You both have sported some interesting accessories on the show. What’s with the bandanas with the pencils and the sunglasses?
CJ: I worked in a lot of very hard kitchens … I had a very angry streak to me when I first started at Moto. Moto’s a very calm restaurant. We don’t yell, we don’t scream, we don’t fight, we don’t kick. And I did all of those things, so what I started doing is … wearing some sunglasses on my head …. It made me feel like I was back on a beach. I grew up in Fort Lauderdale and that’s where my family is, so when I put those sunglasses on, it calms me down. I was able to learn and focus and actually hone my skills without having that anger behind me because it just reminded me that, hey, life is OK. You’re going to be on the beach soon, just relax.
RF: As far as the bandanas and pencils and armbands and all that stuff goes, that’s what we wear every day. It wasn’t just stuff for the TV show. Wearing the bandana, that’s to keep hair out of the food, and I wear the armbands to protect my tattoos. Before I started getting my arms done, I actually had my arm closed in an oven door once right around that area, so now they’re just there as kind of extra protection for my investment, my artwork that’s on my arms.
What goes through your head when Tom Colicchio interrupts you to comment during a challenge?
CJ: ‘Uh, are we going to stop the clock for this?’ That was what went through my mind every single solitary time. That or, ‘Please hurry up, Tom. Please hurry up, Tom.’ There’s so many cameras … you’ve got celebrity chefs coming up and saying hello to you. It’s amazing to meet all these people, but you’re there for a competition, you’re there to win, so you always have to keep that in the back of your mind … what do I got in the oven, what do I have burning?
Six out of 16 chefs from Chicago on the same season is unheard of. What do you make of that?
CJ: It really just shows where Chicago is. We’ve been saying it here at Moto for a long time and I’m sure … Alinea, Next, L2O [or] any new up-and-coming restaurants are saying, Chicago is No. 1 … and you’re going to continue to see this trend within our city.
RF: A lot of people look to the coasts for the best restaurants, but just being here over the past four years … I have realized that we might not have the quantity that New York and other places have, but we definitely have the quality.
Have you been watching the show together?
RF: Knowing that I went so early, I obviously wanted to make a point to watch the Quincenera one [together]. Because that was the one time we were on a team together and it was nice to have a win on that one. They didn’t show a lot of it, but we worked a lot together. While I had stuff going in the oven, I was helping him with empanadas …
CJ: Can I spout something off my back real quick? He made chicharrones … and he actually made them vegan, which they never said. ... I love this guy and those f--ing chips were delicious, man, and that’s all I have to say about that. OK, I feel better now.
RF: It was actually a much longer process than just [taking] the pork skin and then frying it. It was an all-night thing of dehydrating it, making a dough [out of tapioca] and steaming it and stuff. That was probably one thing that would have been cool for them to show, that technique we’ve been doing here for a while.
That’s right, I think I remember you tweeting about that during the show?
RF: Yeah, they were actually vegan tapioca chicharrones … I just wanted to get it out there that I made a vegan pork rind which tasted …
CJ: Like a pork rind. That’s crazy.
RF: Yeah, you’re a vegan pork rind.