One of this season's hometown heroes also explains how she baked that cake in dirt oven.
This season on Top Chef, local chef Carrie Baird defied expectations and made an impression on viewers. With plenty of Quickfire wins under her belt (and a couple elimination wins at that), Carrie brought her classic Colorado cooking all the way to the finals this season. Prior to coming on this season of Top Chef, Carrie built her skills in Colorado kitchens like Rioja, Euclid Hall and eventually served as the Executive Chef of Brazen. She studied under Top Chef alum Jennifer Jasinski (who made a cameo in the tailgate challenge this season) and learned to work with local farmers and ranchers to develop menus. She currently serves as the Executive Chef at Bar Dough in Denver, in front of which she competed in the first elimination challenge of the season. Throughout her time on the show, Carrie worked to highlight Colorado’s cuisine, perhaps most notoriously through her quickfire-winning fancy toasts.
Food & Wine: What was it like to be a “hometown” chef on this season of Top Chef? Do you feel good about how far you made it?
Carrie Baird: I am very proud of myself. Fourth is very respectable! Being the “hometown” girl was added pressure. But in that same vein, I had a hometown advantage, and that definitely worked to my advantage a few times.
F&W: How much did the frantic prep and time limit affect the final product on that last dish in Telluride?
CB: Ugh, I don’t like to feel frantic and I was during that challenge. [One and a half hours] was tough for the dish. If I’d had like 15 more minutes I would have nailed it. Maybe…LOL
F&W: You had a lot of success in Quickfires this season, what do you think the secret is to excelling in those challenges?
CB: I do better work when I don’t have time to overthink things. I also really enjoy parameters, like flowers, or a certain protein.
F&W: Can you explain how you made the oven out of the snow when you baked the cakes in the camping challenge?
CB: It actually wasn’t in the snow. I dug a hole through the snow until I found dirt. That’s where I made my oven with charcoal from Joe Flamm’s fire. I put a little of the coals down, put my tin cups on top of them, and then more coals on top of that. Then I threw some dirt over the whole thing. The main fire was too hot, I needed to slow it down a little.
F&W: If you could redo a dish this season, what would you change and why?
CB: My obvious answer is the buffalo ravioli. I would switch my pasta dough and cook my onions longer- and not loose. Or, for the Super Bowl, I would have churched that up a bit more.
F&W: Do you have any response to the comments some of your competitors made on the show about your (challenge-winning) toasts?
CB: I get it, it’s hard to lose, and I won, a lot, with a simple theme. I don’t mind, I probably would have been annoyed with me too!
F&W: What is something you wish you had made for or shown to the judges that you didn’t have a chance to?
CB: I would have liked to cook more proteins. Shown a little more technique and finesse, both I am good at.
F&W: What’s your favorite dish you made this season?
CB: Ricotta Dumplings, episode two. And the kale and beet salad in Restaurant Wars was amazing.
F&W: Would you ever come back for another season of Top Chef?
CB: Ugh, yes. LOL.
Catch the next episode of season 15 of Top Chef in Colorado this Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.