To get you ready for tonight’s new episode of Top Chef Canada, here’s an interview with last week’s eliminated contestant, Michael Stauffer.
First of all, congratulations on being chosen for the first season of Top Chef Canada! What was the selection process like for you?
Thanks! The selection process was cool and nerve racking. It was kind of a last minute thing when I put the audition tape in (evident from the quality of said tape), and it seemed like forever before I knew if I was being passed through to the next stage.
Why did you decide to apply to be on Top Chef Canada?
My friends were begging me to at least try! I thought it would be fun and a good experience. Also, a chance at $100,000 doesn’t hurt.
What surprised you most about the competition?
The intense level of talent they brought in from across Canada. These guys and girls were good. Also, just how much work goes into production of these t.v shows.
Did you learn anything from your experience?
Haha…yeah, that drinking 5 cups of coffee before a quickfire challenge, does not make filleting a fish easy.
What special items did you bring from home to help you in the competition?
Just some really good olive oil, a bottle of Saba, and some Asian seasonings that I figured they wouldn’t have.
Can you explain the reasoning behind the food you created for your elimination dish? Did you intend to serve the lamb that rare, and why did you choose to use chevre in that way? Have you made this dish before?
I had never made that dish before. I had made each component many, many times before, but never together like that. It was my thinking that we were to try and represent our personality on the plate. I think I read into that a little too much and tried to represent it literally. Transparent (consomme), Cheesy Humour (Chevre), Haldimand County (lamb – close to where I grew up), Mixture of Personalities (5 different veg cooked 5 different ways).
The consomme was straight from France, I used heirloom tomatoes as they were height of season at the time and infused it with basil. The Cheese was definitely a bad idea, I had had this before at a restaurant and I loved it. The combination of the 120 degree kitchen and the 15 minutes of sitting on the plate before being eaten did not help, but I should have seen that before…that’s what being a chef is all about.
But one thing I am still absolutely perplexed by, and I feel compelled to defend, is the doneness of the lamb. I have cooked lamb fillet 100,000 times at some of the top restaurants in Canada, and I have to say that without a doubt, it was perfectly cooked. Brought up to room temperature before, seasoned with olive and citrus, wrapped in caul fat, slow roasted with thyme, garlic, rosemary, bay-leaf, lots of butter and allowed to rest for the same amount of time that it cooked. When I cut into it, I couldn’t have been more pleased. There was no eye, and a perfect, juicy, uniform pink through out. I just didn’t get it.
But according to the resident expert, it looked and tasted like vomit. I doubt Gael Green could have said it much more eloquently, but I’ll take it as constructive criticism and move on.
If asked, would you compete on Top Chef Canada again?
Sure, I would love to take another stab at it.
Any future plans that you’d like to share?
I have been nailing down a rosticceria concept for the past year that I feel will become very big. It’s called Celli’s. We are opening our second concept restaurant in Burlington, Ontario and also a 30 seat dining room concentrating on a very stylish form of cuisine. I fully intend to put the lamb dish on the menu (probably change it up a bit though), and allow my guests to taste and judge for themselves!
Other than your own establishment, name one of your favorite places to eat.
My backyard, end of August, next to my vegetable garden with Grimier’s Pride Tomatoes, Soldier Basil, Burrata Mozzarella still warm from Bella Casara, liter of Olive Oil, Saba, Grey Salt, Black Pepper, Crusty Bread, friends and 10 bottles of wine from Organized Crime in Niagara. Who would honestly want anything else?
Any last comments?
Would just like to thank all my friends and family for the unwavering support and I will continue to cook my heart out for them!! Thanks.
I am interviewing all the eliminated contestants, so if you have a question that you want answered, let me know in the comments, preferably by the end of the broadcast night on which they are voted off. I make no guarantees about using your question, but if I do use it I will give you credit for it.
You can read past interviews by using this Top Chef Canada list.