Top Chef Exit Interview: Second Runner-Up (And Contest Results!)


OK, first things first–the results of our Top Chef Finale Guessing Game. After consulting all of the winning chef’s recipes online, it seems they used the following ingredients: Foie gras, redfish, corn, scallops, venison, wild mushrooms, cilantro, tuna, hamachi, black bass, fennel oil, fried tempura bits, chestnut, celeraic, blackberries, green beans, kumquat, orange juice, lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, cucumber juice, ginger juice, jalapeno juice, sriracha, fennel, avocado, cucumber, orange, blood orange, grapefruit, chile oil, garlic, rosemary, Yukon gold potatoes, butter, heavy cream, sugar, veal demi glace, French bread, eggs, milk, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup, apples, cider vinegar, star anise, pecans, cayenne, half and half, Tabasco, tomato paste, yellow onion, bell pepper, creole spice.

Phew! It takes a lot to be a Top Chef! I can’t believe no one was able to guess all five with a list like that! A lot of people had one correct. No one had three. Only a few people had two. First off there’s BS(!) with scallops and sriracha. Chris had foie gras and scallops. He came so close to winning it outright but guessed smoked paprika instead of cayenne.  The lovely BS’s Mom had mushrooms and celeraic (nice guess on cleraic! Also used by Stefan.) Ben! had scallops and garlic (hmmm…garlic is close to not counting, but Padma and the judges rule it’s OK.) Queen had cinnamon and eggs. JoeHoya had mushrooms and lemon (well, he used lemon juice, but I’m assuming that came from a lemon, so you get the point). Muffin had cream and foie gras (sorry, we’ll give you points for cream, but not butter–that falls in the too obvious category as stated in the rules).

So of the ppl with two guesses correct, only two had the winner right: BS’s Mom and Ben! Congrats to both of our winners! BS’s Mom, as you may have guessed, is my mom, so conflict-of-interest rules prevent her from receiving ES prizes. Ben! send us your mailing address — the Top Chef cookbook and calendar are on the way.

OK, now on to the good stuff…our interview with the third place chef’testant…


Awwww,  it’s ES-favorite-for-life Carla. She may not have won the top prize, but she sure kept season five interesting, and we have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of her.

Carla! What happened with Casey???
I really enjoyed working with Casey. I actually really wanted to work with her,I thought that we would connect. And I did not consider that it was Casey’s fault. You know, at that point we had all just given so much, and I was so emotionally exhausted. Going into that second finale, after winning the first one, I was on a high, but then we’re cooking again the next day. So when they said we had help, I was like, oh my god, I get help, and I just gave her too much power. She didn’t take it from me, I gave it to her. In hindsight, I would have made totally different decisions. I never sold myself on that souflee, and if we had done a better cut of meat, seared it — it would have been really great with my sauce, which was so delicious. I hope people don’t blame Casey. I known that the blogs have kind of been blowing up saying that she ruined it for me. No she did not.

You were mostly on the bottom for the first half of the season and then just caught on fire. How did that happen?
I think the technique that I have was there all along, and it was really just about becoming comfortable in the competition — and of course you saw that fall apart in the finale. The disservice I allowed myself in the finale was  to not be in the flow that I had going on up to that point, and I used Casey as a crutch, so that’s what happened.

When you started crying last night, Stefan was all of a sudden a total sweetheart.
It was really, really sweet. We had been standing there in front of the judges for hours — you don’t get to see that of course — and it wasn’t until the end that that happened. I had been trying to hold it all in, while they all said Carla, what happened? And you know those two had no idea I messed up because they were focused on their own dishes, so they were surprised when I let it all out. I really like Stefan. I know he’s been portrayed as the villain, but he is not a bad person. He likes playing the game, but he wouldn’t want to win by tripping someone up, he wants to win by doing the best and being the best competitor. I have to admit I snickered when Hosea gave him the alligator, but he did a great job with it, you cannot trip him up.

Did Hosea deserve to win?
I think he made the best meal and I was so happy for him, yes I think he deserved to win. You know, I don’t read the blogs — well, my husband reads them to me — but I think he’s gotten a bad rap with the whole Leah thing. He’s a really good guy and I’m very happy for him. Anyone who would have won would have deserved it.

Did your hubby and step-son enjoy the Super Bowl?
They were sooo excited. They got to sit at the end of the field where the last touchdown was, right over the Cardinals’ tunnel. My treat was that I didn’t have to watch the Super Bowl.

And the car? Did you have to keep that a secret too?
Yep. My husband cried – he was so excited that I won the challenge, and then that just sent him over the moon.

Were you happy with the way you came across on TV?
Well I think I’m weirder than they made me seem, so I have to be happy. Some of my friends were like, really, you’re going on TV and gonna show that part of yourself? But I think they captured my spunkiness and my quirks, and I’m glad they didn’t make me a one-dimensional character.

Do you want to do more TV?
I would love to. I look at myself and I see that I’m able to be myself in front of the camera. I don’t know where I get that from but I was really happy about that.

What’s next for you?
I will continue to cater. I don’t really know what’s coming next. People are saying, are you gonna get a TV show, a book, I really don’t know yet. But I’m working on a sweet and savory catering line and I’d like to move my catering business to downtown DC, and open up a  small chef’s table there so that folks like you can come in and taste my cooking without having to get something catered.

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  • Maids February 26, 2009  

    Love her. Please do open a place in Downtown DC, Carla! We need more real people like you among all the lobbyists, lawyers, and bankers 😉
    Seriously, you’re precious!

  • Eick February 26, 2009  

    Wow, she thinks she’s WEIRDER than they portrayed her on TV? That’s awesome.

  • KMango February 26, 2009  

    DC adores you, Carla! And as you said, the love is where it’s at. You brought in a different way of competing, for sure, but you also channeled beautiful flavors by tapping your benevolent spirit. Thank you for emphasizing the importance of love as “the hidden hand” on every chef’s knife. Kudos for your exceptional run on the show, and high five for you being you.

  • BS Cousin February 26, 2009  

    BS cousin says BS mom got robbed!

  • BS's Mom February 26, 2009  

    And BS’s Mom agrees. I read the rules thoroughly and didn’t see anything about nepotism being outlawed in this contest. All is forgiven though since I was referred to as “lovely” – that makes up for a lousy cookbook any day.

  • Leahsucks February 27, 2009  

    Umm… Casey’s bitter rant.

    You are done with TC and we are done with you. Good Day sir.

  • Maids February 27, 2009  

    wow talk about a contrast:
    Carla = gracious and protective of Casey (True mark of a fine competitor)
    Casey = nasty and hateful toward Carla
    @Leahsucks, I think you should change your name to “Caseyblows”

  • gansie February 27, 2009  

    jesus. that was not a classy move on casey’s part. she really just should have not said anything. now she looks way worse. thanks for the link @leahsucks

  • Leahsuckscaseyblowsandstefanscocky February 27, 2009  

    Consider this my temporary new name.

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