Top Chef All-Stars Exit Interview: Episode 3
For Top Chef this week we were given the delight of David Chang (and those dimples), the shock of a double elimination, and what was probably (like Padma Lakshmi said) one of the most interesting challenges yet.
Check out what the latest scorned chef’testants have to say about their All-Star return, and exit, after the jump
That right there is Stephen Asprinio and Dale Levitski.
Endless Simmer: Dale, it seemed you may have been axed because you did too much. Do you think you overplayed your hand?
DL: Yes and no, given the challenge and the cuisine that we were supposed to emulate, which was over the top. The dishes were about excess and whimsy. It didn’t quite work out the way I wanted it to. If I were to edit, there were two things wrong with my dish: structure and sauce. Structure was way off, that was the first thing I admitted. Everything was perfectly cooked but the structure was off. The sauce was way too sweet. I had to use store-bought chicken stock and when I reduced it, it became very bitter. I cut it in half and added some honey and some butter and the sauce became more syrupy than I wanted it to.
Speaking of excess, Bourdain suggested that you’re a “dazzle or die trying” kinda guy. Do you think that is true?
DL: Absolutely. The way that I live my life is all or nothing. My mother passed away two years to the day of the season three finale. Eleven days later I got the restaurant that is now Sprout. I think when you go through that it really was my wake up call. Live your life. Live your passion. No regrets. If you fail, you’re gonna wake up tomorrow.
Stephen, you mentioned that you were just getting “back up to speed” in the kitchen. Can you explain this and if that was the case, why did you do All-Stars?
SA: I made that statement because it’s probably the most cooking I’ve done since season one five years ago. I don’t cook on a day-to-day basis any more. I don’t claim to be a working chef. I never would do that. I’m pretty much a business man in the hospitality industry right now. For me, coming back to Top Chef wasn’t about coming to a competition, it was an experience. I would have been out of my mind if I thought I was going to sweep out Wilcox, Blais, Faison, Sosa etc… That’s not what I do anymore. Maybe six years ago it was a different story.
What did you do to prep for the competition?
SA: A friend of mine who owns a restaurant was kind enough to let me hang out in his kitchen, do odds and ends and help out with little tasks; get my knife skills back up to speed; sautee; and do difficult tasks that a chef does on a daily basis, which I don’t.
Can you tell us about getting back into the Top Chef mode?
DL: Season one set the stage, season two helped developed the show and season three was the first time they went after really talented resumes. That was over three years ago; my life is completely different. Going on TC was a Hail Mary of fun life experience. This time around, I have a restaurant and a home base and responsibilities. When I landed in New York I immediately missed my restaurant and had an anxiety of wanting to be home because I want my restaurant so much. The challenges are much more difficult than the other seasons. The producers during interviews said they did make it much more difficult, as they should, as this is the best of the best. It was another world to go into.
Stephen, what about you, what are the differences from the first season, to this one?
SA: It’s evolved in such an amazing way. Giving the proper respect to Bravo and the Magical Elves, they have really taken the brand to an amazing level, not just the brand but the actual competition. Tiffani Faison and I were joking about how we used to walk up hills backward, barefoot with salt and pepper in our hands, and now these kids are getting $10k in Quickfire. They have every imaginable ingredient under the sun, we had nothing. They have molecular gastronomy, every spice from every part of the world. It’s a whole different ball game now, in a good way.
How was the dynamic this time round, knowing your other competitors?
DL: Completely different. When you do TC the first time you meet each other and only a handful of us had heard of each other. That made it a group effort to get through it, very supportive of each other. On All-Stars it was very friendly but much more competitive in a way that was a little off-putting for me.
Colicchio admitted in an interview after last night’s Top Chef that “We’re going to get it wrong seventeen times” because everyone at home already has a favorite chef’testant. Do you think they have?
DL: I will commend Tom for admitting that he’s human. Was I proud of what I did last night? No. In a double elimination that’s tough. Would I have gone home last night if it was a single elimination? No. It basically came down to Fabio and I at judges’ table and everyone on the cast expected Fabio to go home. Tom will judge technique versus concept. Tom respects technique more and my technique and everything was perfect. They admitted that I was being booted for a concept that was good but not executed they way they wanted it. Will I say they were wrong? No. I’m not going to be a prima donna. But they are people with opinions and they are judging for a reason.
Top Chef All-Stars Exit Interview: Elia
Top Chef All-Stars Exit Interview: Jen
My favorite moment of the episode was when they both come back into the stew room and stephen says, my time is up and everyone shrugs, then Dale says me too, and they’re all like, oh my god, no! Have to say I agree — sad to see Dale go. His dish actually looked really fun and playful, just bizarre that he put veal on it.