The Top Chef Canada exit interview: episode 3, death by rendering
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 eliminated chef: Toronto’s own Sarah Tsai
Let’s get right into it. Can you tell us what you were trying to do with your sweet arancini?
Basically, arancini is normally a savoury dish. I wanted to make it into a smaller, bite-size dessert with prosciutto-chocolate sauce, because for me, chocolate and bacon go well [together], and bacon and prosciutto are very similar. I was going in a sweet-and-savoury kind of direction. I just cooked the risotto rice with milk and cream, vanilla seeds and orange zest. Obviously, you know that didn’t turn out too well. [laughs]
Had you ever tried that before, making sweet arancini?
Ah, no, but that’s an idea I always had in my head and I wanted to try it.
Had you ever put prosciutto into chocolate before? What exactly went in?
It was the rendered fat from the prosciutto. My teammate Xavier had prosciutto on his dish, so to make our dishes kind of cohesive, I rendered the fat.
Were you surprised by the judges’ reaction?
I was very surprised. I thought my dish was good, but… yeah.
You broke down a little bit. Was it hard to hear them call your food offensive?
It was. As chefs we always put everything into a dish that we make, and to get constructive criticism is hard. It was kind of hard for me to hear that, and then the emotions just came out of nowhere. I didn’t see it coming.
You mentioned you wanted to be the first Asian female Top Chef winner. Were you a fan of Beverly on the U.S. show this season?
I was a huge fan. She’s a very tough competitor. Especially when they have [the Last Chance Kitchen]. She really kicked some ass in that, and came back again—and to be in the final four? It’s amazing.
Were you a fan of the show beforehand?
Oh, yeah. I think the only season I missed was season 1!
What’s it like cooking at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club?
We have a café and a casual dining room. We have dinner service every night, but we also do catering for any functions or parties that members want, like sweet 16 parties. A lot of time, people think that great chefs come from well-known restaurants, but the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club is a good place for me right now. We’ve got great people, and the chef allows me to be very creative with our dishes. On the menu, half of them are my ideas!
What would you like to be doing in five years?
I want to get more into teaching. I just want to give back a little bit and share a little knowledge with students about what the industry is really like. It’s not just glory and beautiful and fun like on TV. It’s a lot of hard work; you really have to work your ass off. But in five years, I would like to have a food truck. I want to do a dessert food truck with really simple, tasty baked goods, like brownies, apple pies, those classics. I think people always love those simple, down-to-earth desserts, and to have that on the street? It’s pretty neat.