Video Best New Chef Jason Franey.
Born 1977; Austin, TX. Raised West Palm Beach, FL.
How he got into cooking "I watched a video on culinary school on career day at high school. I saw the ice carving and the chefs traveling, and that helped turn me on to the excitement of it."
Lucky break "A friend of mine had moved to Hawaii, so I sold my car, rented my apartment and quit my job at L'Escalier at The Breakers to go hang out with him. Before I could leave, my friend ran out of money and came back. But I met a girl at my going away party who was driving to San Francisco. So I went with her instead and got a job at Campton Place."
Biggest influence Daniel Humm, Chef at Eleven Madison Park and an F&W Best New Chef 2005. "He basically changed the way I cooked, the way I thought about food, my technique. His food is so clean, so technique-driven, so Europe. I learned it his way and forgot everything else."
Heroes Mark and Brian Canlis. "They took over their family's 60-year-old restaurant in Seattle, a place that was doing classics—steak and '80s-style food—and let me do my geeked-out comfort menu. They've been awesome."
Humbling moment "The first year I was at Eleven Madison Park, we were doing a dish with sliced black truffles under the skin of a chicken. The guy who was working on the dish, Jesus, was a great cook, but his English wasn't so good. So he used white truffles instead of black truffles in the chicken. White truffles are about $3,000 more expensive per pound than black ones. Plus, you can't cook white truffles. I was like one of the Three Stooges when I found out, bumping into things around the kitchen, trying to tell Daniel. We turned it into a special."
Pet peeve Dirty pots. "When sauces are reducing and form a ring around the side, I can't stand it. It irks me. I need to seek counseling about it."
Equipment obsession A cake tester. "It's such a small probe that you can stick into meat, vegetables, fish—you can check if vegetables are actually cooked and it doesn't ruin the way they look. Its always in mine and my chefs' and sous chefs' jackets. When someone actually uses one to test a cake, everyone laughs."
Favorite childhood dish Anything with canned tuna. "My dad made macaroni salad with tuna fish and eggs, pickles and mayo. He'd make a big batch on Sunday, and we'd watch football. My mom made tuna casserole. We were big into tuna. I didn't know fresh tuna was red until I was 19."
Favorite app REI, for snowboarding. "You can pick your mountain, and it gives you overview of the passes and a rough forecast of the snow. It's not always accurate, but it's cool."
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.