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 – Union Theological Seminary
New York, N.Y.
I'm 54-years-old and I'm a chef at the Union Theological Seminary — Praise the Lord and pass the biscuits! We run the kitchen there and do catering for everyone from Liza Manelli to Barack Obama. After stints at every kind of kitchen you could imagine — including the Cowgirl Hall of Fame — I moved to NYC with only a one-way ticket and my last unemployment check. My food is Texas-French, which I'm not even sure is a category! I'll take a traditional Southern dish like deviled eggs and add caviar and capers to it. I manage my kitchen by comedy. My grandmother once told me you attract a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. I was born with a knife in both hands. I never went to culinary school, but I have 30 years of experience. I know some tricks they ain't seen before. Whatever you give me in that basket, I'll come up with something fun and win everybody over.
Chef de Cuisine/Jr. Executive Chef at Industria Argentina Restaurant
Tribeca - New York, NY
I grew up in Buenos Aires and was planning to become a doctor. I took a semester off from med school, got a job at a restaurant and fell in love with it. So I dropped out of med school and worked in French restaurants throughout Argentina. I moved to NYC to work at a restaurant for 6 months and have been here for 8 years. Most people think that women are too emotional to handle the pressure of the kitchen, but I take charge of every situation. I'm tough, I'm smart, and I have the skills to win.
Chef/owner – Restaurant Passionne
Food consumes my life. It is literally my bread and butter. For me, cooking is all about the passion and pride. At the end of the day, making people happy is a huge reward — not comparable to money. I went to the Culinary Institute of America and afterwards worked in the kitchens of hotels, high-end resorts and restaurants in Virginia Beach and New York City. In the back of my mind I always knew I wanted to start my own restaurant. I opened Restaurant Passionne in 2006. The food is French inspired and we use as much local, seasonal product as possible. My menu can change 20 times a year! Everything is made from scratch here. I'm very competitive. At the end of the day winning is putting your best foot forward, putting all you have into it and doing a great job.