Season four of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters came to an end last Wednesday, with San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino taking the title. Cosentino out-cooked NYC’s Kerry Heffernan and Miami restaurateur Lorena Garcia to rake in $100,000 for his charity, The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Throughout her run in the competition, Garcia showcased our city’s Latin flair to the masses and checked out in a respectable third place.
The Venezuelan chef originally studied law, but abandoned years of study to pursue a culinary career at Johnson & Wales University. After running two restaurants in the Design District (Food Café and Element Tierra) she opened Lorena Garcia Cocina inside Miami International Airport. As credits rolled on the Masters season finale, we checked in with Garcia to get insight on the experience and her fellow cheftestants.
Which of the show’s cooking challenges were toughest for you?
LORENA GARCIA: To me the hardest challenges were the ones that step away from my style of cuisine. Restaurant wars—just because I wasn’t able to serve my food.
Is there anything you'd like to take back or redo?
LG: When you have to think on your feet and decisions have to be made at the moment, you will always second guess or want to do something different, but at the end of the day I don't regret any of the decisions I made. ?
What was the biggest lesson you learned on the show??
LG: One of the biggest lessons was learning about myself, learning how to perform under pressure, and after days and days of no rest, dealing with exhaustion.
You were one dish away from competing in the final challenge. What would you have prepared for that last dinner?
LG: I would have taken all the guests by storm with the biggest Latin feast they could have ever imagined. I would have represented my Latin culture in so many ways [with] a journey through Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina. ??
You emphasize healthful Latin cuisine in your restaurant. Is it difficult to open people’s minds to that?
LG: The biggest challenge is actually convincing our food makers and customers to like a more simplistic approach to different menu items. I combat it by being persistent and creating new recipes that would be more appealing to everyone. ?
Where do you like to eat out in Miami?
LG: I love Michy's, and I enjoy the flavors that Michelle Bernstein has developed through the years. I admire Michelle for her wisdom and humbleness. To me she is one of the best. ?
What’s next for you now that the show has wrapped?
LG: My second cookbook, opening the doors of my fine dining restaurants in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami. Also, continuing to work with Big Chef Little Chef and the Alliance for a Healthy Generation to create healthy recipes and new ways to feed our kids.