Top Chef Masters Exit Interview: The Finale

Another finale, another Top Chef Master. We say farewell to season 3 of Masters with, in this writer’s opinion, a surprising winner — not who I was expecting to walk away with the title. Keep reading to see who won and what they had to say about their title, and let me know in the comments if you think it was deserved.

How does it feel to be in the same category as Rick Bayless and Marcus Samuelsson?
Floyd Cardoz: Rick and Marcus are amazing chefs, to be mentioned in the same breath as them is huge. Words cannot describe how awesome it feels.

You had a pretty emotional time with the military episode.
We as Americans are very patriotic about our armed forces, but we don’t normally have a connection with any of them, which is kind of sad. On the day of the episode I spoke with Captain Eric’s wife and it started to become a reality for me. It meant a lot that he was coming home, his wife wanted it to be perfect for him. At that point it was not about the competition, it was about how do I make my guest happy and give him what he wants. What he wanted was not what I do — he wanted to eat beef tenderloin which is something I’ve never cooked before, never.

In the final episode, you got stuck in traffic. What was all that about?
We had five hours to shop and prep, we had to use it wisely — we were given a list of stores that we could shop at, we had to plot our own way. There was one store that had oxtail, I plotted all the stores but didn’t know LA well enough and didn’t understand the traffic patterns. We skipped one store and made a slight adjustment to my dish. I was really concerned we were not going to get it done in time, it wasn’t looking good for me.

Can you tell us about your tapioca pilaf?
That was a dish that my wife made for breakfast once, I adapted it and changed it up a little bit. I used three starches in my dishes, I feel we don’t use enough starches in my food as a textural element.

How was the overall experience of being on Top Chef Masters?
It is extremely trying, very very hard. You get pushed to your limits and sometimes you can get carried away and not be who you truly are. It’s not something to take lightly. The hardest part is keeping an eye on that damn clock.

Your next project is North End Grill. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
It’s going to be a grill, but in the way we look at grills in America — highly charred food. It’s going to be in the style of Spain — all grilling but a much gentler heat. We don’t get the top charred on the meat and fish. It’s going to be 60-70% seafood, very seasonal and using food from the area, New York, Jersey and Connecticut.

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