Local chef Taylor Frankel, former head chef at Sweet Basil, has been selected by The Food Network to appear on the competitive cooking show “Alex vs. America” this summer. Frankel’s episode airs Sunday, September 11 at 10 p.m. MST on the Food Network.
On the show, Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli selects three chefs from around the country who specialize in a certain culinary technique, then challenges them to prepare dishes that will rival his own in a blind taste test. . Guarnaschelli has been a Food Network regular for more than two decades, often seen on popular shows like “Iron Chef America,” “Chopped,” “Supermarket Stakeout,” and “The Kitchen.”
Frankel was selected to compete in her specialty of molecular gastronomy, a scientific approach to food that uses chemistry and physics to accomplish creative methods of cooking and presenting food. She said she never attended culinary school and studied physiology at university before discovering her passion for cooking while working in a restaurant in Breckenridge after graduation.
She has spent the past seven years at Sweet Basil in Vail Village, rising through the ranks under chef Paul Anders and owner Matt Morgan to become the restaurant’s first female chef. Her interest in molecular gastronomy began at Sweet Basil, where the techniques are used in some dishes, and grew when she took a year off to work at a Michelin-starred restaurant in California.
“It’s definitely something I’ve done a lot of self-education on,” Frankel said. “I learned a lot in California, but we’ve also used a lot at Sweet Basil over the years. Foams, gels, and liquid nitrogen are kind of like science on a plate.
It was Frankel’s first time competing in a cooking competition, but her arrival in the restaurant industry prepared her for both the intensity and the lack of time of the challenges. She said that Sweet Basil demands high performance from her every day, and the training translates directly into the show.
“I really felt like I was curated for that environment,” Frankel said. “Obviously most successful leaders are really good in stressful situations and come up with things on the fly and adapt, and that’s literally all it was. That was the craziest day , honestly, never.
“Alex vs. America” aims to showcase talent from across the country, but naturally tends to include more chefs from metropolitan areas and big cities. Frankel only remembers one other chef from Colorado who appeared on the show, who was based in Denver. She said having the opportunity to represent the Valley on the national stage was an honor, and Alex Guarnaschelli even commented that she was from Vail.
“She looks at the host and is like, ‘Where are you getting these people?'” Frankel said. “Vail, Colorado, specializing in molecular gastronomy – it’s very unique. Just talking about what we do here and the volume and quality of what this valley has to offer, I think it’s so huge.
Sweet Basil was the launch pad for Frankel’s career, but this summer she decided to start her own private chef business in the valley. The company is called Taylor Made and focuses on offering personalized menus that match the tastes and interests of each customer. Frankel said she loves having the opportunity to be creative and adaptive with food, as her episode will show, and hopes for plenty of opportunities to do so with her new venture.
“My goal isn’t just to give people a menu or, like, a list of sample menus,” Frankel said. “I really want to collaborate with them on every meal and come up with some really fun ideas and find ways to apply these molecular techniques that I really like to present.”
Frankel’s “Alex vs. America” episode will air on national television on Sunday, September 11. For more information on Taylor Made, visit TaylorMadeChef.com.
“I’m so proud to be able to represent this valley, and all of my success comes from working at these amazing restaurants,” Frankel said. “It’s just the culmination of everything I’ve done in the last few years of my career.”