A Top Chef Shares the Secret to Creativity in the Kitchen

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A Top Chef Shares the Secret to Creativity in the Kitchen
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A Top Chef Shares the Secret to Creativity in the Kitchen

We spoke with John Tesar, this week's eliminated chef from Top Chef: Seattle. Check out his tips for the home chef!

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Experiment

"Put your head down, cook, and experiment," says Tesar. "It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to learn from it every time you do it. There isn’t a chef on the planet that makes a great plate of food the [very] first time. The art of being a chef is saying 'I can do better tomorrow, I can do better tomorrow, I can do better tomorrow.'"

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Keep it Simple

Use fresh ingredients and then let the ingredients speak for themselves. "It’s [all about] the ingredient first," recommends Tesar. "Sometimes it can be grandiose in its simplicity or sometimes it can just be very stark, but if you miss the mark with simplicity it turns to crap instantaneously."

Similarly, when it comes to presentation, less is often more. The biggest mistake people make is putting too many ingredients on the plate and lacking focus. "For me, [presentation] is just about the simplicity," says Tesar. "If if looks good to the eye, leave it alone. And be aware of color."

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Get Inspired

"Creativity is something that’s inside you," explains the top chef. "Either you possess it or you don’t, and if you don’t possess it, go to people’s books that are creative, find a chef that you relate to (look for colors, ingredients, and a cooking style that you like), and then try to experiment with [his or her recipes]." Many chefs, like José Andrés, are beloved for their passion and following them can help foster your inner creativity. "Creativity comes from passion, it comes from desire, so if you have a desire to eat and cook, then you do it."

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Be Selfless

Don't always make what you like; make what your guests like. "You can’t be selfish in your cooking for others," says Tesar. "They have to relate to it. If people relate to your food, it doesn’t matter whether you make a bowl of oatmeal" or something [fanciful]. "If people are getting it, if people are understanding it, then you’ve achieved your goal that day."

Can't get enough Top Chef? For more on this season's chefs, view our interviews with Jeffrey Jew, Eliza Gavin, Kuniko Yagi, and Tyler Wiard and CJ Jacobsen.

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The oldest contestant on Bravo's Top Chef and perhaps the most controversial chef this season, John Tesar did not "pack up his knives and go" without a fight. This past week, the Dallas-based chef who recently opened Spoon Bar & Kitchen (named for the only utensil Tesar believes you can't cook without) in the area, fell victim to the show's "risotto curse" which has sent chefs who attempt the Italian standby home season after season. Then, unlike most episodes, the judges sent Tesar and Lizzie Binder, the bottom two from the elimination challenge, to duke it out with a cook-for-your-life competition to make the best healthy burger, and Binder came out on top.

Tesar had been interested in a run on Top Chef since the beginning and had auditioned for Season 1. "The wonderful thing about Top Chef is that it brings differences together [for the] love of cooking and entertainment," he admits."That was my fascination with the show - you can have 20 different people and 20 different styles, but you can find some commonality: the love of food, the love of people gathering, and the love of confrontation."

The chef enjoyed his fair share of confrontation on the show this season and found the mixed bag of clashing personalities to be his greatest challenge. "The biggest challenge for me was all of the different personalities," including that of Josh Valentine with whom Tesar shared an especially tense moment, fighting about celebrity chef Bobby Flay, a friend of Tesar's. "There are a lot of personalities in the room and [when] you shake it up, sometimes it's going to explode and sometimes you are going to get hugs. That's just how it is."

When left to his own accord, Tesar was able to make his favorite dish of the season: a restaurant-worthy seafood chowder for Ana Farris and Chris Pratt's homecoming party. "It's complicated because you cook with a lot of people, and there are a lot of team challenges," he says. Chefs often have to compromise in their team or partner dishes and rarely get to make food that is fully their own.

Now, even after Season 10, replete with epic confrontations and an earlier elimination than most expected, he still found the experience to be incredible. "I had the time of my life," said Tesar. "It was exhausting but at the same time exhilarating." Tesar hopes to make it back onto the show. "You've got to bring the Tesar back to shake it up a bit; it's not going to be Top Chef without me." If you want to see Tesar back on Top Chef, tweet #savechefjohn.

For his secret to cooking creatively and other tips for your kitchen, view the slideshow above.

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