Personal Private Chef
New York, N.Y.
I had no interest in academics and doing my exams, so I quit school when I was 15 and a half and went to Westminster Catering School. I've worked all over the world, from the top restaurants in London and France to Australia and the Middle East. I run your average Upper East Side incredibly beautiful kitchen with the best equipment you could get for a family home. One of the reasons I work here instead of in a restaurant is because I have a life. I'm British and very passionate about my soccer. I also love mountain hiking and being outside in the open. I've been cooking for 32 years, so much of my life is spent cooped up in airless kitchens with no windows. Going to the high open places like Montana or Appalachia is an expression of freedom. I especially love working with fish because you can be so creative and do so much with seafood. Being such a competitive spirit, I don't want to lose. Other people have experience, but have they been personal chefs to royalty, worked at two and three star Michelin restaurants? There's no substitute for excellent experience and excellent tasting food.
Executive Chef at Café Pinot, part of the Patina Restaurant Group
Los Angeles, Calif.
I cook California French cuisine with a twist of Asian. A year and a half into college I didn't know what I wanted to do. I left college and went to go work in the kitchen of a retirement residence. I loved cooking for the people there and decided to make it my profession. Afterwards, I went to work at a restaurant in my hometown and soon afterwards I made my way to New York for culinary school. The first things I learned about were using local, seasonal produce and creating beautiful balanced flavors. So my food is responsibly prepared and has great flavor. The slogan in my kitchen is "happy farmers, happy cooks." The food in California is just amazing. There are strawberries here that taste like they've been tossed in sugar, but they're just purely, naturally that sweet. My food is better than other people's food because it's simple, yet intensely flavored and well seasoned. No matter how good people think their food is, they don't season it well.
WINNER!: James Briscione
Chef Instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education
New York, N.Y.
I grew up in Pensacola, Fla. and started washing dishes when I was 16 because I needed a job. I moved to Birmingham for college and was studying sports medicine, but I missed the wild side of working in a restaurant. So I got a job at the fifth highest ranked restaurant in the country. By age 23 I was their chef de cuisine. At the Culinary Institute we teach all kinds of cooking because we're preparing our students for the top restaurants in NYC. But my favorite things to cook are French foods and traditional southern foods that I learned while working down south. I'm very competitive with everything I do. My big thing is fantasy sports. My friends and I are always trying to one-up each other. Also, my fiancée is a great home cook. We get very competitive and try to know more than each other about everything related to food. I'll beat everyone else because I have a very wide range of recipes to pull from and I can think very quickly on my feet.
Chef Saucier/Sous Chef at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, N.Y.
I cook everything. My philosophy is to keep it simple — the great thing about a piece of corn is that it's a piece of corn. I played hockey as a kid and I look at cooking like a team sport. My colleagues and I go to a paintball place in Long Island City once a month for team building and to release tension. Because when we're in the kitchen, anything can go down. An oven breaking, a flood, etc. I'm very competitive. Growing up with a brother who was really close in age was always like the commercial, "I can do anything you can do better." Babe Ruth didn't always win and Mike Tyson got knocked out every now and again. It doesn't mean they were bad.