It’s been a strange couple of weeks for Top Chef fans. Last week’s Thanksgiving Eve episode pitted the cheftestants’ skills against culinary tastes both highbrow (Grant Achatz) and lowbrow (the Foo Fighters) in Rochester, which is a city in New York, but not New York City. In the end, Team Rainbow was demolished when Richard Sweeney, the bearded 27-year-old who was an open admirer of Tom Colicchio, got the boot for serving s’mores. And things got strange in last night’s episode of the competitive cooking show when the cheftestants competed to see who could cook best on a non-cooking program. After a Quickfire in which almost no one followed the rules, most of the cheftestants continued to perform abysmally, but perhaps none more so than Alex Eusebio. With a crème brûlée that didn’t set and a not-made-for-TV personality, he was given the old heave-ho. We spoke to both about being dismissed for failed desserts and about life after the show.
The sole member left from Team Rainbow is Jamie. What are her chances?
She’s had a lot of really good dishes, and she started to get recognized for them in the second episode with “show us your craft,” and they liked some of the stuff she made for the Foo Fighters. So I know she’s just starting to get into a rhythm, and I think that’s really going to start to show in her performance.
Your non-rainbow team was called the Cougars, after Ariane. Is she really a cougar?
She’s not a cougar — she’s a mom, married with kids. It was kind of the nickname we started to give her because she’d be up first thing in the morning running around in her little workout outfit.
Before you left, were you getting sick of Fabio and Stephan’s sort of mutual lovefest?
It’s really edited to show them spending a ton of time together. I thought they were more entertaining than anything else, especially when you throw Danny into the mix and you’ve got three different accents and three people trying to say the same thing but nobody knows what any of them are talking about.
It seems like the younger chefs are consistently being eliminated — Lauren was 24, Patrick was 21, Jill was 28, and you’re 27.
I think it’s just the experience factor coming in, and it’s everybody’s ages. I mean, I didn’t get started cooking until about two years ago. Had I started this when I was 18, I could have been in a totally different situation.
Grant Achatz didn’t respond to your soup well in the Quickfire. Besides lacking acidity, what was wrong with it?
Everybody cooks their food at the same time, and when they get around to tasting your food is when they get around to it. Mine was a bean soup that had rice in it. By the time they got around to my side, it had cooled down a lot, and the rice had really absorbed a lot of the liquid. So they were saying it was really thick — way too thick for soup.
You seemed surprised to go.
I had two dishes that they really didn’t like, but I had one dish that they really enjoyed. I genuinely was surprised that Padma said my name. It was more of a look of shock. Like, ‘Wait, what?’ Everybody confused Danny and I for the first week that we were there. So I was like, ‘Wait a minute, did you just mean to say Danny and said my name?’
Do you miss seeing, as you called him, “Tom Hottie Gay Bear Icon Colicchio” on a regular basis?
I’m never ever going to escape that. I do think Tom’s really cute. And the other part of it is every time you’re around somebody who really knows their stuff and is super competent in what they do and is super successful because they know their stuff so well, it’s just nice to be around that person. But if I manage to get back on for season six, I’ll keep the Tom talk to a minimum.
Were you surprised by your elimination?
Not really. I think it had the snowball effect — Richard left before, and I was bummed out a little about that, and right from there we went to another Quickfire and Elimination Challenge. Not only Richard, but Thanksgiving, I was bummed about that too — my team losing.
Were you distracted or did you want to leave?
I was about to get married, and I didn’t prepare for the wedding — my poor wife had to do everything by herself. That was kind of freaking me out. My vows hadn’t been written, suit hadn’t been measured, none of that kind of stuff. I think a couple of people were trying to annoy me. So I thought, Before I blow up at somebody, it’s time for me to go.
What were you annoyed by? The strong personalities?
I’m not really too used to all the camaraderie in the show. And the European people — that was kind of annoying. Okay, we get it, you’re from Europe.
If you weren’t distracted, would you have done better?
This particular challenge would have been tough for me anyway. It was a really specific challenge, and something that I was never good at, which was talking in public.
Does a top chef need TV skills?
No. No, no, no. The Thomas Kellers of the world don’t really go on TV. The TV world is another different group of people.
What did you learn from the show?
I learned where I was. Being in L.A., it’s kind of like an island. You don’t know where you stand compared to other people. Now I know where I stand.
What are your plans now?
My wife, a singer, wants to go back on Broadway, so we might go to New York! It’s a good time to go to New York for us right now. So either L.A. or New York, but you’ll hear about me somewhere. A musical restaurant!