Top Chef Exit Interview: Episode 7


High stakes indeed! This week, the Top Chef Las Vegas contestestants had to cook for not one, but five A-list dinner guests. Out chat with the eliminated gambler (spoiler alert!) after the jump.

BUT FIRST, in our continuing round-the-clock coverage of Padma Lakshmi’s hostile takeover of the entire media world, we’re pleased to bring you the latest music video from indie rockers The Eels, starring Ms. Lakshmi herself (watch for the not-so-subtle Tangy, Tart, Hot and Sweet plug):

OK, on with the exit interview…


ES: I was kinda surprised that the judges were so harsh on your gnocchi. Were you?
Ashley: I was a little surprised. I make gnocchi every day in my restaurant. I know how to make gnocchi. I agree that in the end the gnocchi were a little too salty, but I didn’t make them too salty. Eli and I tested them together before I finished the whole batch and we agreed that they were fine. Then I went out to cook the prawns because Eli didn’t want to cook them. He finished the gnocchi and I think that’s where the over-seasoning happened.

At least from what we saw, it seemed like you didn’t get a chance to say all that to the judges. Were they aware of all that?
I think so. I read Tom’s blog this morning and he knew that. But in the end…you know, had I thrown Eli under the bus, or said more, or been more critical of Eli, it wouldn’t have made my prawns any more cooked. I still made mistakes, and I was there for the mistakes that I made.

What was your take on the whole Robyn situation? We’ve heard a lot of smack talk – do you think she deserved to be there?
I really made a point the entire season to not say anything about the other contestants that could possibly be construed as negative. It’s not my style and it’s not really my place. That being said, I think there are better chefs than Robyn who are no longer in the competition. I think that from day one there’s been a little bit of luck.

Who do you think is gonna win it all?
I think it’ s pretty clear at this point that Bryan and Michael are front-runners, as are Jen, Kevin and Mike Isabella. I really believe they are all tremendous chefs and any one of them could win — and would deserve to win.

The overall talent seems to be a big notch above past seasons, would you agree?
100 percent. I think our season really mops the floor with other seasons. I’ve watched pretty much from day one and I’m glad to have been a part of this season. The people at Bravo did a great job of getting actual talented chefs, rather than people who would create drama and be crazy.

Speaking of drama, gotta ask: were you really that pissed about the whole wedding episode?
My objection to that whole challenge was really about Bravo. It wasn’t about the bachelor, the bachelorette or doing the challenge. I’ve done weddings, I’m thrilled to do weddings, it really wasn’t about that. I just didn’t think it was appropriate timing, at the height of a real civil rights movement, to make us do that challenge. I find it really hard to believe that Bravo would make us go do a luncheon at a golf course where Jews aren’t allowed. I can’t see that happening. That was my point. The producers at Bravo have a job to do, and their job is to make good TV and create drama — and they really did a good job in that episode.

What’s next for you?
I just moved form Seattle to New York. I’m transitioning out of being the executive chef at Branzino in Seattle. For the next couple of months I’ll be flying back and forth and helping them ease in a new chef. I’m also working with Alex Guarnaschelli on a new restaurant here in New York.

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  • Allie October 10, 2009  

    Big bummer for Ashley….but I’m so excited she’s working w/ one of my favorite chef personalities, Alex G. I wonder what they’re doing together?

    On another note – time for Eli to go! I’m tired of his attitude and he hasn’t made anything that’s WOWed me.

  • Hillary October 12, 2009  

    I was super upset about Ashley being kicked off but I’m glad to see/hear she is doing well. Alex G. is awesome and so is Ashley!!

  • joni October 13, 2009  

    ~~~ i was a fan of Ashley’s ABSOLUTE SUPERB cooking style……….. who believes the lack of success with the finished presentation did WITHOUT ANY DOUBT have an extreme negative influence prompting the judges rash decision to ignore the VERY delicate balance needed when cooking prawns and the chance of absolute perfection of every single one…….

    i am a former restaurant chef/owner & think she should be considered for another chance… i was extremely disappointed in the judges decision based on the overall choice of contestents to eliminate, and think she should be commended for her refusal to bring down Eli for the obvious negative influence on the judges abrupt decision. She is a real pro in my book!!!

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