You admitted on last week’s episode that you hadn’t cooked for a year and a half. How did you convince the producers to let you on the show? I didn’t tell them. In the interview process, my résumé was strong so it was based on merits and personality. It had been kind of mentioned [during filming] that I was rusty a few times. The one where it bit me in the ass was the Le Cirque challenge. I made a lot of very stupid, stupid mistakes. I really felt the dust on my bones on that one.
Have you paid attention to the blogs? I ask because Gawker has called you “the real villain of Top Chef.”
They did? If anything it’s just that they’ve seen an edited version of a large story. People will have their opinions for sure. Go ahead and have your opinion because it’s uneducated.
Why should you win?
I think I conducted myself as the most well-rounded chef in my cooking and actions. It’s a competition about being a chef, and I think I represented myself and my craft very, very well. I hope that will pull me through.
What do you make of the story line pitting your soul against Hung’s skills?
Hung is the most technically proficient chef out of us three right now. I would take soulfulness over technique any day. You can learn technique, but I don’t think you can learn soul. I think the ultimate decision should be made on who’s the most well-rounded chef.
You cried a lot in the beginning. Was that hard to watch on TV?
The first time I cried I can’t go in-depth about it it’s pretty grueling, and you don’t always get to see that. You’re tired and beat down, but I felt really bad for the contestants since they were getting hammered on a lot. I regretted that because crying is not a part of this business. There’s no time to cry. The rest of the time, I don’t know why it looks like that. It’s just my sad face that people are confusing with crying. The only other time I cried was when Lia left. I blinked my eyes and tears came out.
There’s been so much talk about your looks and whether you’ll win because of them. Is that frustrating?
It is really frustrating. Bourdain put it best on his blog. He was responding to the Eric Ripert Quickfire Challenge and said, “I’m sick of all you conspiracy theorists out there. The woman is good. Will you people just acknowledge it?” I was flattered. That’s the way I look at it. Yeah I’m a girl. I guess I’m okay-looking, but I busted my ass for this. That’s just the way of the world.
What’s it like to be you these days with everyone questioning your soulfulness?
People who are judging me who sit on their ass at home may say that, but professionally they recognize my talent. It’s more of a story line, I think. What drives me to be really successful is because I came from a Third World country and I was given the opportunity to come to America to be successful and not be a bum and live on welfare.
What will you do if you lose?
I would think that this show is a freaking fraud and is not based on food. Every team challenge, I was on top. I’m a great leader. I run a kitchen with 25 to 30 cooks. If I lose, I’ll know that I killed it, but I will not be disappointed because I’ll know it wasn’t based on food.
Why should you win?
Because I’m a badass chef. I should win because I have the most passion, dedication, and technique. I’ve dedicated myself since I was 11 or 12 years old, and my personality really comes through. I’ve spent most of my life perfecting things. My flavor profiles, my technique, my cooking experience is way better than [Dale’s and Casey’s]. They cannot compare.