‘Top Chef’ Exit Interview: Episode One

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It came as a shock last night when not one, but two, doe-eyed cheftestants were sent home on the season premiere of Top Chef. Lauren Hope left her knife skills at home not even her sweet southern charm worked on Colicchio after she served him an uninspired apple-and-bacon salad in the Quickfire. Soft-spoken and unequivocally adorable Patrick Dunlea managed to make it to the elimination, but fell short of the judges expectations when he represented Chinatown with a slab of salmon and some gummy noodles. We spoke to both this morning about the pleasure and pain of being the first contestants to get cut this season.

Top Chef

CIA student Patrick Dunlea and steakhouse chef Lauren Hope were the first to be eliminated from Top Chef: New York.Photos: Courtesy of Bravo

LAUREN HOPE

You had to go so quickly!
After getting to know my competitors and realizing how talented they were, it might have been fair that it was me.

Were you the least talented on there?
I dont want to say the least talented, but I would certainly say that Patrick and I rank as the most inexperienced.

Is it awful to be sent home for something as basic as knife skills?
It was absolutely shocking! I have a special place in my heart for apples, as far as baking apple pies and going to apple orchards, so I was embarrassed.

What are you doing now?
Ive been working in Cincinnati, at a restaurant called Jags Steak and Seafood. Its a very upscale, very nice place. Ive just been working every station there.

What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I would love to open my own wedding-cake shop. Im definitely much more of a pastry chef than culinary.


PATRICK DUNLEA

Patrick, my condolences! Its very unusual for a culinary student to be on Top Chef. Why did they cast you?
I gave them my heart and I poured it out to them and I told them that cooking is my life, and I wanted to prove that to them. Ive got the skill set everyone else has, its just Ive been tested on them more recently.

The Quickfire knife-skills challenge was as basic as it gets.
It always does come down to the basic skills. However, when those basic skills are put to a time test, or youre competing against one another, the basic skills dont become so basic, and things like peeling an apple become really difficult.

You lost the elimination challenge with bad noodles. Have you had any experience cooking Chinese cuisine?
There is a Cuisines of Asia class that we take for three weeks a year, but in that youre also focusing on all of Asia, every cuisine from Indian to Thai and Korean as well. Other than going out and eating Americanized Chinese food, I dont have a lot of experience cooking it.

You're back at CIA right now. Are you a celebrity?
I had the election for student government last night, and I got back to being the president.

Was it embarrassing to watch the episode last night?
It happened a little while ago, so Ive had time to cope. My e-mail and my Facebook profile kind of exploded last night. I had a lot of great support.

Do you miss Team Rainbow?
I do! Were all staying in touch. Were very excited about the fact that there are T-shirts.