Cheftestant Profile: Sarah

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.

(Photo from Sarah Master)

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.

(Photo from Sarah Master)

Cheftestant Profile: Shehu

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. Third up is #TeamMarcus member Shehu, also a proud member of Team NYC!

(Photo from Shehu Fitzgerald)

What was your first thought when you were chosen? "Phew!!!! O.K., time to get busy and get back at the stoves... What will I cook first!?!?!"

How did you choose Marcus to be your mentor? Picking Marcus was easy... #TeamNYC!! Plus, I'm a fan of his cooking style!

What was your greatest challenge over the course of the show? The biggest challenge I had was trying to figure out what the judges like and how to win over their votes.

What is the most lasting lesson of the competition that you have learned? Keep it simple, cook with your heart, and cook your food.

(Photos from Shehu Fitzgerald)

Do you have a signature dish? Yes, I have few dishes I like to make, but one is seared sea scallops with salsify puree and a red wine reduction.

What's your favorite ingredient to cook with? Sweet Thai chili.

Cheftestant Profile: Don

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. Second up is #TeamMarcus member Don, who never eats without wine and never drinks without food.

Don and his dog, Mr. Fezziwig (Photo from Don Pullum)

What was your first thought when you were chosen?

I was dumbfounded. I had mentally prepared myself to not make the final 16 and nearly spilled my wine when Chef Ludo and Chef Marcus chose me.

How did you choose Marcus to be your mentor?

Chef Marcus had performed a cooking demonstration at an Austin Food and Wine Festival I had attended. I already knew Chef Marcus was an extraordinary chef and had seen him in cooking shows on television, but it was seeing him in person, teaching. His demeanor was friendly, focused, and patient. I knew he was the mentor for me.

What was your greatest challenge over the course of the show?

It was all those other contestants! (Note: that was tongue in cheek.) I wish I had more time to familiarize myself with the pantry. I think you'll see me wandering around a bit with my reading glasses on. The time restriction was tough.

What is the most lasting lesson of the competition that you have learned?

I knew that I could cook tasty food; now, I know that I can cook better. One simple thing that Marcus taught us, to toast our spices, is a technique that I've implemented in my cooking, and it has improved the flavors of everything I cook.

(Photo from Don Pullum)

Do you have a signature dish?

I cook many different cuisines and make many fusion dishes. The dish that many friends request is a curried, braised lamb shank. You can see comments about this dish here.

What's your favorite ingredient to cook with?

This is a tough question. Love peppers, fresh and dried. Asian and Moorish spices.

What's your favorite wine to drink as you cook?

When I cook, I drink something made in Texas. It could be Viognier, Semillion, Blanc du Bois, Albarino, Roussanne, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Mourvedre, Tannat... Well, I think you get the point—such a diversity of wine to choose from. If it's a special meal, I'll raid the Sandstone Cellars Winery library and have an aged, fusion red.

Cheftestant Profile: Audrey

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. First up is #TeamMarcus member Audrey, who lives by healthy cooking.

(Photo from Audrey Johns)

What was your first thought when you were chosen? When I was chosen by Marcus, I was in shock! I was overwhelmed meeting all the accomplished chefs that went before and after me, so I was truly shocked and honored to be in the top 16. It was an amazing opportunity to train under such an accomplished chef. I mean, come on. How many thousands—no, millions—of chefs would kill to work with Marcus for one hour, let alone have him as a mentor!

What was your greatest challenge over the course of the show? My greatest challenge over the course of the series had to do with my physical limitations. I have a disease called CRPS that ranks as the most painful disease on the pain index, significantly higher than natural childbirth. My right arm and left leg are stricken with the disease, and standing for hours on the cold concrete and sitting in metal folding chairs made the pain a constant problem. I knew that if I could make it through, I could inspire millions of people stricken with the disease to change their lives and stop saying "I can't" and start saying "I'll try."

What is the most lasting lesson of the competition that you have learned? This series taught me to trust myself more. I found myself cooking far outside of my "healthy living" comfort zone to please my mentor and the judges, but often I took it too far. Like with the chorizo dish last night: I love to eat chorizo but don't cook with it often, so I didn't know that serving it anything less than piping hot will only make the fat congeal and ruin the dish. I should have trusted my instincts and stayed a little truer to myself while still taking chances. I too often jump in headfirst and learned I've got to find a better balance.

(Photo from Audrey Johns)

Do you have a signature dish? My signature dish is whole roasted chicken with potatoes and onions. I did a spin on it in last night's team challenge. Roasting an entire chicken in an hour is impossible, so I worked with smaller cuts. I always come home from grocery shopping with 3 whole chickens, one for tonight, one for later this week and one for the freezer. I change up the spices, but at least once a week, I fall back to my favorite garlic, sage, mustard marinade—it's delicious and on my blog.

What's your favorite ingredient to cook with? My favorite ingredient to cook with is garlic. I can't get enough garlic. It's free of calories but full of flavor. Raw, it's spicy, and roasted, it's sweet, and it makes everything taste homemade.

Q&A: Dee Charboneau of Juice Served Here

Juice Served Here. Photo courtesy of Dee Charboneau Three weeks ago, the juice scene in Los Angeles just got hotter. The fashion forward juice bar, Juice Served Here, opened on West Third Street bringing cold-pressed juices, nut milks, tonics, coffees, and raw dessert to the toothsome neighborhood of West Hollywood. Last week, I sat down with Head of Operations Dee Charboneau to talk about her ever ambitious entrepreneur spirit, and the opening of the much anticipated store front. Here’s what she had to say. 

Juice Served Here. Photo courtesy of Dee Charboneau

You’ve owned a variety of different businesses from owning an artist space, being a private yoga instructor, raw food coach and now the juice business. What drives your entrepreneur spirit?

I’ve always been a hustler! But honestly, I wanted to work for myself, but in a way that enriches peoples lives, and helps them transform the way they look at living a healthy lifestyle.

What brought you to the realization that you wanted to start a juice business? 

I pay a lot of attention to trends developing not only in LA, but across the states, and when Sarah Evans and I  first started our juice delivery service, Juice Maids, about three years ago, I could see that the cold-press juice business was going to be huge.

Tell me about the store opening. 

The whole idea of our location is health coupled with style. We want to bring people an amazing 100% organic product, but at the same time we want to remove the new age, granola vibe, that goes along with health and yoga businesses. We appreciate that stuff, but it’s just not who we are as a brand.

What does Juice Served Here have that makes you different then other juice stores in LA?

We have a raw bake shop that launches in the coming week. Our incredible chef, Gregory Manitsas, specializes in raw juices and desserts. We’ll have raw Tiramisu, coconut kefir pudding, and raw chocolate truffles. Everything in our store is 100% organic and 100% raw.

Do you have a cleanse program? 

D.C. We have an amazing cleanse program! Most people don’t know that we offer much more then just a storefront. Our cleanse program includes 8 drinks: 3 tonics, 3 cold-pressed juices, a green milk, a raw soup, and a super food bar for $85 a day; however, the more days you book the less it costs, a 5 day cleans is $375. That comes out to be about $75.00 a day.

If you live in the Los Angeles area be sure to stop by Juice Served here, 8366 West Third street, between Orlando and Sweetzer Avenues, West Hollywood. (323)-944-0409 or juiceservedhere.com