What do you do when your Chef friend tells you she’s going to be on Chopped… You ask to interview her of course!
Chef Brittany Rescigno appeared on Chopped on May 21, 2019. I sat down with her recently to talk about her experience on Chopped over a bottle of–you guessed it–wine, and some other libations. Chef’s go to drink is Tito’s on the rocks with a splash of water and cranberry juice.
Chef Brittany and I met over a year ago through a mutual friend who said, you love food, you love wine, check out this underground restaurant Nox that my Chef friend is hosting. Of course Mr. Wine Cutie and I went, and the rest is history.
Brittany Rescigno was born and raised in New Jersey and moved to California with her now wife back in 2015. From there, she worked at a few restaurants before landing at Nom Burger located in Sunnyvale, CA as the Manager and R&D (Research and Development) Chef. In August of 2018, she left Nom Burger to start her own restaurant, Nox Underground.
As we sit down and refill our drinks we’re ready to start the conversation.
Practice makes perfect
Wine Cutie (WC): What made you apply to be on Chopped?
Chef Brittany Rescigno (CBR): My wife had been making me practice for Chopped for a while. One day we had a friend over who was vegetarian and I was really not looking forward to doing a “Chopped” vegetarian. The night went on and the three rounds of cooking were up and I was like, “damn, I fucking killed that.” Later that night after a couple bottles of champagne were consumed by the ladies and they had fallen asleep on the couch, I was sitting watching Harry Potter thinking back to the food I just prepared and was like, “Fuck, I killed it” and said, “Alright, might as well just see what happens.” So I went on the computer and applied. They called the next day.
WC: Shit, the next day. They literally called you the next day? Damn, what did they say?
CBR: The following day, right in the morning. I didn’t answer the call because I didn’t know who it was. I listened to the voicemail. Well, I have an iPhone, so I can preview the voicemail and all I see is this is so and so from Chopped on the Food Network. And I was like, “Awe Fuck.” Holy shit, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I called them back and they told me I was a contender to be on. \
CBR: Face turned beet red. Natalie was like, “Are you okay?”
WC: Can you go through the process of how to be a contender to be on Chopped.
CBR: From my POV you go through a couple of interviews and Skype interviews and they decide if you’re a good candidate.
WC: So you didn’t have to try out and you got on by your merit and also your…
CBR: I guess.. Definitely not by my talking skills because I say, “umm” a lot.
WC: Getting on the plane to go be on Chopped, what did your wife say?
She drops me off at the airport and says, “If you don’t win, you’re not coming home.”
CBR: She drops me off at the airport and says, “If you don’t win, you’re not coming home.” That was the last thing she said to me, and she was joking.
Natalie Rescigno (NR): No, I wasn’t.
CBR: And as your just heard, she wasn’t joking.
WC: And you were like, thank God I’m from the East Coast… it’s only a two hour car ride versus a six hour plane ride… LOL
WC: You’re in New York for the filming, tell us, is it one day?
CBR: It's one full very very long day. It’s a 16-18 hour day. I had to meet at five o’clock in the morning.
WC: You got on Chopped, what is the first thing you thought of when you got on set?
CBR: It was insane. The set is way bigger than I thought it was going to be. It gets really small once the cameras get setup.
WC: What was your theme of Chopped? Did you know beforehand?
CBR: Didn’t know about a theme or anything. We were all sitting in the stew room called, “Sequester.” We were all talking to one another, asking, “Where are you from? What do you do?” We were trying to figure out what the theme is going to be. Because Chopped now does like basically all themes and stuff. It makes it more fun for the viewers. We kinda sorta maybe figured it out a little bit. But they don’t tell you until you’re in the competition. That's when Ted told us, “Ok, your theme is ‘Bacon, Burger, and Beer,’” and we were all like, “Sweet.” I was stoked.
Brussels sprout poutine?
WC: What were your first four secret ingredients?
CBR: Bacon roses, pork belly, and purple Brussels sprouts and cheese curds.
WC: What did you do with the bacon roses, that seems like the outlier ingredient to me?
CBR: It was kinda candied, already cooked and stickiness shaped into roses. And raw pork belly, which sucks, because pork belly takes a long time to cook properly. But as soon as I saw the cheese curds, I immediately went to poutine. It’s the only thing I could think of… I totally got ripped apart by the judges, because it wasn’t a “poutine,” because there were no fries. But I called it a brussel sprout poutine; I super caramelized them. Added maple syrup and spices to make them a little spicy. Pork belly, I know it’s super good fried. Took the whole thing, spice crusted it, added a little bit of cornstarch and put it in the frier and almost forgot about it. That’s how long I had it in there. I was like, “Oh shit, I hope it’s not burnt.”
WC: The thought that runs through your brain as you’re on the clock, is you have to keep going… the pressure.
CBR: I made some good Brussels sprouts and it was good.
WC: The judges reamed you out… What were you thinking, “Fuck, I’m done?”
I spun it, I live in California. We’re always looking for a healthier option, which is what I like to do with all of my food. I like to take a classic dish and make it my own.
CBR: Yeah, but they kept eating it, saying how delicious it was. Sure, it’s not a poutine, but it’s a healthier version of poutine. I spun it, I live in California. We’re always looking for a healthier option, which is what I like to do with all of my food. I like to take a classic dish and make it my own. I just wish that I got the cheese melty.
WC: So you make it through round one. Explain round two.
CBR: We all have to make a burger, no matter what. The secret ingredients were a gourmet burger blend, iceberg lettuce, pickled watermelon rind and french fried onion rings.
WC. Random. What does a pickled watermelon rind taste like?
CBR: A pickle, a LOT sweet, they’re pretty good.
WC: Okay, you now have your secret ingredients for round two, including the weird pickled watermelon rind that I now need to taste. Take me there… What did you make? How were you feeling?
CBR: As soon as I thought burger, I made bacon jam, and I like to think my bacon jam is one of the best out there.
WC: I don’t know if I’ve had your bacon jam…
CBR: I try not to make it often, because it’s addicting. So I immediately went to bacon jam. As soon as I saw all the ingredients and knew we had to make a burger. I immediately looked over and saw there was a sesame seed bun, and all I can think of is if I don’t go over and get that bun, my wife will kill me. Natalie will kill me.
WC: And being from the East Coast, we love sesame seeds on all of our breads, hoagies, burgers, bread, on everything.
CBR: Especially knowing everyone was also from the East Coast, I knew the sesame bun would be a hot commodity. So, I made sure to grab them first. Went into the pantry, grabbed my ingredients for the bacon jam and made sure I didn’t forget the bourbon. Made sure there was lots of bourbon.
WC: So, what was the end result? What kind of burger did you make?
CBR: Burger with bacon jam, gruyere cheese, potato chips and Japanese mayo on a sesame seed bun, served with a side salad made with frisée, iceberg lettuce, with watermelon rind dressing.
WC: What did the judges think?
CBR: Again, they loved it. My burger was perfectly cooked. The only thing that I got knocked for was that there wasn’t enough watermelon.
WC: How did you feel going into the final round? Was there any other chefs you were impressed with?
CBR: Actually, I was really impressed with one of the guys, and a little pissed off that I didn’t think of it. He made a lettuce wrap and I don’t know why I didn’t think of that.
WC: Because sesame?
CBR: But I love a lettuce wrap.
WC: You do love salads.
NR: Because the rest of America does not.
CBR: And I thought that was ingenious.
WC: I mean, I’m a girl from the East Coast and all BBQ’s and family gatherings that included burgers all had sesame seed buns. It would have been a little Californian for me.
CBR: I love them though.
WC: I know you do, you love your salads.
NR: But then you wouldn’t have a side salad using watermelon rind dressing.
CBR: No, I used it two ways: watermelon rind in both bacon jam and the dressing.
There’s always room for the big “D”-essert…
WC: We get to the third round, what are we making now?
WC: Melissa’s favorite.
CBR: We had some challenging ingredients.
WC: Would I have liked any of them?
NR: All I can say is, “you’re welcome.”
WC: If we didn’t know already, Natalie is normally the brains behind most of the desserts at Nox Underground.
WC: So challenging ingredients, what are they?
CBR: Pub Cookies, which are basically like pub mix, pretzels, m&m’s, peanuts and all that crap, chips, all into a cookie. There was also Carolina Reaper Chili Beer, chocolate stout ice cream and nectarines.
CBR: Yeah, really weird ingredients to mix together.
WC: I feel like I need you to make this for me, so I can taste what you actually made. But, go on…
CBR: So, I kind of made my own take on crack pie.
WC: So, explain this to me…
CBR: Crack pie is something they make at Milk Bar in NYC and it's like a cookie crust, with this very loose custard in the center, and it's so good, it's like crack. So, I took all the cookies and ground them up and made this crust. Then took the ice cream, eggs, and goat cheese and stuff and filled that. Then threw them into the blast chiller to get it cold. And all I did was look at it and I’m like, please, please work, please set. Like, all I could think about was, “Oh, My God, if this doesn’t set I’m fucked.” Because all of my basket ingredients were in there, minus the apricots. And then, I sautéed the nectarines in bourbon, brown sugar, some cayenne pepper.
WC: Give it a little heat.
CBR: Yeah, and the judges super loved it. The one judge, Angie Mar, she’s awesome, she said the apricots tasted like beautiful candied peaches… like canned. Which I took as an amazing compliment.
WC: That’s such a great compliment to have.
It was rad for her, she had a Ratatouille moment about the peaches. Every time I have a dinner party, that’s all I want to have someone have, a Ratatouille moment.
CBR: It was rad for her, she had a Ratatouille moment about the peaches. Every time I have a dinner party, that’s all I want to have someone have, a Ratatouille moment.
WC: That’s awesome. What went through your mind when your dish wasn’t under the cloche?
CBR: “Oh, Fuck!”
WC: Did you fall to your knees??!
CBR: No, I felt like I got frozen in time. I was like the fuck just happened. Like I just won, naahh, there’s no way I won. And I just kept looking and I’m like wait, he’s walking away and i’m just standing here.
WC: How do you think your life has changed after being on Chopped?
CBR: Honestly, it’s made me want to strive for more. It’s made me want to be a better chef because now I’ve gone on national television. I know from being a small kid and wanting to be a chef when I was growing up, that like everyone that was on TV, I looked up to that person. Now I’m on national television, kids, parents, grandparents, all these different types of people are going to look up to me, and are like, “Damn, that girl did it.” And now I don’t want to be that person that just doesn’t do it anymore. So it made me strive harder and made me work harder. Made me take a step back from working at a restaurant and think about what I wanted to do with my life. That’s where Natalie came in and she realized, “You won’t be able to do what you need to do if you’re working for someone else, because you’re not who you are and that’s not what you stand for as a Chef. So, if you want to be who you want to be as a Chef, you need to go do it.”
WC: You’re giving me goosies.
CBR: And it’s just like, sure a lot of people can get what they want out of working for somebody and that’s just not me. Because I always wanted to do my own thing, but I was always really afraid to. I didn’t have the confidence. I was afraid to just fail. I’ve been pretty successful thus far. And sure I’ve gotten fired from a job and all these things, but like those are small failures. But failing on your family is a big weight on your shoulders.
NR: Her turning point was knowing that I would never let her fail. As long as we’re in this together and we have communication and open trust, she’s not failing ever. You could never be failure.
WC: And because you guys are such a team and leaning on one another, if someone is having a hardship, then the other is picking up the slack and vice versa. If you fail, you fail together.
CBR: That goes for Nox as well. When I have a bad day, she has a great one. When she has a bad day, I have a great one. We balance each other out. Us as a team. She didn’t sign up for the restaurant industry.
NR: I chose this life when I married you.
CBR: She didn’t choose this life. This life chose you…
WC: What’s your favorite wine with a hamburger?
CBR: I would go as far as like a Petite Syrah, because there’s nothing petite about a Petite Syrah. And you know, you have the fattiness and sweetness and that just dry leather spice.
WC: What’s your favorite Petite Syrah?
CBR: Imagery’s Petite Syrah is really really really good. They’re in Sonoma. Great minerality.
Chopped is in its forty first season, tune in on Tuesday nights at 9:00pm ET/PT on Food Network.