Top Chef Exit Interview: Episode 13

Top Chef

Last night we finally got  the big show: the televised debut of preggers Padma, er…part one of the Top Chef season finale. Well we all kinda knew these four chefs would make it this far, right? But of course, only three could make it to the finale. Our (spoiler!) chat with the fourth place chef-testant, after the jump…

I was surprised that the judges were so hard on your duck dish — do you think you should have done more to defend it?
Jen: I think my duck dish was really good — next to perfection. I think by switching to the confit and allowing it to cook in its own fat, it actually turned out better than it would have with the smoke. Actually, I felt I defended my dishes and was proud of them. We were actually at judges’ table for about six hours, so they definitely didn’t show it all. I guess if I had to change anything I just wouldn’t have put in that list shake of salt [in the other dish].

You started so strong in the competition and then seemed to stumble a bit. What happened?
I was definitely tired, and I was beating myself up over little mistakes. I should have just let it go and started fresh every day, instead of bringing myself down and not cooking to the level that I know I can. It was a hell of a lot harder that I thought. I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was, and I definitely didn’t think it would be as emotional as it was. But I’m still very proud of what I did and the food that I put out throughout the competition.

Are you really as intense in the kitchen as they sometimes made you appear?
When I’m cooking and when I was in the competition, I’m very focused and I’m an extreme perfectionist. They caught me being really hard on myself and tearing myself apart, which is not what I do all the time. It didn’t look like I have fun cooking, which I definitely do.

We have to ask about that notorious moment with Mike Isabella.
I love Mike Isabella. He says what he wants to say and sometimes doesn’t think first. But we’re actually great friends. After that show aired he called me up because he started getting hate mail and was really upset about it. I’m like, do I need to do come down there and do a press conference with you and give you a hug or something? Mike’s a wise ass and he likes to make fun of people, but he has a good heart. So he got the short end of the stick, but he did say that, so…

What’s next for you?
I’m very happy at 10 Arts by Eric Ripert, and I plan on staying here. At some point down the road I’d love to have my own restaurant in Philadelphia.

Check out I’m Not Here to Make Friends starting Friday for an extended audio exit interview.

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