Top Chef Canada exit interview, episode 6: quickfired
This season, we’ll be chatting with each week’s eliminated chef after they get the boot (or, rather, after their boot-getting episode airs—this stuff was recorded months ago). This week’s first eliminated chef (yes, there were two this week): Gabriell Cruz of Quatrefoil in Dundas.(Image: Top Chef Canada)
This was all taped a few months back now. Are the wounds mostly healed by this point?
Ha! Well, until I watch the episode, and then they’ll just reopen again. [laughs]
You looked nervous from the get go on this quickfire.
What we had to do was quite simple—soup and sandwich. I thought immediately to myself, I’m going to separate myself from the pack. I’m not going to go into this challenge making a cucumber-tomato sandwich and hoping to win. I did something that I liked. I like the flavours of truffles, prosciutto and pickled onions, so I made that a sandwich. My soup had the flavours of toasted bread and rosemary, and it fell a little short. I guess that’s what I get for trying to be different.
OK, explain your soup first. It was a toasted bread and rosemary soup? What does that mean exactly? How was that supposed to get into the soup?
It was somewhat like a gazpacho. In a traditional gazpacho, you thicken it with a bit of bread. What I did was basically take the tomato out so it was just onions, rosemary and lots of brown butter. Then I took the bread, toasted it in the oven, steeped it in the stock and then blitzed it with the stock, so you would taste basically all the bread.
Was this your first time trying that?
Yeah, I’ve never served anything like that before. I’ve had a bread soup before, but it’s not common in Canada, I think. So it was obviously a big risk.
At the same time, you won an earlier quickfire challenge for your velouté.
Three quickfires, I was on top. And on the one that counted the most, I ended up at the bottom. But there’s a lot of pressure, and once they said the bottom three were me, Trista and Curtis, I knew right away I was going home. They were stronger throughout the whole competition.
The toughest challenge you took on had to be the lamb tripe, right?
Actually, this one was probably the toughest challenge because of what was at stake. Restaurant Wars was something we all wanted to get to. You get to do what we’ve been doing our whole career: writing menus, running a restaurant and doing our food. I said to myself, at least make it to Restaurant Wars so you can show people what you can do. If this show can get me a job somewhere, this is probably the episode that would show restaurateurs that I can cook and come up with really nice dishes.
What’s it like cooking at Quatrefoil?
It’s been great. When we first opened, it was kinda like, let’s just stay afloat, let’s try to get people in, let’s not bomb this. But before we knew it, we were getting awards and recognition.
Do you want to run your own place now?
Before I left high school, I knew that this is what I’d be doing. I wanted to be head chef by the time I was 26. And then some of those plans backfired or got pushed back. Right now, this has showed me that I need to learn some more. There’s stuff that I need to improve on. I’m going to go travel for a bit—I actually have plans. I’m going to Australia next year to work. Hopefully when I come back, when I’m 27, 28, I can get that job that I really want.