Top Chef’s war against the young waged on last night, as 28-year-old Jill Snyder got the boot while the more mature (but not necessarily more talented) Ariane lived to see another elimination challenge. After serving up a truly scary hot-dog spring roll in the Quickfire, Jill fell flat with her ostrich-egg quiche, which one diner described as “dog food.” After spending a night laughing at the episode with friends, the tired ex-cheftestant spoke with us this morning about the joys of cooking in Craft’s kitchen and why Ariane should have gone home instead.
Were you watching the show last night?
I just watched it with three or four people. I was on the phone a bit, with my mom and my sister.
Was it emotional to watch it? Do you feel like it’s in the past?
Well, it is in the past, but I’m going to have to read the blogs. I was told not to, but I’m going to anyway…
It was a New American challenge. Do you stand by your choice to use an ostrich egg?
Originally, I wanted to make a dessert for that challenge, but everybody got shuffled around. I can do an entrée — I wasn’t worried about that part — but we’d gone to the Whole Foods, and I saw these ostrich eggs, and they struck me as a really interesting ingredient. The challenge was for lunch, and a quiche is very popular, so I went with using a really original ingredient to do a somewhat common dish. There’s a fair amount of skill involved in that, setting the quiche up in the water bath, having it set up just right. And I didn’t get any points for that, so I was a little surprised.
Of course you tasted it — did you think the flavors came together?
Yes! I didn’t have a problem with the flavors. Grilled Maitake mushrooms, asparagus, and Gruyère cheese — those go great together.
Your dish was not alone in being criticized, but was it the worst one there?
I hate to go back to Ariane, but they spit hers out — nobody even ate hers. It was bad, and the presentation was … you know, it was in a martini glass … When it comes down to it, it was between me and her, and I’m really surprised that that was the way it went.
How was it cooking in Craft? Was that an awe-inspiring experience?
Yeah, Tom’s kitchen is amazing. I’ve worked in a lot of different kitchens, and that was probably the nicest kitchen. It was very organized, everything made sense.
Did it have any special features you haven’t seen anywhere else?
I haven’t worked with a range like his. He had really nice convenient walk-ins, a whole pastry area to themselves…
Do you think that Tom was especially hard on this challenge, just in terms of judging, because it was his restaurant?
I think I got better feedback from Tom than from anyone else. Because it was his own restaurant, he was probably a little tougher than usual.
What have you been up to since the show?
Back to work at Red Maple [in Baltimore]. I’m now interviewing at some other spots because I feel like I want to move on, work somewhere else, or work under another chef, just to keep learning.
Based on your time on Top Chef, who’s the most talented cook there?
I like the past couple of dishes I’ve seen Eugene make. And you have to watch the Europeans. You know, if I lived in Italy my whole life, I’d probably have a lot of skill, too.