How close was last night’s episode to what actually happened?
It was a really confusing Quickfire. Originally, it was just “a plate of vegetables and show your skills.” When you talk about technique to me, you’re talking about hand and knife. A pot of boiling water, a sauté pan, and grill. Once you start pulling in gadgets, mandolins, and special cutters to do this, it just doesn’t make sense.
Did you like the movie-inspired challenge?
It was really weird. I don’t think that all the teams hit it when it came down to matching the food with the theme. You know, Top Secret doesn’t make sense. Just because you saw a cow in it — Oh, that made me want to cook beef.
But your team was criticized because Spike wanted to make a summer roll, and then you chose a movie with the word “Vietnam” in the title.
That wasn’t the way it worked out.
How was working with Spike?
I’m not 100 percent confident that he actually delivered what he expected to deliver. He was thinking one thing and ended up producing something that wasn’t up to that level.
The judges picked on you for making a cheap dish. Where did your budget go?
The Chilean sea bass was the most expensive component of the dish. It’s difficult to go into a store and buy retail. That’s another thing the judges forget; they’re thinking $150 in a restaurant.
Did Spike overpower your culinary voice?
I don’t want to say that one person took the lead. Aside from Spike taking the lead on the concept and actually assembling the roll, the rest was a team effort.
But the judges decided to send you home.
It was like, Spike, this; Spike, this; Spike, this; Spike, this. Manuel, you go home. What?!
You no longer work at Dos Caminos. Were you fired?
We parted ways, and it’s time for me to move on with my life.
What’s next for you?
I want to go back to what I’m used to: fine dining taking a little more time and putting more love and care into the food.
Who’s the next Top Chef?
Stephanie. She’s the sleeper, and she is solid. Her food is phenomenal, her flavor combinations are great, and she really knows what she’s doing. —Michael Alan Connelly