Top Chef’s ninth season may be set in Texas, but it starts out with a Miami flavor.
Berenice de Araujo of Sra. Martinez in the Design District squares off with 28 other contestants – almost double the amount of chefs competing in previous seasons – in hopes of impressing judges Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio. We spoke with her about the experience, which she calls a positive one.
How did you deal with the stress of cooking competitively?
I tried to take the whole experience one moment at a time. There is a lot going on, and it’s a lot different than being in the comfort of your own kitchen.
How is Texas cooking different than Miami cooking?
I lived in Texas for four years before moving to Miami. There is access to a lot of different products. I think sometimes people pigeonhole Texas into barbecue and Tex Mex. There is a lot of great barbecue and Tex Mex, but there is also a lot of diverse culture and the food that comes along with that. For me, I really learned about Latin flavors once I started cooking in Miami. While location obviously dictates what you’re cooking, I think who you are cooking under or with really influences how you cook.
Did Michelle Bernstein have any advice for you?
She told me to be myself.
What’s new at Sra. Martinez?
I left Sra. a couple of weeks ago; Julian Garriga has taken the helm. He is ridiculously talented, and I am very excited to return as a guest.
What was your favorite dish to make there?
I’m not sure if it’s still on the menu, but the seared octopus over taramosalata with potato and breadcrumb salad.
“Top Chef: Texas” premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2 on Bravo.