Photo: Scott Schafer / Bravo
Slashfood spoke with Morgan about his polarizing personality, the soufflé issues he experienced in the final challenge and the Dallas, Texas, pastry scene.
You were very polarizing on this show. How have people around Dallas reacted towards you?
MW: I don't know. I don't see a lot of people around town; the people I do see are my friends and they're on my side. They have definitely been extremely supportive and proud of my performance.
In the end, do you think you deserved to win?
MW: No, I think it came out fairly. I put out a dish in the finale that...I used a baseball analogy in describing it. In my four-course tasting, I swung for the fences and tried to knock the crap out of the ball. But it fell in the field and got caught. I served a dish that was totally unservable. I don't see how I could've recovered from that.
What exactly happened with that soufflé?
MW: Well, the oven had some hot spots, like every oven does. It's tough. I tried to set myself up for success in going with such a risky dish in a tight scenario. This wasn't the day to go with too much and then screw up. We were supposed to cook for twelve people; there were four rings in the kitchen, and on our shopping spree I bought every ring possible. I spent all the money I could, buying all the rings I could. So I had every ring and more than two per person. I thought, No matter what the fail percentage, I'm going to be okay. But then we served twenty-two or something. There was just no way to recover from a few falling.
Throughout the season, you were typically above and beyond -- were you taking a lot of risks, or was this last challenge an isolated situation?
MW: I don't know. I felt like that dish happened to be the biggest risk I ever took. I took a lot of risks in making dishes I had no idea how to cook throughout the show. A little bit of luck mixed in with a little bit of experience and knowledge, came out in my favor. But it didn't come out in my favor the day I wish it had [laughs].
Which did you find harder throughout? Competing against other people or against yourself in executing the dishes?
MW: I think it reflects my day-to-day life. I spend a lot of days at work in my own head. I think Johnny put it best, that I'm going to be my hardest critic. And that's what drives me to be a little bit better. On that show, I pushed myself as hard as I could and didn't spend a lot of time wondering what people were doing. Apparently, they spent a lot of time looking at what I was doing. At least that's how it seems now.
Your career has taken you all over the world -- what would you say was the biggest influence we saw on the show.
MW: It's funny, because I spent a lot of my time learning -- I attribute a lot of my knowledge to reading magazines and books and studying the cuisine of other people and not having as much experience working under folks. I will say working beside [François] Payard was a valuable one. It taught me quite a few techniques. But the greatest experience overall was being a teacher in Pasadena. I taught [at California School of Culinary Arts] for three-and-a-half years and it just afforded me all this research and development time. Teaching truly is the best education, and it's been extremely valuable in the development of my technique. I'd say that's been the greatest influence.
Towards the end, you mentioned that you didn't really get along with the other contestants. When you weren't cooking, did you just keep to yourself?
MW: We got some puzzles and we just sat in silence and worked on puzzles when we weren't working on our menus.
How's the Dallas pastry scene these days?
MW: It's dwindling, I'd say. I'm not in a restaurant where I serve the public on a daily basis. But it's getting really shallow. I think the economy has affected the pasty arts more than anything else. The first thing to go is your pastry chef. As a result of that, in the Dallas area, pastry chefs are few and f