By Tamara Ikenberg
When a beaming Gordon Ramsay enthusiastically asks to fill your champagne glass and you find yourself clinking flutes of champagne with him and celebrity chefs Richard Blais and Nyesha Arrington to toast your talent and success, you know that you have been successful in the food business.
It was the exhilarating scene Prairie Band Potawotomi and Mexican-American chef Stephanie “Pyet” Despain soaked up Wednesday night when she was declared the winner of the Fox reality cooking contest. Senior Level Leader.
Pyet’s triumph, the culmination of eleven weeks of stressful competition, comes with $250,000 and an invaluable year-long mentorship with the show’s co-hosts Ramsay, Arrington and Blais.
“I feel like I’m part of history,” Pyet said through tears of happiness, with his mother Delfina by his side and a cheering crowd cheering him on, after Ramsay awarded him the coveted title of “Next Level Chef”.
“You use the strength of your experience every time you take an ingredient,” Ramsay told Pyet. In an aside, Ramsay added “Pyet has heart, drive and undeniable talent.”
Through the show, revolutionary chef Pyet introduced viewers to the flavors of her heritage by concocting creations with native staples like squash blossoms, homemade fried bread and Wojapi berry sauce throughout. competition, and changing and challenging standard reality. cooking show formula.
From the start of the season, Pyet made it clear that the competition was not just about advancing his own career.
“If I’m going to be on a big cooking platform for Gordon Ramsay on national television, then I have to represent,” Pyet, who has a personal chef service called Pyet’s Plate and a e-commerce business selling indigenous ingredients, says Indigenous News Online. “I have to show that Indigenous people are all capable of achieving incredible levels of success in our careers, regardless of the industry.
The decisive victory for all champions of Native cuisine and Native American foodies with bold dreams couldn’t be better advertisement for Indian Country. Senior Level Leader is a ratings hit that draws around 4 million viewers a week, and just comes renewed for a second season.
For the final challenge, Pyet and fellow finalists Mariah Scott and Reuel Vincent faced the daunting task of creating an appetizer, a fish dish and a meat dish in 90 minutes.
Pyet, a pro in the field of Native fusion cuisine joining her Native American and Mexican backgrounds, triumphed with a trio of sweet potato and pork empanadas with avocado salad, seared bass with spicy sweet potato mash and rack of lamb with prosciutto-wrapped green beans and Merlot wine sauce.
It was an ambitious tableau to complete in 90 minutes, and the hosts repeatedly warned Pyet that she may have bitten off more than she could chew in the limited time, especially with the empanadas and the lamb. .
But Pyet, who grew more confident and competent with each episode, confidently told them she had everything under control and pushed ahead with her plans despite the well-meaning advice.
And with a few snafus, including a burnt chili sauce meant for seared sea bass, Pyet maintained his fierce focus and battled his way to victory.
For Pyet, one of the most satisfying and memorable moments of the finale was hearing Ramsay honor his mashed sweet potatoes with positive profanity.
“Hearing Chef Ramsay say my dish is delicious means the world to me,” she said. Ramsay used more appropriate language to praise his lamb dish, calling it “absolute absolute perfection” and the best meal of the night’s nine dishes.
This sweet success is the culmination of six years that Pyet spent fighting to make a name for himself in the food industry and to cultivate a wider appreciation and recognition of native food.
Those six years included times of both elation and despair, including a period of homelessness where Pyet lived in his car.
“I’ve worked hard for the past six years,” she said during the finale. ” I know where I come from. I know the battles.
With the Senior Level Leader battle behind her and brilliantly won, Chief Pyet can focus on taking the next step in her career with the tutelage of Ramsay, Arrington and Blais, and a fresh batch of cash.
Wherever this victory may take her, Pyet has become a poised and fearless role model with the power to take Indigenous cuisine from niche novelty to its rightful place at the top of the table.
For a deeper dive into Pyet’s experience on the show and his plans for the future, tune in to a live chat between Pyer and Indigenous News Onlineeditor Levi Rickert on Friday, March 3. It can be viewed on the Indigenous News Online Facebook, Twitter Where Youtube social media accounts.
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