Top Chef Canada exit interview, episode 9: whose palate is it anyway?

Top Chef Canada exit interview, episode 9: whose palate is it anyway?

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).

(Image: Top Chef Canada)

This week’s eliminated chef: Ryan Gallagher, chef de cuisine at Ruby Watcho

What did you think when you saw the vending machine for the quickfire?

I loved the quickfires, actually—it’s where I think I had the most fun on the show. That particular challenge was a good one, too: you had to make a snack out of crappy foods. I know that I had a different take on it. They asked for us to make a snack, and instead I just made a meal out of snack food. I made a sweet potato and marshmallow mashed potato, and I crusted corn chips on wild boar and made a purée of carrots. Evidently they weren’t totally insulted by it.

We didn’t actually see your dish in the quickfire.

Yeah, sometimes I wish the editing was little more truthful…but that’s okay.

Can you give us examples?

In the Lost Girl episode, both Xavier and I had a dish that wasn’t aired at all. He had a hot dish, and I made a salad as well. I don’t take it personally, but when you’re being critiqued and it looks like you only did one thing and everyone else is doing two, you kinda look like a fool up there.

For the camping challenge, you definitely got pegged as a bit of a city boy. Is that fair?

I don’t really go camping a lot—yeah, I like hotels. But it’s not like I can’t light a fire!

Did you have trouble cooking over the open fire?

I got lucky in that, by the time I’d finished, the winds had just started picking up. Some of the other guys, like Dave, were just cooking in the middle of a hurricane.

It seems the judges sent you home because they thought your dish was too rich and unbalanced. Is that fair?

Well I liked my dish—I’ll stand by it any day of the week! I think Jimmy kind of said it in his interview with you last week: Mark [McEwan] and Shereen [Arazm] and them are meat and potatoes kind of people. They like certain kinds of dishes, and that’s fine. I think the problem is, when you get a challenge of cooking for 100 people, you’re trying to make everybody happy—but what a lot of us got bogged down with was that in the end you’re cooking for just a couple palates. Some people’s food just caters to that, and some of us, we just cook a different style of food.

What was your best dish?

In Richard Blais’s deconstruction challenge, I won the quickfire with the romesco and mackerel in the can, and then I did the crispy-fried duck egg. Cooking for judges like Chris Cosentino or Blais, when you see a judge you really don’t want to screw up for, I think on those days, all of us chefs did better food. Whereas in the Lost Girl episode, it wasn’t our favourite challenge, and I think you can see it in the food. But when there’s a top-quality judge, that’s where we shone the most.

Did you think you got to show off your cooking style?

I wish they had shown more of our defence of our food at judges’ table. Sometimes they make us look like idiots, just standing there, as if we’re not defending our food. But we’re at the judges’ table for like an hour, an hour and a half sometimes. For me, in the decades challenge, there was a rationale behind my dish: I wanted to take a ’70s-inspired dish and turn it into a modern, ethical dish. So I used sustainable seafood—but we were at Mark McEwan’s grocery store, and there was almost no sustainable seafood available. And that’s why I didn’t use albacore tuna for my tuna melt—I used the only fish that I could find that was truly sustainable, which was a salmon.

What’s it look being the chef de cuisine at Ruby Watcho?

It’s good, it’s busy—it never stops. Lynn [Crawford]’s got a large fan base, and people really come in to see her.

Have any big plans for future?

I’d really like to own my own place some time. My wife just had a baby a month ago, and I’d love to be one of those guys who opens a restaurant and makes his kids work at it [laughs]. The more I work in this industry, the more I realize I want to work for myself. If we’re going to put in all these hours, we might as well get everything out of it.