Top Chef All-Stars Exit Interview: Episode 15
We’re in the home stretch, just one more episode and we’ll have our very first Top Chef All-Stars winner. But not before the three remaining chef’testants cook a meal to die for, preparing a dinner for chefs Morimoto, Michelle Bernstein and Wolfgang Puck.
Keep reading to see who packed their knives and missed out on being crowned All-Star.
ES: Can you describe what it was like going into the final challenge, cooking a dish specifically for Morimoto?
Antonia Lofaso: I would use the word nauseating. I was beside myself, at that moment you realize you’re cooking for the Japanese Iron Chef, the world’s most respected chef, and being asked to recreate a dish his mother has made for him as a child. It’s an overwhelming task.
You implied that the hamachi wasn’t fresh, which is why you went with the tuna?
It’s all of our jobs as chefs to make sure that the ingredients we are using are of the highest quality. When I checked the fish it was slimy. It wasn’t bad at that point because I would have smelled it but it was on its way. It wasn’t the freshest piece of fish. If you’re serving a sashimi it needs to be the freshest you can find, I wanted to serve the hamachi but went with the tuna.
What would your last meal be?
That was one of the questions that Tom asked us. I said I hope I get somewhere in my career to have a chef competitor to cook me my last meal. Mine would be a little easier than what I anticipated Morimoto’s to be — eggplant parmesan hero.
Throughout the season it seemed that Mike was picking on you, was it as bad as it looked?
It was all just playful banter between people. In the restaurant industry we’re all very snarky, loud, antagonistic people if you haven’t noticed. He was definitely annoying on every level. It was always playful and it was never malicious. I have two brothers, I can handle it.
What was it like when you found out you were Mike’s cousin?
Haha — I have to say I was relieved. I couldn’t figure out why this man irritated me as much as he did. Finally when it was revealed that we were related it made sense. I was like, you’re the guy who my mom would have made me share my toys with. I’d be like, why is Mikey coming over for dinner? Once I got into that mindset I felt better about his irritation.
Can you tell us a little about the cookbook you are working on?
It’s kind of my voice in food that I didn’t realize was there until the first time I did Top Chef. I had so many mothers and women and parents coming up to me saying you inspire me. I felt overwhelmed by the idea that I could inspire somebody. I never thought that would be something in my future. Thinking back to my childhood, these memories in food and cooking with my parents, I wanted to bring that idea to a cookbook. This is a cookbook for the working parent. It is really about the dichotomy of my life where I’m a skilled and passionate chef but at the same time I come home and have an 11-year-old I have to make dinner for. I want to have recipes that are 10-15 minutes to get some food on the table so you have the time to enjoy together.
Were you proud to be the last female chef standing?
I get asked that question a lot. I try not to put too much emphasis on the male and female role of chefs — I mean, it should be who the last chef stands is. The whole experience was redeeming. I feel like this time around I really competed with a lot more confidence and competed with a lot less fear about other competitors.
Who are you rooting for?
I have to say, if you had asked me that before I found out Mike and I were related I’d have said Richard. I feel some sort of family obligation though. I hope the best chef wins.