This week on Top Chef, the dwindling cheftestants took a field trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns to worship at the sustainable altar of Dan Barber. Working in teams of three, the chefs prepared meals around proteins of chicken, lamb, or pork. Team Chicken kept it simple, stupid, and won with a chicken cutlet. The pork team foolishly stripped the meat of its delicious fat, but their fried green tomatoes allowed for a slight edge over Team Lamb’s poorly tied roast. Montclair chef Ariane Duarte, who in a previous episode proved adept at lamb, packed her knives and went through the tunnel. She spoke to us today.
What did you think of the challenge? Were you on Top Chef or Top Butcher?
Trying to collaborate as a team when you have two people who have already established a relationship and kind of being that third wheel, it was kind of difficult.
It seems like you didn’t get to do any of the cooking.
I cooked the lamb. I made the sauce. [Hosea] did potatoes and something else, and [Leah] did the salad. There wasn’t really that much to do. Maybe we just didn’t do enough.
Did you expect to be eliminated?
I took a chance. I did something that maybe I wasn’t so familiar with. I never gave up, I never stopped communicating with my teammates. When it came to judges’ table, it all just fell on me and everyone just stood there. I definitely thought it was going to be Radhika. And then when her team won for the green tomatoes, I knew we were in trouble. You learn how the judges speak — all they talked about was the lamb, and that was me.
But you certainly had a good run on the show. Many people thought you’d be eliminated in the first two weeks. Were you proud of your time there?
One of the reasons I tried out for the show was to grow as a person in front of a camera and to prove to myself that I could cook under pressure and take on all these challenges. When you’ve been in the restaurant business for as long as I have, you get a little stagnant. I definitely grew as a person. I’m definitely proud of myself. I had some really great wins.
This week’s winning dish was a chicken cutlet, reinforcing the notion that Top Chef rewards simplicity. Is your cooking straightforward?
Absolutely. Sometimes, less is more. If you get crazy, you can really make a mess of it.
Who was your favorite judge?
I felt Tom had it out for me. I love Padma. When I left, she really stood up for me.
Are you looking to open a restaurant here in New York?
I’ve been approached by several people, but I think I’m staying in Jersey right now. This is home. We love where we’re at and we have some wonderful customers. Montclair has been great to us.
What advice do you have for future contestants?
Sometimes, to be simple isn’t bad.