I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask a few questions of Baltimore's Top Chef contestant, Jill Snyder of Red Maple. Because Top Chef hasn't started yet, I was a good girl and didn't ask her too much about the show. Plenty of time for that later!
M: Local food bloggers are excited about your representing our city on Top Chef. Have you seen an increase in business at Red Maple since your participation in the show was announced?
JS: I think that a lot of restaurants in the area are experiencing a slower than normal season, Red Maple included. We are starting to pick up some, but so far, not too overwhelming. We plan to get busier once the show airs!
M: A local critic has been opining for a while now that the tapas craze has burned itself out, but looking around at other cities, I'm seeing an increase in small plates restaurants, particularly those that serve more eclectic cuisine, such as your Asian twist on tapas at Red Maple. What are your thoughts on the future of small plates?
JS: I love the idea of sharing a variety of small plates with friends for dinner. I think that it works well, especially here at Red Maple, where our vibe is fun and relaxed. Tapas is a great way to experience and try a variety of flavors.
M: What do you think about the Baltimore restaurant scene in general?
JS: I like the restaurant scene in Baltimore. We have a lot of options in cuisine, and there is still plenty of room for new spots.
M: What is your favorite dish at Red Maple?
JS: My current favorite dish at Red Maple is the Poppyseed Red Snapper with caramelized baby fennel and lobster broth. Or maybe the Pomegranate-braised lamb with calypso beans...
M: About twenty years ago, I entertained thoughts of attending the Baltimore International College but couldn't afford the tuition at the time. How do you think our local school compares to bigger and better-known establishments like the CIA and Johnson & Wales?
JS: I think that no matter where you go to culinary school, the best lessons learned are in an actual professional kitchen. You need to put in the hours, and I recommend working with as many different professional chefs as possible.
M: If you couldn't be a chef, what would you want to do?
JS: If I couldn't be a chef, I would pursue my hobby in archaeology. Maybe I still will...
M: How was your Top Chef experience - fun, frightening, frustrating, fulfilling? All or none of the above?
JS: The Top Chef experience for me was fun, but nerve-racking at the same time. Being completely exposed in an unfamiliar environment, knowing that everyone will be watching what you do, made me so anxious. I came away feeling even more inspired to work with food.
M: If you could win Top Chef, what would you do with the prize money?
JS: If I could win Top Chef, I would use the money to study food in Italy and then open a small resort.