Chef Sam Gorenstein: Big Winner on Kitchen Inferno

Hot off the Food Presses! 

Yesterday, chef Sam Gorenstein, co-owner and executive chef of Miami's beloved fast-casual seafood spot, My Ceviche, was named the first champion of Food Network's culinary battle show Kitchen Inferno, taking home the grand prize of $25,000.

That can sure buy A LOT of Ceviche!  Congrats to Chef Sam and one of MIAbites featured chefs ( )

Hosted by chef Curtis Stone, Kitchen Inferno throws competing chefs into a culinary showdown against some of the country's most talented chefs. Each round is judged by a panel of esteemed culinary personalities – in Sam’s case, famed cookbook author Michael Ruhlman; London-based chef Judy Joo, who was one of the four Iron Chefs on Iron Chef UK; and chef Daniel Green, internationally recognized expert in the culinary world. If named the winner of a battle, the chef can choose to walk away with the money in hand, an amount that increases through each round, or "rip up that check," as the live audience yells.

"I went in knowing that I would rather walk away with nothing than refuse a challenge," said Gorenstein. "I had a $15,000 check in my hand after the third round, but I just had to tear it up and fight for that $25,000."

So here provided by MyCeviche's publicist is a "play by play" recap of the exciting first season competition:

Gorenstein’s first round against Food Network veteran chef Penny Davidi at first seemed to be a difficult one. With no experience cooking for children, Gorenstein competed to cook the best gourmet version of a chicken finger against Davidi, who confidently noted she has made chicken fingers dozens of times for her children. Alas, Davidi’s dish was no match for Gorenstein’s chicken fingers stuffed with spicy chorizo and ground chicken. With a $5,000 check in hand, Gorenstein was given the choice to walk away with the money or continue forward with a taco challenge; he chose the latter option.

Chef Chris Oh of the popular Korean restaurant Seoul Sausage in Los Angeles stepped up to the plate to try to take Gorenstein down next in the battle for the best taco. Though they were provided with no traditional taco ingredients, both chefs made do and created their own unique tacos.

Again, Gorenstein beat the seasoned Food Network veteran by presenting the judges with a homemade cilantro masa taco filled with orange caramelized shrimp and lime roasted jalapeno mayo – a nod to a signature salsita at My Ceviche.

“I had to bring a part of My Ceviche into the show somehow, so I figured why not use one of our famous salsitas,” said Gorenstein. “I think the judges loved it as much as our customers do.”

With $10,000 in hand, the choice became more difficult. But Gorenstein was ready for a fight, even knowing the next dish had to feature chocolate, an ingredient he admitted to never using in savory dishes. The first grand champion of Food Network’s Chopped and winner of Iron Chef America, chef Madison Cowan proved a difficult challenger.

While we were filming the battle, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. Madison’s dish using dark chocolate smelled outrageously good,” recounts Gorenstein.

It was a close one, but Gorenstein’s savory white chocolate scallop crudo with peach ginger and caramelized citrus glaze proved to be the judges’ favorite.

Moving into the final round, Gorenstein ripped up a check for $15,000 to prove himself in a bouillabaisse battle against the host himself, chef Curtis Stone. It was a gutsy move that turned out to be a smart one.

“Curtis got fancy with a deconstructed bouillabaisse, but I stuck to a classic one. It’s what I know. I’ve worked with seafood my entire life; it’s a beautiful thing, and it should just be left to speak for itself, as it’s meant to,” said Gorenstein.

Gorenstein opened the voting envelope that showed “dish one,” his own dish, was chosen as the favorite. As the confetti fell from the ceilings in the kitchen stadium, Sam thought of who he had waiting for him back at home.

“Sure, I competed so I could get back into a big kitchen and show these chefs and America that I can kick some ass. It was a great experience, and I’m happy I chose to take on the challenge. But I didn't risk it all just for myself; it was for my fiancée too,” admitted Sam. “We’re getting married in a little over a year, and I’m using the winnings to give her a dream wedding.”

Some pretty Hot Stuff from Miami's own, Sam Gorenstein! 

My Ceviche ( three locations: South Beach, Brickell and South Miami)