I have never missed an episode of Top Chef or Top Chef Masters. I am in complete awe of the talent, energy, and skills of the contestants. With each new show, I like trying to guess who will win, but I have given up because sometimes the contestant who stands out in the first few challenges ends up choking on the third episode, sometimes due to circumstances, not necessarily culinary skills. I suppose the mishaps and challenges are what keeps the audience coming back to see what will happen next.
Chef Rick Bayless, winner of Season One of Top Chef Masters, once asked renowned chef Jacques Pepin where he should go to culinary school. Without a word, Chef Pepin pointed at the stove in the small kitchen where Rick has just prepared his lunch. Nothing beats practice plus a mind that’s open and adventurous. Chef Bayless states that being a great Top Chef isn’t necessarily about this-or-that culinary school, even though he firmly believes that young chefs going to school learn the language and essential techniques of the professional kitchen. He says a great chef is born from dedication to searching out tastes and textures, then putting in the hours to master the techniques that created them.
The contestants on Top Chef can be seasoned professionals or talented rookies who are there to compete and perform at the top of their game. This cookbook takes a deeper look at the skills and techniques behind the dishes we see presented on the show. In between the drama and tension of a reality television show, we expect to see the contestants creativity and culinary know-how create extraordinary food. Many of the recipes are found in this cookbook. In the book you will also find profiles on the contestants along with their best tips, an informative Q and A section, photos of the chefs and their food, and kitchen fundamentals so you can become your own top chef.
Chef Bayless wants to leave you with three recommendations: first, become friends with fire. Obtaining the correct heat for cooking food is one of the most important techniques you’ll ever master. And second, dedicate yourself to your knives. Keep them sharp and know how to use them. And last, trust your taste buds. That’s what will get you the furthest as you strive for Top Chef-dom.
“If recipes are the sheet music of our kitchens, then mastered techniques are our way of making them sing.”
-Chef Rick Bayless