Winning the cassoulet challenge and tricking judge Dan Hong with my pressure-cooked fake confit duck was probably the proudest experience of my cooking life. In his words: “Please forgive my surprise, I thought this was the restaurant’s” and “quite possibly the most well balanced and the most perfectly cooked cassoulet I’ve ever had”—these comments made my heart sing.
At this point, it was not about winning. I realised that this is why cooks cook. The validation of one’s creation is what we thrive on—producing a dish that surprises and delights.