Back of the House

‘Top Chef’ Castoff Has No Love for Rick Bayless

Erik Hopfinger's weapon of choice.
Erik Hopfinger’s weapon of choice.

Last night on Top Chef, San Franciscan Erik Hopfinger was ousted for his poorly rendered gourmet tacos and his sad, soggy corn dogs. But this setback doesn’t stop the 38-year-old from pursuing chef-fashion projects and singing the praises of his cheftestant-in-arms, Spike. New York’s Michael Alan Connelly talked to Erik this afternoon.

What have you been up to since you left Top Chef?
I’m just running my restaurant and cooking food. I just launched my own Website. I’m going to do some custom-designed chef coats with some tattoo artists that will design sleeves on the chef coats.

Has Top Chef afforded you any new opportunities?
I’m getting in touch with a couple different people about different opportunities and some of them are a lot more high-profile than I would expect. My guys are talking to Vince Neil from Mötley Crüe.

You had trouble with Rick Bayless’s challenge of making a fine-dining taco.
I think gourmet and Mexican just don’t belong together. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with making great Mexican food. Fine dining? Eh, not so much.

Bayless also criticized your plating, which wasn’t the first time that happened.
My presentation skills were definitely not where they needed to be. I’m not a line cook, and I definitely should have been before I went on the show.

On camera you said Rick could “go screw himself” if he didn’t like your tacos. Do you regret saying that?
Absolutely not. I stand by that comment 110 percent. That’s somebody I don’t really dig as a television personality or a chef.

On a previous episode you described yourself as a “soul chef.” What exactly does that mean?
I’m a third-generation chef. I was pretty much born in the kitchen, man. There was never any other thought of any other career.

You got eliminated for your corn dogs. Were they your team’s weakest offering?
Probably not.

What was weaker?
There was that whole chip bar that I wasn’t really down with, and obviously Zoi’s pasta salad was subpar.

Last week and this week, you had to prepare food somewhere and then take it elsewhere. Were the challenges too similar for you?
It was weird having seven people and having to pick one person to do things. There were other people who didn’t really do anything.

If you watch, what did Andrew take part in in that whole episode? He didn’t do a damn thing. He helped everyone cook, but he didn’t own up to anything.

Who might actually win?
I would like to see Spike win it. I really dig his cooking style. Most likely a female’s going to win. Out of all the dishes that I tasted, Stephanie and Antonia’s were the strongest.

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‘Top Chef’ Castoff Has No Love for Rick Bayless