New York, N.Y.
I'm a freelance private chef who travels the world with my clients on their mega-yachts. Dealing with the demands of my clients and working by myself in a small, rocky kitchen is huge a challenge. Cooking is my artistic expression — I think about how the colors, the shapes and the textures work together. I can cook any style of food from French to Italian to Korean which is a good thing since I need to be versatile for my clients. I'm self-taught and never follow a recipe. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night with an idea for a dish that I must make the next day. I don't care if you're a man, woman or iguana, I'm not threatened by anyone and I'm ready to compete in the kitchen.
Chef Tournant – L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
New York, N.Y.
I'm 40-years-old and I'm the Chef Tournant at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the Four Seasons Hotel in NYC. At age 35 I enrolled at the French Culinary Institute and started working in the kitchen at Per Se for free so that I could build my skills and keep up with my younger counterparts. I love that my job allows me to be creative and work with different flavors, temperatures and textures. Working in one of the best restaurants in the world can be demanding, but I think it's important to keep the mood light in the kitchen and I've been known to play a practical joke or two. I couldn't be more nervous about the prospect of having to prove myself in front of people like this. I just hope they enjoy what I make and aren't revolted by it.
WINNER!: Cody Utzman
Executive Chef/Restaurateur at three restaurants – Papacitos, Brooklyn Label, and Brooklyn Standard
I got into cooking out of necessity. If I didn't cook, my sisters and I wouldn't eat because my mom was an alcoholic and drug addict. I didn't go to high school and went from 8th grade to hanging out. I was living on my own in an apartment with some punk kids at 16. Eventually I got a job as a graveyard shift cook at a diner without any professional experience other than Burger King. I was really fast and was able to do hundreds of tickets by myself. That inspired me to get formal training. So I went to a French culinary school at a community college. I worked at a lodge in Wyoming near Yellowstone and got promoted to be the line cook because I could work a 2 or 3 person shift by myself. I worked at an Italian restaurant, at a fishing lodge in Alaska in middle of the bush, a budhist temple resort in Hawaii, Arizona, and Island off the coast of Washington, etc. From 17 – 21 I did a bunch of seasonal jobs and learned all sorts of things. I worked in Boston for five years as a private chef for a wealthy family. I ended up settling in Greenpoint, BK. I couldn't get a job at any fine dining restaurants because I didn't have NY experience as a head chef. I realized I had to do something on my own. So I started my own restaurant.
Chef/Owner - Taim
New York, N.Y. West Village
I'm a chef and owner of Taim. I grew up in Israel and always helped prepare a crazy five course meal for my family's Friday night dinners. After I left the military, I traveled around Europe and Thailand for five years and then went back to Israel to attend culinary school. I cook Middle Eastern food with a twist. I'm a very intense person, so cooking calms me down. I'm never too tired to cook. If I come home at 2am from work and my husband is hungry, I'll go and cook him a meal. I'm aggressive and pushy and faster than the guys. I would never serve anyone something that's less than perfect. Being in the military helps you be prepared for the unknown. I'm going to win because people flip when I serve my food. It's very unique and they say they've never seen anything like it before. If I lose this competition, I will pretend that it doesn't bother me even though I'll be dying inside.