12 Questions for Chef Angelo Sosa

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See also *My Ten Minutes in Heaven with Australian Heartthrob Chef Curtis Stone *Craft And Ghostbar Are Gone, But Are The Next Concepts Dead On Arrival? *Private Social May Multiply, but Will People Come if Tiffany Derry's Not in the Kitchen?

I know what you're thinking. First chef Curtis Stone and now chef Angelo Sosa? Two total hot-as-a-flat-top chefs in less than a month! Well, it's a tough job, you guys. And Sosa is a seriously philosophical guy. So it's almost hard for me to describe him as a cross between Ricky Martin and Patrick Swayze (may he rest in peace.) But there you have it. Calm and collected, yet bursting with an clear passion for cooking, here's what smoldering chef Sosa had to say when we chatted at Private|Social, where he played guest chef this past Tuesday night.

I hear Jean-Georges Vongerichten was once your mentor? We just heard that his lot is replacing Craft with a gastropub. So, do me a favor and please pronounce his last name for me? Thanks. Von-ger-EEch-tin.

(Trust me, it sounds way awesome when he says it.) What was it like to be on reality television? Was it so very real? What was the most real thing that happened? First of all, the show is more than a cooking show. It's a very introspective show. In the end you have to look to yourself; you kind of have to dig deep, as a means of true survival. It was really just the most amazing experience with every single emotion coming out. Moreso with [Top Chef] All Stars. You're competing at a very high caliber so you have to stand out. At some point you make a choice: to be pushed to your limits and be pushed out, or push across the abyss to be better. It means a lot of gray hair.

That's real. And the least real/most fake thing? Not sure if I can talk about this. ... In season seven -- I applaud them for the job that they did. It's a perspective. They knew which role we were set in and they told the story they wanted to. I know you're looking for drama...

Nah, it's OK. Your season of Top Chef filmed in Washington, D.C. What's it like living and eating there? It's like a sorority and a fraternity mixed together, especially being restaurant owners, and I'm 37 years old so I'm not accustomed to living like that. But it was an interesting dynamic. It's interesting when you get people all together to see how they react to each other.

Did you get to see D.C. at all? Not at all. Zero percent. Even the last day when we were done we had to stay in the house. It was very tight. Tight quarters.

You competed against our own local chef Tiffany Derry. What was she like in the heat of competition? As the competition progressed, her voice got much louder her voice got more cute. She's intense! We were all searching for the same prize, right? Out of that came a great camaraderie and a great friendship. It was definitely worth the challenge.

Enough about Top Chef. Let's talk about something real: your book, Flavor Exposed. What made you want to add yours to the pile of awesome cookbooks out there? My book is like Star Magazine. I didn't say it was good. It's my first cookbook. One thing that was very important, not to sound lame or boring, but I wanted to make sure everything was authentic; the stories are real because it is meant for the home cook. There are nine chapters: Sweet, Salty, Smoky, Bitter, Sour, Umami, Spicy, Earthy and Nutty. Umami is about my mami. When I was little I'd bring cow's tongue in my lunchbox and obviously nobody traded lunches with me. Sweet is about my Aunt Carmen. Bitter is about my having to close a restaurant. I wanted the stories to be personal.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? Other than the deadlines? The last chapter, Nutty, was the hardest for me. We were on a very tight deadline, and I went right down to the wire. It's funny because the Nutty chapter was like a synopsis of my whole life and how it came together. How I was this young kid who never talked and next thing you know I'm on national television. And I have a cookbook, and people recognize me, and it's really about how crazy my life is. And how appreciative I am to have the blessings to write these words.

And the best part? The acknowledgements. To get to say thank you to all the people who sacrificed.

Anything you would change about the book or your career thus far? That's a really good question. I would love to travel more. I was very "eyes on the prize" when I was young. So, to see much more of the world and meld my philosophies with others around the world.

What's next? I think after the show it became clear to me. To take one day at a time and really nurture what's in front of me. It's great to have all these grandiose plans, but you can't get to all those plans if you don't plant seeds today. I really want to nurture relationships and focus on that first and foremost.

How did you get here, from that quiet little kid to today? Persistence, determination and not believing in the word "no." Believing in my mind that regardless of multiple people telling me it was impossible -- to create that niche, to find your true existence, you know? I think we all have gifts in life, it's just a matter of if you believe it or not.

I wanted to ask why we're all here, but time was up. I think the answer might be in his book though.

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