Top Chef Champ Jeremy Ford Dishes on His Win: ‘It’s the Most Rewarding Feeling You’d Ever Imagine’
After a season of road tripping—and extreme cooking—around California, Jeremy Ford was crowned the winner of Top Chef season 13 on Thursday night.
“It’s the most rewarding feeling you’d ever imagine,” he told PEOPLE Now on Friday morning. “There’s literally nothing in my life that I’ve ever achieved that’s like this. It’s amazing.”
And while fans of the show may have placed bets on Ford taking the title early in the season (he won 3 quickfires and 3 elimination challenges), he was not as confident in the final outcome.
“There were [cooking] challenges where I definitely felt like I was in the lead, but never a moment where I said, ‘I’ve got this competition. I’m going to win Top Chef,'” Ford, the chef de cuisine at Miami Beach’s Matador Room, says.
Ford defeated L.A.-based chef Amar Santana in a head-to-head, four-course meal—each dish highlighting one of the chefs’ favorite ingredients. On Ford’s menu: foie gras, branzino, duck and cheese.
Now, fans can get their hands on a DIY interpretation of Ford’s prize-winning dish. On the show he made duck the star of the meal, but this at-home version swaps it out much more forgiving (and affordable) chicken thighs.
One tip to success from Ford? Don’t be afraid to crank up the heat in the kitchen. “Always sear meat with a hot pan,” he says. “Nobody ever does that and it always screws up their dishes. A piece of chicken can go from crackling crust to soggy mess because your pan’s not hot enough.”
Try out the Blue Apron adaptation of his winning recipe below — the ingredients for which you can have delivered to your home using their meal kit service.
Courtesy Blue Apron
Jeremy Ford’s Roasted Chicken and Mixed Mushrooms
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
6 oz. mixed mushrooms
1 bunch collard greens
1 navel orange
1 bunch rosemary
2 tbsp. crème fraiche
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1. Prepare the ingredients: Preheat the oven to 470°F. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Pick the rosemary off the stems; discard the stems. Tear the maitake mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. Quarter the cremini mushrooms. Remove and discard the collard green stems; thinly slice. Using a peeler, remove the orange rind, avoiding the white pith; mince the rind to get 2 teaspoons of zest (or use a zester). Remove and discard the pith; small dice the orange, discarding any seeds. Finely chop the chipotle pepper; thoroughly wash your hands afterwards.
2. Fry the rosemary: In a large pan, heat a think layer of oil on medium until hot. Add the rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until crispy and fragrant. Turn off the heat. Carefully transfer the fried rosemary to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the oil in the pan.
3. Cook the chicken & mushrooms: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat the pan of reserved oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken, skin sides down; cook 6 to 8 minutes on the first side, or until browned. Transfer, skin sides up, to a sheet pan, leaving any browned bits (or fond) in the pan on the stove. Place the mushrooms on the sheet pan; drizzle with olive oil. Roast 22 to 24 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the mushrooms are browned and crispy. Remove from the oven.
4. Cook the collard greens: Once the chicken and mushrooms have roasted for about 15 minutes, carefully discard the excess oil from the pan of reserved fond; heat on medium-high until hot. Add the collard greens, orange zest, half the orange and 1⁄4 cup of water; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes, or until the collard greens have wilted and the water has cooked off. Transfer to a bowl and set aside in a warm place, leaving any remaining fond in the pan.
5. Make the pan sauce: While the chicken and mushrooms continue to roast, to the pan of reserved fond, add the vinegar, half the crème fraîche, 1⁄4 cup of water and as much of the chipotle pepper as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be; season with salt and pepper. Cook on medium-high, stirring frequently and scraping up any fond, 2 to 3 minutes, or until slightly reduced in volume. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Make the orange salad & plate your dish: In a bowl, combine the remaining orange and fried rosemary; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread a layer of the remaining crème fraîche onto the sides of 2 dishes. Divide the cooked collard greens and roasted chicken and mushrooms between the dishes. Top with the orange salad. Serve with as much of the pan sauce as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be. Enjoy!
—Blake Bakkila, with reporting by Caryn Midler