Bravo is hyping your elimination as one of the most shocking in Top Chef history. Did it feel that way?
A little. Every chef has a bad day, and sometimes things can be out of balance. At the end, I still live again to cook.
Most of your competitors left in tears, but you were very levelheaded. Did you see it coming?
After Restaurant Quatre won, I saw elimination coming. Most operations start cutting people from the top when things go wrong. I did multiple dishes, so there was more of a target on me. It was safer for Casey and CJ, who only made overcooked monkfish and salty lobster salad.
Chef Tom [Colicchio] thought your team let bad food get out of the kitchen. Did your laissez-faire approach lead to your defeat?
I could have been a little more intense, but some of the things were just individual errors. The way I run my kitchen day-to-day is that I trust people to execute the dishes I design. I can’t be the chef that makes everything.
You eavesdropped on the other team’s menu-planning session while working out on the balcony. Did you think that gave your team an advantage?
No. It doesn’t matter what the other team is going to do. They have to execute, and when those dishes come out, it’s up to the diner to judge whether or not it’s successful. We knew what dishes not to duplicate, but it didn’t help or change anything.
I read you’ve been working in a few New York kitchens lately. What else is next for you?
I have a serious group of disciples working for me who allow me to be away. I’m doing quite a few cooking classes in the future, some in different cities and states. I’ve got something going on with Ebony magazine and the Food Network. I went to Jean Georges and hung out with Lia [Bardeen]. I went to Café Gray and spent several hours there. I’m headed to New York the week after next to set up a stage at Daniel. When I go to New York, I make it very culinary and I don’t take my family or go with my wife. I bring back a little of everything.
You’re a married man, but you said recently that Top Chef had brought you attention from a lot of ladies.
That was an exaggeration, but at the same time, it’s been quite shocking. I didn’t really think that people would see me on TV and think that I looked good. It’s been really flattering, but I don’t expect to be divorcing my wife and running off with a Top Chef fan anytime soon.
Who’s your pick to win the competition?
Casey or Hung or Dale. I would like to see Casey win, of course, because we’re friends. Dale is the king of the Bad News Bears, so he could pull it off. But, chef-to-chef, I think Hung has what it takes because of his culinary knowledge.
Earlier: The Gay Side of Top Chef Comes Out