Our local Top Chef Masters cheftestant Traci Des Jardins didn't win the title last night, but she did take home more than $30,000 for La Cocina and made us very proud. We spoke with her this afternoon, just for the duck of it.
SFoodie: We have been so excited watching the dollars roll into La Cocina and hearing the nationally televised shoutouts. So, our first question: Why La Cocina?
Traci Des Jardins: I was on the board for many years, up until a year and half ago, and I love the organization. I wanted something food related and something that was unique to San Francisco. It's just such a cool concept.
Any idea what they will do with their winnings?
Caleb [Zigas, director of La Cocina] and I are going to sit down and talk soon. It will definitely be a conversation. I am all too familiar with their financials so I know that $30,000 is a lot of money for them. It's exciting.
When we learned in the finale that the dish that made your paired partner Gael Greene want to be a food critic was duck in France, we felt relieved for you. Gael said it was "kismet" -- is that what how you felt?
Absolutely, it was a sigh of relief. Duck is one of my favorite foods in the whole world. I am the second-largest buyer in the Bay Area of duck, according to my purveyor. I always have duck confit and breast on my menu. It was totally perfect.
Gael wanted fried duck and you didn't give it to her. Are any recipes coming your way?
[Laughs] Um, yeah, I can't imagine any French person frying a duck. Gael has her memory and I knew going in that it was a tough translation. I had to translate something and the results were not resounding.
If you had to do it over again, would you still do duck the two ways?
I think I would. Product is really important and I wasn't familiar with that particular product. I didn't know that duck and that was my downfall.
What is your favorite place in S.F. that no one would ever guess?
I'm loving the pop-up thing and the spirit of that. I know it has been written about like crazy, but I really love Mission Chinese Food. It is a way to take an idea and passion without needing tons of money. For young chefs, they don't have to deal with the financial aspect of running a restaurant.
Would you be interested in hosting a pop-up and/or working with any of those young chefs in the city?
Definitely, Mission Chinese Food or the Wise Sons guys. The Bay Area was missing that. It's just fun to see young people and their passion.