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Chef Richard Sandoval Talks Top Chef Masters and New Tequila Projects

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As part of the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, we're coming at you live from the Eater Lounge at the Limelight Hotel. This year we're on the upper deck; if you're in the neighborhood, do come say hello. If you're not, watch for Q&As and breaking news tidbits throughout the day.

Richard Sandoval of Tamayo, alLado, and the rest of the Richard Sandoval Restaurants stopped by and talked about his stint on Bravo's Top Chef Masters, running his restaurants, and the new tequila line he launched with George Clooney.

What are you most looking forward to at this year's FOOD & WINE Classic? Most looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new contacts in the industry. Aspen FOOD & WINE is nonstop. I don't make it up here enough- too many restaurants to run that make it challenging to get away but I do love the energy up here.

You made it on to the Top Chef Masters- a great accomplishment- how did that happen?They called me and asked me if I wanted to be on Top Chef Masters and this season had a new format- where each chef had to bring their sous chef with them. It was interesting and, of course, an honor to be on the show. Plus, for a guy like me, who runs a big company and doesn't get to spend that much time in the kitchen, it was a great opportunity.

How did you pick your sous chef? Well, when they first invited me I thought that we would get to cook together side-by-side. That, as it turned out, was not the case at all. We basically passed each other like ships in the night. I considered bringing someone who is more hands on in the kitchen, but ultimately decided to go with my corporate chef, Greg Howe. He knows my sensibility and the way I like to work the best.

When the show started, who did you view as your biggest competitor? Every person on the show was a serious contender. I only knew Jen Jasinski of Rioja and David Burke of Townhouse, but as the show started, I met everyone. The chefs with the biggest advantage were David Burke, who was also on the second season of Top Chef Masters and Bryan Voltaggio who was the runner-up on the sixth season of Top Chef. They had experience on the show and knew what to expect. For me, all was new. I watched my first few episodes right before I started shooting the show. That was all I knew about it.

After that experience, what advice would you give to chefs who seek to be cast on Top Chef or similar shows?Reality TV can be very demanding. Remember to have fun. Take everything in stride and be prepared for anything. Anything!

Tell us a bit about your new tequila venture. I recently partnered with Rande Gerber, an old friend and former business partner, to launch Casamigos Tequila at RSR restaurants. Rande developed Casamigos with fellow Tequila-lover, George Clooney. They are a dynamic pair and the product is exceptional. I'm sure our guests will be impressed with the Tequila.

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