Chopped Competitors Avocado
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. I was born into a large, culinarydriven family. Culinary school was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I aced all my classes and I’m the prot of some of the best chefs of the world. I cook French, Spanish, Italian and Mediterranean food. When I cook, I’m extremely intense and I try to blow people away and exceed expectations. I also love to act and I’ve been studying to finetune my acting technique. I’m kind of like a culinary Robert de Niro. I’m also an extreme snowboarder I fly around to different resorts to snowboard. My other passions are helicopter snowboarding and sport fishing. I’m going to win because I’ll stop at nothing. I got a masters degree in art education with plans to become an art teacher. I put myself through school working for years in restaurants doing everything from washing dishes to being the director of operations. Eventually, I realized I was making much more money doing this than I’d ever make as an art teacher. Plus, being an artist and being a chef is really the same thing you have to be creative. I always had a passion for cooking and finally decided to open up my own place La Palapa. We serve homestyle Mexican food like guacamole, quesadillas with homemade cheese and chips and signature margaritas. Mario Batali says we have the best Caesar salad in the city! I struggle to understand why more women aren’t successful in this business. In my kitchen there is no “head” anything, we’re all a team. You have to be strong and competitive to own two restaurants in New York City. It’s the Capricorn in me I’m fiery and passionate. I’ve never done anything like this show before, but I love a challenge. I basically do everything from cooking, ordering food, payroll, even engineering! My mother is Northern Italian and a fantastic cook. I just assumed the rest of the world was like her. But when I went away to college I realized there was a lack of good food and began cooking for my roommates. A couple of years later I went to culinary school and have been cooking ever since! There’s nothing better than a plate of good food or a good pair of shoes (I’ve got some dare devil heels). I’m used to wearing clogs in the kitchen so when I put the heels on, it’s hard, but they look fabulous. I also have an artistic background and like to paint, make jewelry, stained glass and mosaics. What I love the most about cooking is changing people’s minds when they say they don’t like a certain dish they’ve had before. When I taste food from the kitchen, the guys know I like it when I do a little dance. I grew up in New York City, and this is a big old melting pot. So I cook a little bit of everything Italian, Morroccan, Thai, Polish, etc. I don’t know if I’m really competitive. I just think my food’s the best.