Top Chef Exit Interviews: The Finale!


Well another season of Top Chef has come to a conclusion and I can say one thing for certain: it’s much more fun to watch the finale when you’re not trying to write down every single ingredient each chef is using. But, I’ve finally finished tallying up the points, and the winner appears to be JesterGoblin with a grand total of five points for guessing carrots, bacon, and crab (used by all three chefs). Shout out if you can find any errors in my judging; otherwise JesterGoblin, send us your address to receive your fabulous prizes — Top Chef: The Video Game and a Bravo gift card.

Oh yeah, and there was another competition, too. You know, the Top Chef one. Our combined chats with all three finalists (SPOLIER ALERT!) is after the jump…

ES: You looked a little shell shocked when Padma said your name. Were you really so surprised?
Michael: I was actually really confused because throughout the season Padma actually mixed up the two of our names a lot. She’d say “Michael, Bryan, shi– let’s reshoot that.” I was standing there convinced that Bryan was going to win, so when she said my name, I was like, is this one of those moments when Padma’s confused again? But then I realized she said my name and was looking at me and it was real.

Did you (Kevin) think it was weird that they made you leave the room before the winner was announced?
Kevin: It was a little strange, and frankly, upsetting. One of the perks of being in the finale is that no one gets kicked off. One guy wins and the others don’t. So getting sent out of the room, it hurt, and yeah, I question why they decided to do it that way.

Bryan: I too believe that he should have stayed. We all worked very hard to get to that point. Any one of us could have taken this, and I wish he was there for that.

Were there any dishes that you wish you could have done over?
Kevin: I would love to have the opportunity to approach that mystery basket again. I knew that mushroom wasn’t right but I had to serve it anyway because it was part of the challenge. We heard Tom say last night that I shouldn’t have served it and I’m like, I had to serve it — it was part of the challenge! The problem for me was just ignorance of the ingredients, so I’d love to give it another shot.

What about the pork belly?
No, I still stand by it. I like that dish a lot — I cook it in my restaurant all the time. If anything, I think I was a victim of being a little too regionally specific and not explaining myself well enough. Watching it, it seemed like Douglas Keane was the only judge who really got what I was trying to do with that.

Bryan, it seemed like the judges had the impression that you were the best technical chef but that your brother had more color and originality. Is that a fair judgment?
Bryan: Michael will take a little more risk when it comes to combining flavors and textures, and I prefer to go with flavors people are already familiar with. I want to go out there and have people understand what my food is about. I don’t want to have to explain it to them; that’s not me.

Michael, for your part, you said “I cook the food Kevin cooks on my day off.” Is that true?
Michael: Here’s the deal about that quote, and about a lot of the stuff you see on the show. We really can only judge each others’ food on how it looks; we don’t get to taste most of it. So I really put my heart into making sure every aspect of it, how it looks, how it smells, is really perfect. So that’s where I was coming from. That being said, Kevin’s food is some of the best I ever tasted. The potato salad he cooked in the Army episode is hands down the best potato salad I’ve ever tasted, so that’s how I feel about Kevin’s food, and you only got the tail end of my quote there.

Did you think from the start that you were gonna win it all?
Michael: I’m gonna be honest with you. I didn’t think it was gonna be that hard. I’ve watched the other seasons, and everyone does their thing, but you can pick out from the beginning who is gonna win. But then I got there and I said, wow, there are 5, 6, 7 people here who are really talented. and I’m gonna have to do a little bit more to stand out from the pack.

What’s next for you all? Any new restaurants?
Kevin: Not yet for me. I have to get the one I have now to be where it needs to be.

Bryan: Michael and I just put up a new website, So we’ll be doing some things together. We realized we could actually work together in a kitchen, and we want to work together at some point.

Michael: For now, I’m happy where I am. I could see Bryan and I collaborating at some point. Los Angeles would be where I’d want to do it.

A lot of fans are surprised that so few Top Chef-testants have gone on to open their own restaurants. $125,000 sounds like a lot to us at home, but is that really enough to turn your culinary dreams into reality?
Michael: It’s not enough, but it’s enough to be able to take some time and figure out what you really want to do with it. If I opened a restaurant right now, it would be enough to help me get started and raise the money I would need. The reality is that to open a restaurant it costs at least $1 million. My brother’s restaurant cost $1.5 million to open, and that’s in Frederick, Maryland.

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