Top Chef Exit Interview: Episode 1
Top Chef is in Vegas this season and everything is HIGH STAKES. But one unlucky chef-testant didn’t even get to unpack. Our chat with them, after the jump…
It’s Jen Zavala, who whipped up some spicy chiles rellenos, but did not impress the judges with her decision to replace the pork with veggie-friendly seitan.
I wanted to do something different, with a new twist. You can only eat so much meat, chicken and fish. I know what my error was now — I didn’t plate it well and I didn’t sell it well enough, but I believe this dish was well flavored. I put it on the menu at El Camino Real and it was very well received by people who aren’t vegetarians. It’s different than tofu or tempeh; it has a really nutty flavor and is not bland at all.
So you wouldn’t do anything differently if you had another chance?
I definitely would have done the same dish. I would have plated it different and worded it a lot better. I think the main problem was that two of the judges didn’t know what it was and I should have pitched it better.
In your short time on the show, did any chefs stand out as most likely to do well?
Obviously Mike Voltaggio. He’s ridiculously talented. He won a Michelin Star when he was really young. When I met him he was really quite but you can tell he’s going to do well — I called him the silent assassin. In terms of who I’m rooting for, Jen – 100 percent. She has a great attitude in the kitchen, plus she’s representing Philly. She’s super-talented and she will definitely hold her own.
Speaking of Philly, I see you just moved to a new restaurant.
I’ve been at El Camino Real for just over a year and wanted a different scene. So I moved to Xochitl, which is a smaller restaurant that does regional Mexican food. I’m really excited about the uprising of Latino food so I’m excited to be here.
Would you do TV again?
Yeah, why not? As long as I didn’t have to dress up. I hated having to put on dresses for the photos and everything. I’m much more comfortable in a chef’s jacket and clogs.
So that photo above is not your favorite?
Oh my god, hate it. Hate it. Hate it. HATE IT. It looks like I can’t stand in those shoes. It was 110 degrees, there was a hot wind, the makeup was melting down my face. I was so uncomfortable. So they captured that moment and now it is all over the place. I hate those shoes! God, it looks like I have cankles.