Ejected ‘Top Chef:’ ‘That Wasn’t Even My Idea!’

Valerie Bolon

That's not my blini recipe, says Valerie Bolon.Courtesy of Bravo

After a troublesome catering gig at the zoo, Chicago native Valerie Bolon got the boot on last night’s episode of Top Chef. But were her blinis really as bad as Nikki’s excremental mushrooms? Adam Platt didn’t think so, and neither, Valerie says, did her fellow cheftestants: “We all kind of felt like it was supposed to be Nikki.” New York’s Michael Alan Connelly (who agrees with that sentiment) spoke to Bolon today and learned the secrets of the soggy blinis and the feeling of injustice that comes with leaving Top Chef.

You seemed unhappy when Antonia said she hypothetically would hire Stephanie over you based on your dishes, even though she hadn’t tasted yours.
It was completely unfair. At the event, one of the first things she said to me when our time was over was, “I didn’t get a chance to taste your dish.” She literally said those words. I think she just got along with Stephanie better. It was a personal thing. She liked Stephanie better, so she said she would have picked her dish. I was definitely not happy about that at all.

Why did you make the blinis in advance?
That wasn’t even my idea, initially. It was Antonia’s. And it was her recipe, in fact. She said, “I’ve got this great recipe for these blinis.” I felt like I got thrown under the bus for it.

So it was a team decision?
Not at one point did we stop and say, “Wait, maybe this isn’t such a good idea. Wait, what are we doing? Maybe this isn’t going to hold up.” Watching the show last night, I felt like, maybe [Antonia] did that on purpose. But then again, I should have realized that that wasn’t such a good idea.

How was Wylie Dufresne as a guest judge?
He’s very mild-mannered and quiet. It was even hard for him as we were filming to say anything negative about anybody. You could tell, he was just really, really cool.

You’ve worked most recently as a personal chef, not a restaurant chef. Is that disadvantageous on the show?
It’s only been in the last year that I’ve been doing this personal-chef work. My experience has been in restaurants for basically my entire career. It helped me with my timing, and it helped me stay focused under pressure, because that’s what it is when you work in restaurants.

The editing on Top Chef makes Andrew seem hyper and tweaked out. Is that the case?
Yes. Times ten.

Was that intolerable or amusing?
He’s actually a very nice guy, but then again, I wasn’t there for that long, so I don’t know if that would have started to drive me a little bit crazy.

Do you keep in touch with your fellow cheftestants?
When you’re in a situation like that where you’re living with these people, and you’re with them 24/7, and you’re in a house sequestered from the world and you’re going through the same experience — obviously you bond with them in a certain way.

Who are you rooting for?
I hope Steph does it. I want her to win and to represent Chicago, be the first female Top Chef.

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