Nailbiter of a Night on Top Chef Masters, but Anita is Still There.

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To date, our Chef Anita Lo has raised $20,000 for Share, she has impressed judges with her food and intimidated her competition with her stealth. Let’s talk about tonight because it was a nailbiter for me to watch!

Quickfire Burger Challenge:

How did you feel when you first walked in and saw that it was a burger challenge?

Anita Lo (AL): A little scared actually! My first thought was that the only burger I have ever made for customers was the Bulgogi Beef Bun that we have at Rickshaw, which is tasty but they had really limited Asian ingredients on the “burger” table and in the pantry.

Bulgogi Beef Bun at Rickshaw

Bulgogi Beef Bun at Rickshaw


You did a cheddar soup with mini patties, croutons as the bread element with ketchup and a lettuce foam, what were some of your other ideas during brainstorming?

AL: It was quickfire so you don’t have a lot of time to think. You kind of go with what has worked in your repertoire which was def. the bulgogi bun or braised pork belly sliders we have but without the ingredients to make it I wanted to avoid fusion confusion.

It ended up being another very intellectual piece.

AL: It was basically a cheeseburger with all the flavors but in different form. At end of the day it was not one of my best dishes.

Did you think about your audience which you always seem to know very well at your restaurants?

AL: I didn’t know too much about the judges. So I didn’t cook to the audience. The only thing I could remember about Morgan Spurlock from Supersize Me was what I saw at the beginning of the movie when he had a vegan girlfriend. In retrospect I would never had done it of course, but unfortunately, I was not a fan of my own dish this time.

Are there any dishes at Annisa that you don’t like but are successful you’re your guests?

AL: Not black and white, there are some dishes that I think are iffy and I am not quite sure about and then they are well received by the guest. It still surprises me.

Can you give us an example of a well loved dish that you weren’t sold on?

AL: I had a Medai ( a kind of Japanese butterfish) I served with morels, mitsuba (a wild Japanese parsley) and ginger flower and I thought it was fine but people really liked it more than I may have expected.

OK, lets talk about the other burgers, did you get to taste any of them?

AL: We were all so busy, I got to taste Rick’s guacamoles and those were delicious.
I would have tried all of them…they all looked great.

OK, on to cute adorable, I-Can’t-Eat-A-Thing Zooey Deschanel

AL: Basically taking away meat I am OK with, no dairy, fine, gluten allergy I can deal, but then you take away soy it makes it impossible! If there is no dairy and it is vegan, the move is towards Asian but without soy its hard!

Do you think preparing a meal with that many restrictions is a fair challenge and do you think it played to anyone’s strengths or specific styles?

AL: First, I think it is a fair challenge, and as Chiarello said, Italy is about vegetables and not about so much dairy and also what Rick said that Mexican is about vegetables as well.

You made an eggplant dish with a lentil salad and a cashew paste. It seemed like you were stressed about the lentils?

AL: I like to use those French green lentils and they weren’t available to me and I didn’t have the normal battery of spices I would work with but I had to do the best I could without my regular pantry, but I can say that I do think the lentils were properly cooked.

Anything you saw the other contestants doing that caught your fancy?

AL: I loved Rick’s dish. Rick’s dish was fun on the banana leaf and he made his tamale in a banana leaf as well. The flavors were delicious.

You looked a little tired and I could tell you were definitely very focused which takes a lot of energy. How were you feeling at that point?

AL: I was fighting a cold and getting a bit worn down but i was on the mend by then. It was fun but still intense.

What was most stressful piece?

AL: Conceptualizing, shopping and even the execution were all difficult given the guest’s constraints. Even after I decided what to make it was a challenge. I knew I could get it out well but I felt it wasn’t going to be anything super exciting for me.

Do you think vegan cooking is important for a chef’s repertoire?

AL: Everyone should make something vegan

Is it more challenging for some people’s styles than others?

AL: Yes, certainly. If you are a Normandy chef it is going to be a challenge, but it is still important. That being said there can be great chefs in a specialty other than vegetarian.

Were you nervous when it came down to you and Art?

AL: I thought I was the one going home, that is why I was surpirsed at the end.

We are psyched you did not go home and I can’t wait to see you next week. Thanks!

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