We are incredibly excited to share our interview with a very talented woman with an incredibly diverse professional career. She has traveled the world as a model, graced your television as a Food Network personality, runs a successful Private Chef business, all while committing to protecting the welfare of children from all over the world through her humanitarian efforts. She is no doubt a beautiful woman, both inside and out, and we are honored to meet her. We are even more thrilled for all of our readers to get to know Chef Taylor Erickson.
EC: Hi Chef Taylor! We are so glad to learn more about you and excited to feature you on Epicurean Chronicles. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
TE: Hi guys! I am so happy to chat with you. Thank you for having me! I am a private chef that specializes in French Cuisine. I am based in Los Angeles.
EC: You have quite an impressive and diverse professional career as a model and chef. Can you share some milestone achievements and favorite memories during your career?
TE: One of my most favorite memories so far in my career was hearing the news that I got the job at L'Arpege. It was like a dream. Here I was just graduating, and about to go work in Paris at one of the best kitchens in the world. It was surreal....but I was so ready! It was an amazing experience. Another memory that's sticks out to me was the first year I worked at an event called Bon Apetit in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas food scene is so different from Paris. I loved the energy and being apart of it.
EC: Where and when did you receive your culinary training?
TE: I trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami, Florida in 2011.
EC: Who are your culinary inspirations and why?
TE: My ultimate culinary inspiration is actually the first chef I worked under after school, Chef Alain Passard. His talents truly live up to his nickname, "The Vegetable Magician". He is not only a visionary in the culinary arts, but at the base of it all, has an unwavering appreciation for the natural integrity of agriculture. I learned so much while there at L'Arpege. The other inspiration is my grandmother. Cooking was what we did together. She had such a way of cooking with love. I can remember watching her hands work through pasta dough, as she made these messy looking thick short noodles the way she did. They are to this day one of my favorite dishes. She passed away, so now I make the dish, just as she did. It brings everyone in my family to a happy place of remembering her. It's a coincidence but Chef Alain Passard's inspiration is also his grandmother. There is a picture of her hanging in his restaurant. I found that humbling, and comforting, when I was so far from home. Food is about love and that's what people remember and take with them from your food.
EC: What prompted you to pursue a career as a chef?
TE: I’ve been cooking since I was 11. I didn't decide to pursue it professionally until I was 25. I had been modeling and working in different countries up to that point. I found myself living in New York, in the village....I remember giving it a lot of thought one night. I was just ready to change directions. I had money saved and it was the right time. I enrolled in culinary school shortly after that.
EC: As a private chef, have you encountered clients that are hard to please, and if so, how do you handle them?
TE: I have been fairly lucky with clients. It makes me happy to deliver what they want. Once in a while there is a miscommunication, but other than that, things have been smooth. Everyone has a different palate, and as a chef, I really aim to understand and to please. I think the clients sense that.
EC: Walk us through how you put together a menu for your clients.
TE: First I need to know about how many people I will be cooking for, and any dietary restrictions. No client I have had has been the same. How involved they want to be varies. My favorite scenario is working with someone who is open to the creative process and wants to create something truly unique. I consider a lot of things when putting together a menu. It's really so selfless if you think about it....it's such an art of giving. I'm always thinking of how my dish will look and taste to the other person. I believe to be a culinary artist, you must find that balance between staying true to your expression, and having compassion and anticipation of the other persons senses. Im constantly envisioning how a dish will be received. I consider the number of courses, and the budget of course. I like to begin the menu with dishes that lead to the next. For instance, I wouldn't have a delicate seafood broth follow a salty bacon wrapped date. The salt of the first dish would render your tongue unable to taste the subtlety of the sea flavor in the broth. Whether the client is a part of creating the menu or not, I strive to deliver something innovative and thoughtful.
EC: What kitchen tool do you absolutely love and cannot live without and why?
TE: Easy-Tongs! They are like an extension on my hand (laughs). I love tongs!
EC: You were once a contestant on Food Network’s Chopped. Tell us about your experience on that show.
TE: Chopped was something I went into having no idea how it would turn out. I did know, that I had to do it. My choice was to do something completely outside of my comfort zone or to not do it and just wonder about it. Cooking on television in a timed competition is nerve-wracking! I am so happy I did it. It feels really good to be recognized for your specific skill set and cooking under circumstances like that...15 minute time limit, unknown set of ingredients....showcases ability I think. You preform for a lot of people when it's shown on national television. More importantly, I pushed my limits of what I thought I could do. It's really neat to impress yourself....and I'm a hard one to impress!
EC: Walk us through your thought process on how you came up with your dishes for Chopped?
TE: The theme was Octoberfest. We weren't allowed to know that until we walked out to our chef stations to shoot. There was no time to prepare any recipes or ideas. That was it! Just go time! (laughs). In the first round my ingredients were pig snout encased in gelatin, beer cheese, giant pretzel, and sauerkraut. I saw the pig snout and decided to use its saltiness to be like bacon. I thought of Octoberfest....it's cold out, you've been drinking beer, a filling hot soup would be perfect. Once that idea was in my mind I sprang into action and gathered everything I needed. I made a puréed asparagus soup with the pork snout as a base. I didn't use little bits of the ingredients either, I used everything. I used pancetta, a fatty pork, along side the pork snout for a more robust smokiness and rendered the fat from it along with onion and garlic. I simmered the asparagus and was mindful to keep as much as the vibrant green color as I could. I made a savory and refreshing whipped creme with the sauerkraut. I put a dollop of it on top of each beautiful, smooth green purée and a little vibrant green on top of the white whipped cream. I loved that dish. The second round, the judges wanted something lighter so I focused most of my energy into making a truly special, but light sauce. I made a reduction sauce of white wine, orange and sage, and veal stock. It was full bodied but opened up with a refreshing citrus at the end that was smoothed with the sage. I used a mixture of orange zest and a little soy sauce to give the pork (yes pork was also an ingredient we were given for the second round as well) a little flavor. I was pleased with both dishes.
EC: Who was your favorite judge on Chopped and why?
TE: Geoffrey Zakarian was my favorite judge because I feel like he really got what I was trying to create with my sauce in the second round, and with flavors in general.
EC: You were also a contestant on Food Network’s Chef Wanted with Anne Burrell. Tell us about your experience on that show.
TE: That show was a whirlwind! The crew was really great to work with. The structure of the kitchen and supplies, being in two different levels of the restaurant, made it hard to film it all under such a time limit but it was a fun experience nonetheless.
EC: What was it like to work with Anne Burrell on the show?
TE: Anne Burrell is a tough cookie! It was fascinating to see someone I have only seen on television interacting with the cooks and giving tips.
EC: Aside from modeling and your private chef business are there any other projects that you are currently involved in? If so, what are they and why did you decide to get involved?
TE: I am ambassador of a small charity called Word and Action that aims to help children that are victims of abuse. This cause is close to my heart because I was in Haiti days after the earthquake and saw such extreme devastation and heartache with my own eyes.
EC: What do you like to do for fun?
TE: I go to the movies more than I like to admit! It's one of my most favorite things to do and I'll go alone too. Other than that, you'll find me in a yoga studio!
EC: Name one thing on your bucket list?
EC: What is your favorite dessert and why?
TE: Right now and for the last few years it's been Tarte tropézienne. It's just so simple and perfect and just what a dessert ought to be, to me anyway. I could eat 5 helpings of it!
EC: What advice do you have for aspiring chefs who want to be on television or ‘make it’ as a celebrity chef?
TE: I would say just stay true to the art of it. Focus on the work. Sharing food with people is such a pleasure. It's a great feeling to inspire people. Don't forget to focus on the study of it so that you'll actually have something to share. Now that's fun!
EC: If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?
TE: Love, prosperity, and good health! I think I already have those though. I'd love a tarte tropézienne! (laughs)