Brian Young: 'Top Chef' Is a Hundred Times Harder Than it Looks
The Boston-based chef says the key is to "turn off your brain."
Few contestants have come into Top Chef with such a diverse range of skills as Boston-based chef Brian Young. A skilled line cook who also moonlights at a butcher shop and occasionally works front of the house, Brian seemed to do something different in every challenge. Turns out that that wasn’t the best strategy because, according to Young, it didn’t allow him to showcase his food to the judges. A houseboat challenge on Lake Cumberland and a separated Southeast Asian style porchetta that missed the mark sent him to Last Chance Kitchen to battle against Brandon for another chance at the title.
We caught up with the chef via email to see how he’s feeling after that houseboat elimination challenge, if he’s still jealous of Eddie for winning a trip to Tuscany, and what’s his strategy going into Last Chance Kitchen.
Food and Wine: What inspired you to compete on Top Chef?
Brian Young: I wanted to be on Top Chef because it’s the ultimate cooking competition! No other cooking competition on TV allows chefs the time and space to be themselves. I really wanted to be a part of it because it’s the one I watched in culinary school.
FW: What was the biggest lesson from your time on Top Chef? Did you learn something new about yourself or your cooking that you'll take with you?
BY: Absolutely I did! I learned not to cook on houseboats, obviously. Really though, I learned so much about different ways of cooking or even looking at food. Methods I would never have thought of, from chefs I never could have met. I feel truly blessed by the entire experience.
FW: What did you think when you first met your competitors and saw them in action?
BY: I thought, “oh sh**! What did I get myself into?!” Being around so much talent is intimidating, especially when you don’t know the personalities of those you’re competing against yet.
FW: Do you feel like one of your competitors should have gone home instead of you? Who?
BY: I choose to stay positive and accept my fate for not throwing others under the bus. It’s just not my style to act that way.
FW: Who do you think is going to be Top Chef? And who are you rooting for?
BY: I think Eddie is a total sleeper cell, crazy talented. Brandon is too, and if I had to lose to him in Last Chance Kitchen, he’d better get back in there and win it all!
FW: How jealous were you when Eddie won a trip to Tuscany after the “Carne” challenge?
BY: I’m happy for Eddie that he won the carne challenge. That said, it’s literally my dream to get an apprenticeship with Dario, so of course it hurts a little. But who says I’m not going? I’ve been practicing fitting into a suitcase for weeks, and I make a great little spoon... Just saying, think about it, Eddie.
FW: Do you have any specific dishes or techniques that you wish you had gotten to show the judges in a challenge? If so, what?
BY: I’m really good at making fresh pasta, but I was afraid to do it on equipment I’d never used before. If I could go back in time, I’d have just gotten out of my head and done it.
FW: What was your favorite challenge while you were on the show?
BY: Restaurant Wars, of course!
FW: What's your strategy going into Last Chance Kitchen?
BY: One, turn off your brain. Two, put on blinders to what everyone else is doing, how they’re cooking. Three, stop trying to impress the judges. Four, cook MY food. No more excuses or apologies. Ever.
FW: What advice would you give chefs who are thinking about competing on Top Chef?
BY: Top Chef really is 100x harder than it looks. Also, don’t forget to practice that dessert...
Episode 9 of ‘Top Chef’ in Kentucky airs Thursday, January 31 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. ‘Last Chance Kitchen’ streams immediately following the show at BravoTV.com/Last-Chance-Kitchen. Find additional interviews, chef bios, and more at BravoTV.com/TopChef.