Kitchen Daily had a chance to talk to recently-eliminated "Top Chef" contestants Tyler Wiard and CJ Jacobsen yesterday. We asked them to share their experiences on Bravo's "Top Chef" and give their best advice for the everyday chef.
Tyler, who is Culinary Director for all four of John Elway’s restaurants, told us that being on "Top Chef" was one of the best experiences of his life. "It was amazing. It was just a great experience personally." But, he was honest with us and admitted his biggest challenge on the show was self doubt. "It was extremely overwhelming when you don't know anybody, but you do know a few things. I absolutely knew that the chefs I was going up against were super talented. I had a lot of self-doubt about my own cooking and if I could make it through."
When we asked Tyler for his best advice for our readers, he told us that home cooks should take their time. "The phrase mise-en-place, which means 'everything in its place' is really one of the most valuable statements you can make in cooking and, to be honest, in life. You need to have everything in place; it's like a math formula. Be confident in what you're doing."
Tyler's favorite ingredient? He has two! "The ramp [wild leek] has always been the most intriguing ingredient I've ever worked with, and it's so seasonal, but it's one of my favorite things. And the duck egg. I've been entranced with the duck egg for a long time. I don't know why."
After hearing Tyler's take on "Top Chef," we were excited to talk to his teammate, CJ Jacobsen, a private chef with a competitive streak.
CJ said couldn't stand the team challenges on the show. "You know, it's not 'Top Team Chef,' it's 'Top Chef,'" he said. He did admit, though, that being a chef is about working together with other chefs, "If I've got my crew, of course, we're a team. We're ironclad, and we're all for the same goal. But in the show, you're not all for the same goal, you're for yourself."
Being creative is important to CJ, and he said that one of his main thoughts on Last Chance Kitchen last week was that he "didn't want to sacrifice any of my creativity." His creativity has never let him down. "That's part of being a chef. You sort of have an inspiration for an idea, and you have these flavors in your mind, and they go one way. [But] I've never had a catastrophe of like 'I'm all lost. I'm done for.'"
We asked CJ if he thought the fact that he had previously competed on the show was an advantage or a disadvantage. He said, "It was probably an advantage I didn't take advantage of. I know basically how hard it was going to be, so it didn't bother me that much. But at the same time, I got caught up in all the drama that is 'Top Chef.'"
We loved CJ's advice for the everyday chef. He said that people cooking at home need to make sure they taste things as they're happening. "If you're making a chicken sauce, taste it right before you put the bones in, taste it at the middle, and taste it at the end."
CJ thinks that when you taste something as you're making it, "you're creating, I guess, a flavor memory. You're creating a sort of library. And one thing that chefs have, that a lot of home cooks don't really think about is, we have these flavor libraries in our heads so we can make up dishes in our heads." His final advice? "Pay attention to what's happening and what flavors are happening. And don't be afraid to fail!"
We loved watching Tyler and CJ win the Last Chance Kitchen challenge again chef Kuniko Yagi, and we can't wait to see what happens next!