Julien THEUIL / M6 / Julien THEUIL / M6
Miguel Garcia-Herrera, the candidate eliminated from the Top Chef competition reacts
TELEVISION – A short-lived return. After being eliminated for the first time from “Top Chef 2023”, Miguel Garcia-Herrera was given a second chance in the M6 competition broadcast this Wednesday, March 8.
Thanks to the new mechanics of this fourteenth season, the young Mexican chef has been called back by Hélène Darroze to participate in her secret competition: the hidden brigade. A new opportunity for those who had failed to join a brigade during the first prime. Unfortunately for him, the imposed theme of the flowing heart did not work in his favor. His plate of quail in a spicy seafood sauce couldn’t stand out against the two-tone ravioli and egg yolk offered by Danny.
Although his grandfather transmitted his passion for cooking to him, Miguel has a particular attachment to French gastronomy. Ready to do anything to come and work in Europe, he enlisted in the Foreign Legion to obtain his papers and ended up arriving in France following a back injury. Since then, he cut his teeth in renowned establishments in Lyon: Marguerite Bocuse, L’Astra and the Bistrot d’Abel. So many experiences that have allowed this 27-year-old cook to climb the ladder in a short time.
After his elimination, he agreed to answer a few questions posed by Le HuffPost:
The HuffPost: You are leaving the Top Chef adventure tonight. Do you have any regrets?
Miguel Garcia-Herrera: In the first episodes, we are always invaded by stress and uncertainty. So yes I have some regrets for not being able to show my cooking and my personality.
During your application, you sent your file without really believing it. For what ?
I remember that I had not put my CV, nor my photo whereas it was obligatory. One of the casters called me to ask me to complete my application file. A few months later, he called me back to tell me that I was taken for the preselection. The chef and food critics present that day were happy with my plate. After that, I was called back to confirm that I was participating in Top Chef 2023. I didn’t feel up to it and I really didn’t think I was going to stand out from the others. I told myself that they would be better prepared thanks to their experiences, whereas I was the little Mexican who had made his way on his own. And it was during the preselection that I saw that I had my place in the competition.
Do you think you weren’t prepared enough?
I never prepared for Top Chef. Three weeks before the shooting, I was told that I was selected, so I only had that time to prepare. I did not redo recipes, nor asked advice from other cooks. My own boss didn’t even know I was taking part until M6 unveiled the names of the candidates. I think I should have asked for help. That’s life, that’s the game. Next time, I’ll know to prepare (laughs).
“I dreaded the cameras”
What were your motivations for participating in the competition?
It was above all a personal challenge and also a childhood dream. I wanted to prove to myself that I could cook for great chefs and that they would like my cooking. I wanted to gain confidence in myself. We will say that it was a bit like my CAP exam. In the end, it did even though I didn’t get very far.
Did you follow the show when you lived in Mexico?
I watched a lot of culinary programs such as Masterchef or Top Chef USA. It gave me ideas to prepare dishes for my brothers and sisters. I remember that with some of the money I earned at a seafood restaurant, I bought different ingredients and cooked them. But it was complicated to follow the French version with the broadcast in staggered hours. When I arrived in France, I started watching the previous seasons and I told myself that I could do like them. But when you’re inside, it’s not the same.
Did you have any apprehensions on set?
I especially dreaded the cameras and the journalists’ questions when cooking. I think that’s something that bothers me a lot. In the pre-selection tests, it takes a lot of concentration to cook, to create, to answer questions in front of the camera, and to be yourself. Sometimes I wanted to tell journalists to leave me alone, but of course I didn’t (laughs).
“Philippe Etchebest, he looks like an army general”
This season, Hélène Darroze has no brigade. Did you have any suspicions about his non-participation in Top Chef?
Honestly Yes. I knew there was something behind it, it was weird. I suspected that the production was going to release us something but I did not know what.
You are the first candidate she calls back for this secret competition. How did you feel during this exchange?
I took it as a new opportunity but I didn’t have the same energy as at the beginning. I was very disappointed with the previous events and it had broken my spirits a bit. I was not 100% in my test. The subject was not for me, I was completely dropped and I fell in front of Danny who is very strong.
If you had been able to join the competition, with which brigade leader would you have liked to evolve?
I think it would have been Glenn Viel or Paul Pairet because their approach to cooking speaks to me. I really liked Philippe Etchebest but I told myself that I had already been in the army, so I had had enough. He looks like an army general, he’s scary just by looking at him. Even when he pays a compliment, it looks like he’s not paying one (laughs).
Speaking of the army, you have an atypical background. Did you learn things within the Foreign Legion that you apply in your life as a cook?
I would say rigor and mental strength. In the kitchen, I am a very rigorous person, things have to be square. Outside of my cooking, I’m very crazy and I laugh a lot. Behind the stove, the kitchen should not be disrespected. In Top Chef, it’s as if I had lost all my means. This competition is 80% television and 20% cooking. I can’t manage to give my personality with cameras that ask me all the time what I’m doing, to redo tests, etc. My cooking for me is that of the moment.
“I would like to open a taquería in Lyon”
You said that “Participating in Top Chef is already a victory”. Explain to us
When I look back I say to myself: “Miguel, look where you come from”. I arrived in Madrid with €200 in my pocket, without papers, without a reference in the gastronomy world. I gave myself the means and I started to work little by little. I did everything to join the Foreign Legion. Even during leave, I worked in a seasonal restaurant in Sète. In fact, cooking has always been there for me. Today, I watch the program I followed and I am part of it. It’s incredible and for me, it’s a victory. Top Chef gave me more strength and more self-confidence to be able to go further. It allowed me to tell myself that I am a real French cook. Thanks to TV, my mistakes have been highlighted, I can’t deny them, and that’s how we evolve.
What are your future plans?
I have two goals in mind. The first, which is long-term, is to open a guest house in the Lyon countryside with my wife where I can offer a real gastronomic experience. But before that, I would like to open a taquería in Lyon. It’s something that’s really close to my heart.
A little prediction for the final?
When I left, I saw four candidates who can go to the final. Danny, who has a great resume. Hugo, who has his own universe. Alexandre, who is self-taught like me. And Victor, who offers unlikely associations. But if I have to pick two, I’d say Danny and Hugo.
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