know what it’s like. Don’t throw away; taste something that’s undercooked – you should never go there again – don’t just throw it away because you’ve undercooked it, taste it.
Taste the mistake and it registers. We had one individual across this competition; I had never seen this person cook a souffle like this in my entire life, ever. This individual put the souffle in the oven, hadn’t even tested it beforehand and knew exactly when to pull it out. And there was a lot riding on it, and the souffle came out and it was on the money with 100% perfection. I’ve never seen that kind of confidence together, not even in a professional kitchen let alone a domestic kitchen.
Q: Sounds like that person just has a knack.
Chef: Natural, whether you’re a natural writer, journalist, football player, basketball player, natural cook in terms of your found ingredients, you’ve got the natural flair; that’s exactly what MasterChef has drawn up in a way that has cultivated all that excitement, that passion where these individuals have these full-time daytime jobs and they’re cooking has been a huge distraction and it’s a passion that rekindled that has opened the heavens.