Top Chef All-Stars Exit Interview: Episode 6


Ships ahoy! We had a double elimination this week on Top Chef All-Stars, for the second time this season, which certainly makes for interesting television. Before the chefs got to work in the kitchen they got to work on the boat, fishing for their own ingredients. Either the producers were strapped for cash and can’t afford all those trips to Whole Paycheck, or they really wanted to see the chef’testants work for it.

See which two chefs went overboard at judges’ table.


Endless Simmer: Tiffani, you mentioned that you were aware of your perception from season one and wanted to come back and show a different side of yourself. Do you think you’ve accomplished that?
Tiffani Faison: Yes, completely. I’m a different person than I was five years ago. Watching it five years ago it never felt like I was there — I was physically there but it never felt like me. I was really happy with the five episodes that I’ve watched, to see my sarcasm, humor and likeness come out really clear.

ES: How far has Top Chef come since season one?
TF: We joke about the fact the only thing the same is the name and the fact that Gail and Tom are still there. Aside from a really well-oiled machine, it’s become a big brand. It’s been incredible to watch it evolve; it’s night and day. Definitely a lot slicker now.

ES: If you didn’t catch any fish, what would they have made you cook with?
TF: We had an available stock of stuff for us to use, canned tuna and crab. There was stuff there but we didn’t want to have to touch it. It was on everyone’s mind. Our boat was hitting gold, we had a great captain and a great first mate. We were really fortunate.

ES: Is there an unspoken etiquette in the stew room of winners trying to restrain themselves? Marcel seemed pretty upset.
TF: There isn’t an unspoken etiquette. People should celebrate their victories. If it’s not your day, it’s not your day, but I think to get pissed off over someone else winning a challenge is kind of sour grapes. I didn’t feel the same way — she won I and I think she did well and she was happy about it. Could she have toned down in respect to the people in the bottom? Maybe… But I think people should be able to celebrate their win.

ES: The judges said that if Antonia had given a more honest critique of your dish then you might not have been in the situation you found yourself. Do you agree?
TF: I think there was a really inherent disconnect asking Antonia to step in a critique our dishes, like she was sort of mother hen within the group. I think Antonia is a really strong cook but I don’t see her as someone who is a better chef than I am in many ways. It’s a double-edged sword I think, asking her to step in and take charge of something assumes that she’s inherently a better chef and I don’t think that’s the case. You have three strong male chefs on the other side who are all responsible for one dish and, at no point were they held responsible in that same way for which one of them should have stood up and taken a stand. Somehow Antonia was being held responsible for not tasting our dishes. I really don’t understand that at all.

Jamie Lauren: Antonia and I are really good friends and we have talked about this. We had lunch a couple of weeks ago and I asked her what she thought of my dish and she loved my dish. She didn’t have anything to be critical about; she liked the dish I made. I don’t know what was shown on television last night as I didn’t see the episode. She could have bashed me behind closed doors, I have no idea. I like the dish I did.

ES: When did your love affair with scallops start?
JL: I’ve always liked cooking scallops. I actually don’t like them, I don’t eat them. It’s never anything I ever order in a restaurant unless it’s sushi. I started cooking them in culinary school and then I went to Europe and I cooked in France. I had a seared scallop on my station. There is something really fun, I don’t know how to explain it.

ES: You came off very differently this season than the last time we saw you, was it something personal with you or editing?
JL: Definitely wasn’t anything with me, I was actually the same person I was when I went on the show the first time. I was incredibly grateful and happy to be there and happy to even be asked to be there. Unfortunately there was a lot that wasn’t shown due to the way the show was edited. That’s all I have to say.

Let’s put it this way — the first episode I was in the top. As soon as I cut my finger it was downhill from there. I haven’t even watched it, I stopped watching because I didn’t like the way I was being portrayed. I didn’t see last nights episode.

ES: Looking back on how things turned out do you wish either in the tennis challenge or when you cut your finger you had done anything differently?
JL: When I cut my finger it was 5 o’clock in the morning I had slept for 45 minutes I think in two days. The medic looked at me, looked at my cut and said point blank to my face that I needed stitches. He didn’t give me an option about staying, about taping it up. Nothing. I’ve never been to the hospital — when he said that to me with my 45 minute of brain rational, I was like, my finger is going to fall off. That’s what I was thinking. I went to the hospital. I wasn’t about the competition anymore, it was about my health and taking care of myself. Do I have a regret about going to the hospital and getting stitches? No, because you know what? My finger works and I don’t have any nerve damage.

For the tennis challenge there is a lot that you don’t see, I have no regrets about what I did that day except for the fact that I used canned chickpeas instead of dried chickpeas and I shouldn’t have listened to a couple of my teammates when they made that suggestion to me, because I wouldn’t have been in the situation I was in. The dish by the time it was ready to be served was fantastic, but it never got there.

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