Last night on Top Chef, the judges’ victim on the chopping block was none other than New Zealand native Mark Simmons, who was sent home for his dubious decision to serve up vegetable curry to children. Our very own Michael Alan Connelly spoke earlier today with Simmons, who has since returned to his sous chef post at Public, about why he thinks Tom Colicchio doesn’t like him and what’s wrong with Uncle Ben’s rice.
Do you really think Tom Colicchio doesn’t like you?
Every time I was up at the judge’s table, there was a certain amount of banter between me and Tom. And that was just a joke, absolutely.
Are you proud of how far you made it? Or is it close enough to the end to be a big disappointment?
Of course I was disappointed. I wanted their hundred grand, you know? Everyone wanted their hundred grand; that’s why I was there. But I guess I’m back, chained to the stove and I’m just going to have to do it the hard way: without their hundred grand.
What kind of establishment would you like to open?
I guess in the style of antipodean cuisine — carefully introducing New York to more of where I’m from, and the food that we cook. I definitely think there’s room in New York for that. I don’t see many New Zealand restaurants around town at the moment, you know?
What elements would make it successful with New Yorkers?
The produce and the protein that we have over there. It’s from the purest, most pristine waters, and the greenest pastures.
What about some of the more American-centric challenges — things like a tailgate party, or a block party — did you have trouble with the concept of that?
A lot of these challenges were brand new to me — like a street party: we don’t have street parties. And the tailgate — it was a first experience for me, but I had a great time on it. It was pretty awesome.
What was the worst challenge?
I don’t think I would ever use instant rice in a restaurant where I worked, and I’ve very rarely ever worked in a restaurant that has a microwave. I’ve never actually owned a microwave.
Did you taste the rice? Was it was even edible?
You know, it’s definitely not my cup of tea. I think Uncle Ben should just look at doing something else. Uncle Ben should just retire to do what he really does.
How was working with a younger assistant?
It’s so hard to be working in a brand new kitchen on a one-off assignment, let alone working with someone you never met before that is ten years old.
Do you agree with the judges’ decision to send you home?
I don’t disagree. I just, was a little surprised, and I feel — even watching the chopping block — it could have been any one of us.
So you don’t feel like you were wronged in any way.
No, I don’t think I was wronged at all there. The only thing I feel wronged is Tom said he was going to buy me a beer after the chopping block. I’m still waiting for my invite.