Back of the House

‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner CJ on the Broccolini Backstory, and Why Hung’s Food Is Soulless

Come hither, Padma
Come hither, Padmahaha

Chris Jacobsen, a.k.a. CJ, got the boot on Top Chef last night, much to Adam Platt’s dismay, as well as the dismay of many viewers. The 6’10” former volleyball player from Venice Beach was an audience favorite for his unpretentious, self-effacing style, but now he’s back in the real world. We had a chance to talk with him about Hung, Howie, and why he thinks he has a shot with Padma Lakshmi.

So what happened with that broccolini? How could you send something like that out to the judges?
Well, I didn’t blanch it very much. I knew it had to go in those weird ovens and I didn’t want it to get overcooked. But they did, and looked bad, so I didn’t want to send them out. I said, “I’m not sending these out.” But they said, “You have to send them out.”

Who did?
I can’t tell you specifically. But it was production. I said, “I lose if I send these out,” and I did. In retrospect I should have said, “Screw you,” but I did send it out so it is my fault.

Was Howie difficult to get along with?
Howie’s difficult, but not that difficult. He just takes everything so personally. It’s like, if you said to him, “Howie, do you want chocolate or vanilla?” he would be like, “I’m not the type of guy that wants vanilla….” Hung was more disappointing to me as a person. I liked the guy in the house, but not the guy on TV. At least in the house he was a little more mellow and cool.

Do you think he’s going to win?
If I had to pick a winner, I would say Casey’s kind of on a roll. Since she did that carpaccio with crispy leek and roe, she’s constantly surprising us. I don’t think Hung or Brian is going to win. Hung’s got to put his soul in his food a little more. His technique is flawless, but there’s something shiny and brassy about it. You don’t feel the love. Food is a sensual thing, and if there’s no sensuality, what’s the point?

What’s your attitude toward Tom Colicchio?
Tom was one of the best parts, if not the best part, of the whole experience. He had all our respect, even Hung. His opinions are always just. He’s never outrageous, never says anything just for a laugh. He could easily throw out Bourdain-type comments, but he never did. That’s why we cared about impressing him so much.

What about Padma?
Did you see the wanton and sad expression Padma had when I walked off stage? She’s running from me now, but…

Well, maybe you have a shot now that she’s done with Wild Salman.
I think she’ll just keep running.

Related: Pain, Empathy, and Ennui Over Last Night’s ‘Top Chef’

‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner CJ on the Broccolini Backstory, and Why Hung’s