27 Chef Pablo Lamon on Competing for the Top Chef Title
Last summer, Pablo Lamon (pictured on right), the chef de cuisine at the acclaimed, globally inspired restaurant, 27, in Freehand Miami, got the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to be a contestant on Top Chef, the holy grail of culinary competitions. Just a few weeks after the season’s premiere, we sat down with Lamon to talk about what it was like to compete on national television, how he brought his skills from 27 to the judges’ table, and the best moments from the experience (spoiler alert: it involves truffles and celebrated chef Eric Ripert).
Why did you decide to compete on Top Chef?
A phrase I definitely live by is that you grow only when you challenge yourself. Top Chef is that for me, a hell of a challenge!
What of your cooking style at 27 did you want to bring to the competition? What do you think made you stand out as a contestant?
Mainly, I tried to show off techniques related to seafood, since I’m very proud of the seafood dishes we have here in 27. For one challenge, I decided to do a crudo, mainly because in 27 we are always coming up with new ideas for crudos. That dish did really well.
What was the best part of being on the show?
Everything is pretty surreal. I was living in this beautiful mansion with 14 other amazing chefs, sharing knowledge, talking about food. But the best part was meeting the other contestants. We all became really close.
What was the hardest part?
Long hours. It’s 16-hour days, and even though I am used to working long hours, it’s a totally different routine.
Was it more or less challenging than you thought it would be?
It was definitely more challenging. It looks hard on TV, but when you are there, it is so much harder! The pressure is real, you have 10 cameras around you, and you are in a kitchen you don’t even know.
How do you think you grew as a chef from the experience?
I got used to working under a lot of pressure like never before in my life. Top Chef also reminded me that when you leave your comfort zone, you grow. You have to learn something new, adapt. I am happy that my willingness to grow was bigger than my fear to fail.
Any particular moments or challenges that stand out from the show?
The dinner with Eric Ripert was insane for me. I have been reading about him and following what he does for almost 10 years and sharing a Christmas dinner with him was definitely a dream come true. We had a feast: Lobster cassoulet, truffle-stuffed turkey, caviar, foie gras, and the best of everything is that I got to sit next to him!
Do people recognize you at the restaurant?
Yes, a lot actually! Every night I have multiple tables asking to meet me and even people asking what days I will be working, to make a reservation to see me. That support is amazing and it’s also very good for the restaurant.