As the competition heats up on The Taste, we're getting in touch with our favorite cheftestants to hear about their experiences on the show. Last, but not least, is #TeamMarcus member Sarah, who constantly looks forward in the quest to open her own restaurant.
What was your first thought when you were chosen?
I was so nervous being onstage with the mentors. This one bite of food had the potential to change my life. Either I was going to go home, back to the daily grind of being a chef in someone else's restaurant, or I was going to move ahead. My first thought being chosen was "I did it. I really did it." I was overjoyed and relieved at the same time.
What was your greatest challenge over the course of the show?
The greatest challenge was the mind game of trying to figure out what the guest mentors would like. You can figure out early on what Marcus, Tony, Nigella, and Ludo will go for. But the guests were a wild card.
What is the most lasting lesson of the competition that you have learned?
I totally stepped out of my comfort zone being on this show. I would NEVER have done something like this if I wasn't driven by my desire for my own restaurant. I learned I can do more and push myself harder than I ever thought I could. Marcus being an athlete really helped me relate my own story to his journey into being a James Beard Award-winning chef. You need discipline, passion and smarts to move on in sports. Cooking is the same. The Taste was the national tournament of cooking at this point in my career.
Do you have a signature dish?
I don't have a signature dish per se, but I have a style that combines my Midwestern upbringing with my New Orleans training. I love dirty rice, but I also love the gizzard dressing my mom made as a kid. I cook a lot of game. My father was an avid hunter who brought home venison, pheasant, turkey, elk, moose... I cook those same ingredients at work. Throw a little spice and Louisiana flair in there, you've got me on a plate.
What's your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Lamb! It's meaty, gamey, grassy, earthy. It pairs well with all my favorite flavors: chevre, rosemary, thyme, cherries... I can make bacon out of it, we did a prosciutto recently, burgers, racks, braised. It's so versatile! Lamb is my power animal.