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'Top Chef' Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard can stand the heat

Stephanie Izard is even blending her own wines for the restaurant.

Special to the Times

Stephanie Izard is even blending her own wines for the restaurant.

ORLANDO — She sent her assistant to grab a microplaner from his knife kit, took one more look at her mise en place list and sat down for a few minutes. She had done hundreds of cooking demos since her win on the fourth season of Bravo's Top Chef, but this was a first: a hall packed with seasoned culinary professionals, all filing in wearing crisp chef whites. Still, Stephanie Izard was unflappable.

The first female Top Chef, Izard didn't win without some challenges. Episodes followed her through a number of audacious and triumphant moments (a wedding cake for 250, braised pistachios) and some agonizing missteps (that ricotta pound cake, unrefrigerated pork bellies that had to be scrapped). It made for good TV. Still, Izard doesn't see herself as a Food Network star any time soon.

We sat down with the 32-year-old chef for a few minutes before her demo at last week's American Culinary Federation Convention in Orlando to discuss what her future holds.

So, if not the Food Network, do you see yourself doing television again?

Yes, I have an idea for a show that's something like a combination of Farm to Table and Dirty Jobs, something that would be more likely to be on the Discovery or Travel channels. Those Food Network stars are constantly "on," and relentlessly perky. I'm not like that.

What else did you learn about yourself through the filming of Top Chef?

You don't get to see anything before it airs. So I'd watch the show with friends. I'm not big on even looking at pictures of myself, so it was hard. I'd sit there and say, "God, I sound like a man." But I think it helped me stop swearing quite as much.

You're opening a restaurant in January in Chicago called the Drunken Goat. Did your experience on the show help prepare for that?

To be successful on the show you need a sense of urgency, the ability to respond quickly to change and the capacity to work well with others. It's the same skill set in restaurants. When I hire someone, I look for strong skills, but I also have to be comfortable with them personally.

You just blended your own wine, which will be served at the Drunken Goat. Will any of your Top Chef dishes appear on your menu?

I'm excited about the wine. I did a red blend that's 50 percent grenache and the rest syrah and mourvedre, and a white blend that's semillon and viognier. But as per the menu, I rarely repeat myself. And, looking back, some of it wasn't my best work.

What do we have to look forward to in today's demo?

Most of my dishes are Mediterranean-inspired these days, but I love Asian ingredients like soy and Sriracha and sambal. It's hard to duplicate the intensity of those tastes. And I've been very into nut butters recently. Since it finally got to be barbecue weather in Chicago just last week, I thought I'd celebrate with a barbecued quail dish today here in Orlando.

Laura Reiley can be reached at or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, is at


Marinated Quail With Balsamic Barbecue Sauce, Pistachio Cilantro Butter and Pickled Daikon Slaw

For the barbecue sauce (makes 4 cups):

3 slices bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 cup diced onion (about 1 small onion)

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons dry sherry

¼ cup brown sugar

1 Thai chili (or 1 big squirt of Sriracha)

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the quail:

8 semiboneless quail, wings trimmed off

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the pistachio cilantro butter:

1 cup shelled, salted and toasted pistachios

½ cup packed cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons blended oil (half olive oil, half canola or grapeseed oil)

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the daikon slaw:

1 medium daikon radish

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place heavy-bottom sauce pot over medium heat. When pot is hot, add the bacon and render until crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Add onion and garlic, and sweat them for 5 minutes. Add vinegar and sherry and increase the heat. Simmer until liquid has reduced by more than half. Add sugar, chili, tomatoes, mustard and Worcestershire sauce; stir to combine. Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Let the sauce cool slightly and then transfer to a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange quail in glass baking dish or bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Brush with about 1 cup of the barbecue sauce. Set aside to marinate while making the pistachio butter and slaw.

Place pistachios, cilantro, oil, Sriracha, honey, water, lemon juice, lemon zest and mustard in a food processor and process until a thick paste forms (slightly thicker than the consistency of natural peanut butter). Scrape down the sides once or twice while processing. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Peel the daikon and slice it very thin (⅛ inch or less) on a mandolin or by hand into matchsticks. Toss daikon slices with cilantro. In a bowl, whisk together vinegar and sugar so the sugar dissolves a little. Pour mixture over the daikon and cilantro; toss to combine. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside and grill the quail.

Preheat gas or charcoal grill to medium-high. Place marinated quail on hot, well-greased grates, breast/skin side down. Grill 5 minutes per side.

To serve, spread about 1 tablespoon of the pistachio butter on each plate. Top with a grilled quail and a few spoonfuls of daikon slaw.

Serves 4 to 6.

Source: Stephanie Izard

'Top Chef' Season 4 winner Stephanie Izard can stand the heat 07/21/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 21, 2009 4:30am]
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