Top Chef Season Five

Top Chef Exit Interview: Episode Five

In last night’s extra-long episode, the cheftestants banded together to make some bad food and the staff of Food & Wine balked at having to eat it at Gail’s bridal shower. The phrase “deconstructed sushi” was the first sign that the “something new” team was doomed, but its culinary architect, Eugene, was spared from elimination. Rather, it was young Danny Gagnon of Long Island who was sent to pack his knives. Tom didn’t appreciate the chef’s undercooked, unseasoned mushrooms, and Danny’s emphatic defense of his cooking didn’t help matters. We caught up with him by phone this morning to talk about the judges’ bad decision and what’s so new about pickles.

Oh, Danny, if only that were true.

You said in the episode that the word “new” made you think of pickles. Why?
Pickling is an old technique, and basically to make something new you have to start with old first. That’s why I came up with the idea of pickling — do different types of pickling on the plate, and maybe have a protein, a Chilean sea bass or sirloin or filet mignon or something like that, but obviously Gene thought otherwise.

You compared your elimination to a ref making the wrong call in football. What would have been the right call, in your opinion?
The right call would have been getting rid of Eugene and keeping me. Sometimes a football player catches the ball in the end zone, and drops it because of the other guy, but the ref didn’t see it and he made a bad call.

Why should Eugene have gone?
The “sushi master” messed up rice and messed up shrimp tempura. What kind of sushi master does that? It’s kind of ridiculous. Gene should have told them how to eat it, and he didn’t do that.

How’s that?
It was his idea about deconstructed sushi, and he failed to tell everybody how to eat the damn thing. Everybody’s sitting there with their thumbs up their butt, [wondering] “How do I eat this thing?” And that’s where the concept failed.

What other factors contributed to your elimination?
They thought I didn’t do that much. But I made a barbecue sauce from scratch. I’m not taking Peter Luger’s sauce and pouring it out of a bottle. There’s a lot of steps involved and a lot of technique involved in making a barbecue sauce. I was kind of shocked.

While you were there, did you ever feel outmaneuvered by the experience of the older contestants?
I saw the other contestants as actually a little less talented than I was. Ariane — I always resort back to Ariane, when she was like “Move over, little kids, here comes the older woman” — Get outta here. The judges spit your food out into a napkin. You should have been eliminated. It’s ridiculous that she’s still on the show.

She’s been winning challenges. What do you think about that?
I think it’s a bunch of malarkey. I can’t take away what people did, and I can’t go on from the past and change things, but the proof’s in the pudding — and her pudding sucked. Her pudding got spit out into a napkin, and people will always remember that.

Are Stefan and Fabio as annoying as they appear to be on the show?
Yeah. These guys are really, really annoying. There’s been multiple cases when I wanted to just throw them off the balcony. But unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to touch the contestants. They’re very cocky. They think Americans suck, which pissed me off because I’m an American, and you’re in my backyard here. So watch where you go.

Who’s your personal choice for Top Chef?
My personal pick has to be Hosea. I think he’s the most talented on the show so far, he’s a gentleman, and he can cook his ass off.

What’s your dream job? At the pinnacle of your career, where would you be, what would you be doing?
My pinnacle of my career would be opening up my own restaurant, or being a personal chef. Being a chef is hard. There’s no benefits, no dental, no vision. My dream job is to be happy, to be making good food, making a good salary for my family eventually, and just having medical, dental, and vision, and being comfortable in life. I hope there’s a job out there like that for me.

Top Chef Exit Interview: Episode Five