Many locals know chef Justin Devillier from his restaurant La Petite Grocery (4238 Magazine St., 504-891-3377; www.lapetitegrocery.com), but foodies nationwide are getting to know him as a contestant on Bravo's cooking competition Top Chef. In season 11's third episode, which aired Oct. 16, the chefs dined at Commander's Palace and then had to recreate some of its classic dishes by taste. Devillier won the challenge with a dessert featuring three items made with strawberries.
What was the hardest thing about the challenge you won on the Commander's Palace episode?
Devillier: In every challenge, you want to cook the best you can and put it all out on the table. Winning is icing on the cake.
When you're put in these different types of situations, you know what you're capable of, but sometimes you can't get to the point where you know you should be and that's frustrating. [That] night, we had one hour to cook 15 dishes we had never cooked before — from nothing to the finished product. One hour — that's pretty ridiculous. You know you can do it, but the circumstances are very trying.
Many challenges seem to demand improvising a recipe on the spot. What is that like?
D: We actually do that in the restaurant. We spend a lot of effort on trying to support smaller purveyors. A lot of times, those farmers don't have the ability to consistently produce the same thing. So we get something at 3 p.m. and have to do something with it and be ready by 5 p.m.
We sort of plan on not knowing what we are getting. For instance, one of our farm trucks comes by on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I get a text message in the morning about basically what they've got, but I get on the truck and pick stuff based on what looks the best. It's very spontaneous. But we plan on those deliveries.
Has being on the program had any effect on your restaurant?
D: It's our busy season, so if it has, I can't tell. But I had a guy on a bicycle give me a shout-out this morning. I had my window rolled down, and he said, "I saw you on TV last night. Good job." That was cool.