Top Chef All-Stars Exit Interview: Episode 5
Can you believe Top Chef reached 100 episodes? In celebration of this milestone we were treated to Tom Colicchio showcasing his speed in the kitchen. Of course we didn’t get to see much of Tom actually cook; it took him a mere 8 minutes and 37 seconds to prepare a sea bass dish. The chef’testants dutifully showed their reverence to Chef Colicchio and looked on in envy.
Keep reading to see what chef’testant got kicked off and which chef’testant packed their knives to go, but ended up getting saved for another day.
Endless Simmer: Watching you give those chicken feet a pedicure made me vomit a little. Why go that route and how did you prep them?
Casey Thompson: I really wanted to do a dish that pushed the envelope a little bit. It was taking a huge chance but I also felt I could pull it off. I know that chicken feet is a huge part of Chinese cuisine and I felt like I could do it. It is a little disgusting cutting off the fingernails, but it’s better than leaving them.
With chicken feet you have to boil them ridiculously, basically braising them. The feet should be cooked to where they are falling apart and then the cartilage will break down. Then I marinaded them in a sauce with all kinds of things: Chinese vinegars, soy, sugar and chilies, etc… Then they are dropped in the fryer until crisp and then tossed in the sauce again, which had been reduced.
With chicken feet being such an unusual ingredient, do you think it was wise to pass that off to another chef to prepare?
CT: Yes and no. I thought it was under control and thought the hard part was done. Clearly it didn’t work out that way. I think what ultimately ended up happening was they weren’t fried appropriately to make them crispy and tender. The sauce was getting over reduced in the wok. The whole thing was just a disaster.
Are you really a lover of butchery?
CT: (Laughs.) I’m absolutely serious. It’s something that I’m passionate about and studying and taking a lot of pride in currently. It’s about caring for animals and it’s about learning the dying art of butchery. My future goal is wanting to create a butcher shop where people can go and get to know their butcher.
Spike thought that you were ready to go in episode 4. Was that something that was playing on your mind in this challenge?
CT: Going into this from the get-go my mindset was different. This was going to be a tough show for Bravo to pull off if they didn’t have ways to inject drama. By us coming into it being friends and knowing the game was going to be tricky.
Doing the chicken feet was ballsy, of course. That’s quite a move for someone who also volunteered to do the front of the house. That’s me pushing myself. This is a competition, but I’m very confident in who I am outside of Top Chef. I’m not the same chef as Richard Blais. I know who I am, I know what I want to do. I guess I know my place in the pecking order.
ES: From a viewers’ perspective all signs pointed to Jamie. Did everyone seemed surprised?
CT: We were all very surprised actually. In the stew room those on the bottom knew we were on the bottom but it could have been anyone. I don’t think any of us really thought it was going to be me. They liked the sauce and thought it was a gutsy move but there were some technical issues that they didn’t like.
When Tom said “inedible,” that was the word when I knew. Tom does a summarization, he goes down the line:
Jamie we thought your scallop dish needed more scallop, noodle was gummy… Your vegetable dish was greasy and soggy. Casey we thought the chicken feet were not cooked long enough… Inedible.
When he moved down the line to the next person it was like someone slapped me in the face. He just said the word inedible and there is nothing I can do to get out from under that. As soon as he said that I knew it was me. Up to that point we all believed it was Jamie. She thought it was her. She had all her stuff packed ready to go.
ES: Is there any incentive for anyone to take a non-cooking role in the competition?
CT: Clearly not, as my mother pointed out already to me. It never works out. If I could do it differently, which is not my personality, I would not volunteer again. I volunteered during the tennis match to go first and as you can tell from that no one was volunteering to go.
In this challenge no one wanted to do the front of the house. If they do, they lose control of their dish. I [should] have prepared a dish like Carla’s spring rolls. That was smart. Anyone can cut a spring roll and put it on a plate with sauce.
ES: Who are you now rooting for?
CT: Dale, Antonia and Angelo.