You thought you were in line to win. What happened?
[Guest chef] Eric [Ripert] and I weren’t on the same page at all. I don’t think he was a good judge for a cowboy barbeque. He’s a refined, amazing chef, but for this kind of thing they should have brought in Bobby Flay.
Judge Tom Colicchio wrote on his blog that the “colorful hodgepodge” wasn’t enough to distract from the fact that the elk hadn’t braised long enough.
Tom said that? My whole theory was that braising was the best choice. It braised for six hours. There were some pieces that didn’t soften up as much, but the judges got really good pieces. I cooked for the cowboys. I grew up on a ranch, and I wanted to show them something fun and exciting. I didn’t want to scare them with fancy words and chocolate sauce. It was fun, festive, cowboy. They loved it.
What about the cheese?
[Eric] had problems with the cheese. Tom said that it had some crazy flavor combinations, and it worked. I didn’t give it to people because some people are offended by blue cheese. I didn’t want to force anything on the cowboys.
You said the show should be called Top Dish, not Top Chef. What would the real Top Chef be like?
There would be different challenges where people could be in a leadership position. A chef is a leader, motivator, a creator, someone who can run finances and be all these different things. When we did the Bertolli pasta challenge, I broke it down to how much each package would cost. Howie had ten pounds of pork sitting behind him. That would sink your restaurant.
Do you think you’ll be back as a sous-chef in the finale? Who would you want to work with?
My understanding is that there will be some people showing up. Whoever I got, [he or she] would be the winner. I would probably want to be with Dale and Casey, and try to beat Hung.
There’s a lot of controversy over whether Hung has a soul.
He’s got a really young, immature soul. He’s not focused on the right things in life. There’s no point in being an asshole, and that’s how he comes off. When he was watching CJ die cooking at the airport, I was like, “Hung, help CJ,” and he just sat there and washed his knife, and I was like, “Oh, you little asshole.” I think he’s an angry little man. Rebecca Ruiz