Top Chef Masters Exit Interview: Episode 5

Still watching? Good, so are we. For a show that prides itself on enlisting the best chefs in the country it’s difficult to understand why we don’t get to see their talents exploited. Instead they are challenged with a griddle, a deep fat fryer and a drive-thru window. This week the chefs had to prepare a meal in the kitchen of some fast food joint I’ve never heard of, Farmer Boys.

Keep reading to hear from the chef who packed up their knives.



For the Quickfire you were asked to prepare an appetizer using ingredients from a makeshift farm stand, for $1. Did that make you think about the value of the dishes in your own restaurant?
George Mendes: I think good food can be done at a very cheap price depending on what kind of ingredients that you buy. A good quality carrot can be just as delicious as a great lobster. Cooking for under a dollar is not something that I do every day, it’s something that you had to really think hard at and constantly cost out and weigh ingredients and count ingredients, really strike a balance of putting something tasty on the plate and spending a dollar or less.

Was your dish (pork and clam skewer) what you intended on making before you were given the curveball of working in a fast food restaurant?
It was. We arrived with very little information. The only information we were given is that we were cooking a main and side dish for 100 people and there was no utensils. I stuck to my original plan, when I got there I changed up the presentation.

Being in a fast food restaurant, did you give any thought to the health aspect of your dish?
I wasn’t think about healthiness, I was thinking about speed. With a dish adapted, it can be served fast, more involved, more complex or straight forward with less ingredients. Would you normally find it in a fast food restaurant? Probably not, but who knows what we’ll be finding in a fast food restaurant in ten years.

On the show, Curtis made a comment about your attitude, that you are above working in a fast food kitchen, was that accurate?
[laughs] He thought that I snubbed the fast food world and I disagree with that. There’s great fast food restaurants out there but it’s not my environment. I chose to stick to my original plan and at the end of the day that’s what it was. Maybe Curtis was hoping for something on a bun or fried something, but I chose to stick to my plan.

You have quite a few of accolades under your belt, what do they mean to you?
It means a lot. At this point in my career to be recognized by such a prestigious magazine and Best New Chef, it goes back to 1988 I believe with Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud and people like Tom Colicchio are also on there. A new generation of chefs, to be part of that group is an honor. It inspires me more and more, and pushes me harder, to keep growing as a chef.

(Photo: Bravo TV)

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