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


Come hither, PadmaCourtesy of Bravo

Chris Jacobsen, a.k.a. CJ, got the boot on Top Chef last night, much to Adam Platts 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 hes 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 didnt blanch it very much. I knew it had to go in those weird ovens and I didnt want it to get overcooked. But they did, and looked bad, so I didnt want to send them out. I said, Im not sending these out. But they said, "You have to send them out."

Who did?
I cant 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?
Howies 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 hes going to win?
If I had to pick a winner, I would say Caseys kind of on a roll. Since she did that carpaccio with crispy leek and roe, shes constantly surprising us. I dont think Hung or Brian is going to win. Hungs got to put his soul in his food a little more. His technique is flawless, but theres something shiny and brassy about it. You dont feel the love. Food is a sensual thing, and if theres no sensuality, whats the point?

Whats 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. Hes never outrageous, never says anything just for a laugh. He could easily throw out Bourdain-type comments, but he never did. Thats 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? Shes running from me now, but...

Well, maybe you have a shot now that shes done with Wild Salman.
I think shell just keep running.

Related: Pain, Empathy, and Ennui Over Last Nights Top Chef