Top Chef Exit Interview: Episode 13
Things got a little crazy on Top Chef this week, as the crew traded in New York for New Orleans, three axed chef’testants got a shot at a resurrection, Toby Young got the boot and fans were never happier to see Mrs. Gail Simmons. But someone still had to die. Well at least lose. Their thoughts, after the jump.
Holy smokes! Fabio, the Italian Stallion didn’t have quite enough legs to make it the distance. But he’s not mad at ya. (Just don’t mention Martha Stewart)
After getting kicked off, you seemed pretty sure that Stefan is going to win it all–after watching the show, do you still feel that way?
Yeah, absolutely. I was thinking that the only reason he wasn’t going to win was because of me, so now I definitely think he’s going to win. But I was wrong about the first one, so I could be wrong about the second one, who knows?
Well you made it almost all the way. What was your favorite challenge?
I don’t know that I had a favorite challenge, but I definitely had some that I did not like. I don’t cook with canned food, I don’t cook with oatmeal, and I don’t buy Martha Stewart books. I’m very proud that I won or was in the Top 3 in all the challenges that matter to me — Restaurant Wars, the Today Show, Le Bernardin. Even yesterday, me and Stefan got the most beads from people who liked our food. Emeril liked it, he said my food was very good, so I wasn’t upset. I’m a happy person, I’m not going to let it get me down.
What did you think of the judges?
They’re culinary experts, who am I to judge them? If Colicchio says something that I made was too salty, I might not agree with him, but I respect his opinion. I respected them all, besides a couple judges that I couldn’t stand.
Well it wasn’t that I couldn’t stand them. But I did get in a big argument with Martha Stewart because she tried to say my polenta was bad because it was grey. The truth is, she didn’t even taste it. She dipped her fork in it. It’s like telling me you don’t like coke because it’s black. And then Jean-Christophe Novelli, the French chef, we got in another argument because he said the egg whites in my cream didn’t crystallize, so when I told him there were no egg whites in there, he didn’t like that. But he’s French, so they have to start with us. We kick their ass in food, and kick their ass in wine, and I won’t even talk about women. And then there is the World Cup of course. I’m just kidding. I like them all, even the French guy.
You know, she was speaking straight-forward Italian to me. She started in Italy as a model, she was on this TV show there, so I was actually looking at Padma way before she was tasting my food. She has a great palate. She’s a model, not a chef, but she’s very personable and we had a good time together. She’s very fun.
Were you worried about coming off as an Italian cliche?
Well you’ll have to tell me what an Italian cliche is. I left Italy because there were too many Italians, so it’s nice to be one of the few here. I think I represented my country well. Look, I’ve only been speaking English for 2 1/2 years. I had to rent the last season of Top Chef on DVD because on TV I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
Wow, it must have been hard not just learning English but having to learn the names of every single spice and everything in the kitchen.
I got my ass kicked a lot. After I was in the country for three months, the chef where I was working left and I had to take over. You know how long it was taking me to do the order every night, to read through 300 items and learn the English as well? But you learn pretty quickly — when you order filet mignon, white onions and celery, and then the next day you get monkfish, bananas and carrots, you learn quick because you have to.
Is your whole family still in Italy?
Yes. My best friend is here and my wife. Buy my parents, my grandfather, my family, my dog, my goldfish and my turtle are still there. Actually, no, I brought the turtle over here. In Italy, no one knows what’s going on with all this, they don’t watch the show and all that. In Italy, when you’re a chef, you cook. You don’t write books, that’s what writers do. You don’t go on TV, that’s what actors do. In Italy, if you’re on TV and you’re not an actor, you must have robbed a bank or killed someone, so when I tell my mom I’m on TV every week, she doesn’t really get it. My mom called me the other day and she’s crying and shouting because the neighbor found me on google. She’s saying how proud she is that I’m on google. I’m like, Mom, I’m not on google. It’s a search engine. But she’s like, shut up, you don’t listen to me, your picture is on google! So now she’s printing out all these pictures of me from the front page of google.
What are you up to now?
I’m getting a lot of offers, being asked to do TV shows, license my image on a line of cooking products, so all kinds of things. I hope you liked my face, because unfortunately, you’re going to be seeing a lot of it.
Another TV show! Tell us more.
Aaah, I can’t say yet, but let me just say – Watch What Happens.
Seriously. The Fauxhawk? Really?
I’m a chef, and chefs are a little like rock stars. Every summertime for the first day of summer, I dye my hair blond. Blond-blond, like Pamela Anderson blond. And then when the blond is gone I get the fauxhawk. I like to change things up. I know the pink scarf, fauxhawk thing is not really American masculine, but I’m Italian, so I don’t give a damn.