Top Chef Canada exit interview, episode 11: salty language
This season, we’re 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 eliminated chef: Calgary’s Xavier Lacaze
When you started the season, did you think you’d end up in the final five?
After what I had watched from my couch in the first season, I thought I was a great chef. In the end, I made it in the top five, but it was not at all as easy as I thought.
It was more difficult than you expected?
Way more difficult. I think until you’ve done it you have no idea how intense it is. I thought it would be a lot easier, and it was a great kick in my butt. As chefs, we’re always in control of our kitchens, but here they make sure there’s no control or no knowledge of anything that’s happening.
You mentioned that you were a Kraft Dinner virgin before the episode. You did pretty well with it!
I’m sure I made my wife proud, because I have said so many bad things about the product but actually I can cook it. Still, my sauce was half-curdled the first time I made it because I misunderstood the measurement of milk and butter. But yeah, they almost gave me $10,000.
Have you made KD since?
No! I’ve seen my wife feeding my daughter with it, and I try to look away when this happens. Every kid, even chefs’ kids, friends of mine, they tell me, you make them real mac-and-cheese, but they want KD. I’m going to have to deal with it.
For your elimination dish, Mark McEwan didn’t seem to like that you used regular flour instead of “00” flour for your pasta. Do you think it makes a difference?
No. I think it makes good TV, to be honest. I agree that my pasta might be a little al dente, but the complaints about saltiness and the pasta texture, I kind of disagree with that.
So your ragú wasn’t oversalted?
It wasn’t oversalted, I’m sorry. I’ve been called on that a few times already—it’s just that my food is rich, my food is strong, my food has bold flavours. A lot of people confuse strong, reduced jus or stock with salt.
You have a pretty rigourous French training—did it serve you well on the show?
A little bit of both. It helped me on some of the challenges, like the chef skills challenge. But it didn’t help me in the fact that I was not as able to adapt my cuisine to the challenges all the time. So I ended up on the bottom a few times—more than I wanted.
Do you have to adapt your flavours to suit the Calgary palate?
Definitely. That’s something I took from show—I’m trying to make my dishes lighter. I still cook French, I still cook with a lot of duck fat because that’s what I do. But I heard what the judges said to me 20 times!
What was it like to see yourself on TV?
It was a little strange, and stressful on my end, because I was discovering it at the same time as a full restaurant (we were showing it at the restaurant on Monday nights). There was a lot of laughing, because I was represented as, well, someone that swears a lot. The crowd was counting my swearing.
Did you notice the French accordion music they played behind you?
What did you think?
What can I say? I was the French character that they needed.
We have to ask: you mentioned during the episode that as a good French soccer fan, you don’t like Italians?
I made a mistake! [laughs] I made a few Italian friends unhappy. I’m a big fan of soccer, so that’s what I think of when I hear “Italian.”
What’s your team?
The French national team with the Euro Cup coming up, but otherwise, I support Lyon.
At the beginning of the season, you talked about wanting to open your own place. Is that still the goal?
That is something I’m working on as hard as I can right now. It’s going to happen before the end of the year.
What will you be serving?
It’s funny how French food in Calgary is always thought of as formal, with white tablecloth and expensive dishes. I want to take that away—I want to make casual French food.