Top Chef Masters Exit Interview: Episode 3

Third episode of the third season and Bravo is convinced that they’re doing better than last year; I’m not so sure. This latest episode featured cooking with beetles, scorpions and other creepy critters — even Curtis didn’t know what to do with himself when the food hit the table. Keep reading to see which chef went crawling away for another day.

ES: Insects, one of the most bizarre challenges ever on Top Chef — how was that?
John Currence: I was processing the smells that the bugs I was familiar with, I know night crawlers and horn worms — I pull those off of tomato plants all summer long. I know beetles and what beetle gut smells like. For me the choice of scorpions was pretty easy as I’ve never been around them — they didn’t send the shudder of disgust through me as I saw them. Also it made a really great shock value.

It seems you enjoy cooking with unusual ingredients?
It’s subjective in one way or another, I haven’t cooked a lot of bizarre or shocking stuff. I do a good bit with offal. I have this unbelievable lamb supplier called Border Springs in Virginia that makes the most delicious lamb in the world. I love to bargain shop with them, we have chefs from all over the country that buy from them. Everyone wants lamb rack and lamb bellies so I know from time to time they’re going to stock up on something, they always have hearts. One of my favorite things are these pickled lamb hearts, that we pickle with rosemary.

The dish that sent you home was risotto, something that is typically unpredictable on Top Chef. Why did you choose to do that?
I knew on the front end that it was a dangerous move, several of the proteins that I went through in my head that I could do for the meal got snatched up the minute everyone crashed the refrigerators. I’m not going to argue with anyone about what they have chosen. Naomi is taking over the organization, I’m going to sit back and fall to her and find out what we need. There’s a progression to these dinners, let’s find out what’s missing and fill in. We needed a hot app; I can perfectly execute a good risotto. It’s hard to knock that as not everyone can cook risotto; I’ve not had a whole lot of them that are magnificent. If I had to do it again, no. They made it resoundingly clear that just a risotto by itself…that ain’t gonna hack it on Top Chef.

How did you enjoy Top Chef? Would you do it again?
I would eat my through the wall of my office to get back and do it again. I love admitting I was a complete moron — I went into it with a crappy attitude. I didn’t know much about the series and I wasn’t super jazzed to go. I was exhausted as I was at the tail end of a very long period of travel and events for me. I poo pooed TV, I don’t aspire to do TV and I don’t think I offer very good viewing. On the plane out there I was like, ‘what the hell am I doing?’ I watched some DVDs of the show on the flight, I got through the whole thing and there was nearly a national incident as I wanted to claw my way into the cockpit and was like ‘please god, take me home.’

Why did you choose No Kid Hungry?
It’s a new arm of Share our Strength, specifically focused on eliminating childhood hunger in the U.S. by 2015. The fact that there is anybody hungry in this country, we should start lining up and hurting people over who are responsible. The food that goes to waste in the American home on average now, it’s appalling to me. I truly believe that educating children is the only way we’re going to change the eating habits of this country. We’re so absorbed in satisfying the farm subsidies that the government is handing out. It’s been made so convenient now for folks to feed their family from the freezer section that there’s not going to be any changing in adults patterns, kids are the route to go.

I’ve worked with some very underprivileged kids on the edge of the Mississippi Delta which is one of the most economically depressed areas of our country. I see it everyday when they taste things that they’ve never seen before like avocados. They went bananas for avocados.

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