Last night’s episode of Top Chef featured the return of Restaurant Wars, in which the middlebrow gastropub Warehouse Kitchen faced off against the ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful Pan-Asian Mai Buddah. As executive chef of the latter, Dale Talde failed to prevent Lisa from serving two awful dishes and thus was told to pack his knives. New York’s Michael Alan Connelly spoke with him earlier today about why his team had no chance of winning and how his ego got in the way.
How was watching last night’s episode?
I watched it after having dinner at Café Gray. Reenacting the whole thing was a little emotional. I always had the balls to step up to Lisa and say I didn’t like something. She likes to hide behind things and sit behind people and talk all this smack. She talked a lot of smack behind my back and didn’t have the stones to say it to my face. That’s who she is.
She’s kind of intimidating.
Are you kidding me? She’s a young-un in the game, as I am. Intimidating how? She’s just loud.
Maybe not intimidating. She’s kind of aggressive and scary.
Those are your words, I like that. Physically? Appearance-wise? I’ll check those boxes, yes.
Did you not get along with her professionally or personally?
I can work with a lot of people that I don’t like. It’s purely on a personal level. I will never in my life surround myself with such negativity.
You and Stephanie used to work together. Was it different to work with her on Top Chef?
It was like rolling with an old hat. Steph is Steph. We’ve definitely matured in our ways, and her food has definitely evolved.
You’re from Chicago. Did you like that the show was there?
I didn’t get to enjoy it that much, but it was good to be back home. Chicago — I’ll rep that city till I die. I’m working on a tattoo for my back. It’s the Chicago skyline, and it’s going to say “City of Big Shoulders.”
Of the five contestants left, who doesn’t deserve to be there?
Let the scoreboards determine who does not need to be there and who deserves to be there. Look at who has been on the bottom the most. Look at who has been on the bottom consecutively. The competition isn’t about the body of work, it’s about decisions, definitive decisions that you make in a Quickfire or Elimination Challenge.
Were your mistakes more forgivable than Lisa’s?
Adam Platt comes into my restaurant, doesn’t like it, gives me zero stars. Am I going to blame the sous-chef because the food wasn’t good? You blame the executive chef. I let my ego roll out of control. I should have let her be executive chef because I knew that ship was gonna go down. Look who I was left with. They’re like the 2008 New York Knicks — garbage. Spike and Lisa, are you kidding me? You could have put Alain Ducasse in that position and he would have gone down.
What have you been doing since you left the show?
I’m still scrubbing it out at Buddakan, still helping run a $20 million restaurant as a sous-chef. I’ve always had this restaurant movie in my head, so I’m really trying to work on that, on a screenplay and learning how to write one. I’m not hard-core pursuing it, but I’d love to stay in TV.
Do you want to stop cooking?
No, never! There’s other opportunities that get afforded to you, but my main goal is always to do good food.
What are your favorite place to eat here?
Any of Mario Batali’s restaurants. I love Momofuku Ssäm — I like the style of service there. I love Ramen Setagaya; I eat there two or three times a week. I’m biased because I worked at Morimoto, but I still think they have the best sushi in the city. Dovetail is phenomenal. Hands down, Jean Georges.