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.