As told to Nuzhat Naoreen.
Oddly enough, even though most people haven’t run a restaurant, this is the challenge that is most relatable [to them]. Even though they [may not be able to] make all the meals, they understand what makes a good restaurant experience. In a way, they’re armchair judging this one even more.
I like all the challenges. Sometimes [restaurant wars] is [my favorite challenge], sometimes it isn’t. It depends on the season. This season it wound up being [a favorite]. I like individual challenges better than theme challenges in general because it’s easier to compare them. Sometimes in a group challenge, it’s hard [to compare] because you don’t know who did what and some people are more reluctant to be honest. So, it can make the flow of information uneven. This restaurant wars in particular wound up being really interesting because we divided [the teams] by gender, and we’ve never done that before.
A lot of times we’ve been accused of sexism because not that many women make it to the finale. The truth is — [though] Tom and I are not involved in this — we try really hard when we cast the show to have an even balance of men and women. If you look at the real professional food world, you will see a very uneven balance. So, we actually bend over backwards to make sure we find interesting, talented, and experienced women to be on the show and we were excited that there were enough women by the time restaurant wars came around that there was an even number. Then, of course, the women won.
I think [the women] were really concentrated on the food. It’s not “Top House Manager.” You’ll wait a long time for food if it’s good. But if you wait a long time and the food is not good, then you’re like, “Okay, I’m never going back to that restaurant.” It’s an expectation thing. If you wait and you wait and you wait, and when you [taste the dish], you say, “I wish I had waited less — but wow, it was delicious,” you kind of forget the waiting. It’s like childbirth. The moment that baby is put in your arms you forget about all the pain.
[Beverly won] because of the food. That plate was on point. It was everything she promised and then some. It was delicious.
[The women] aren’t going to gang up on Beverly in front of us. That’s not to their advantage. Now, if Beverly does something in the kitchen that hinders their own food and jeopardizes their being in the competition, then of course they’re going to speak up like Heather did. Going back and watching the episode after we had left Texas, I didn’t realize how hard Heather hit Beverly — like, how mean and awful she was. I didn’t realize that. I’m sure there was a lot of stuff that didn’t get captured on film. I just think that tensions are high in the kitchen when we’re filming a TV show, when people are away from their families, so I think it had a lot to do with that.
[Lindsay] was very specific about how she wanted [her dish] expedited. If I tell my girlfriend, “Make sure you take the soufflé out at 7:23 because I know my oven works this way, and it needs to be taken out at 7:23,” and she does that, you can’t blame her [for how it turns out]. Your dish, your responsibility. If you want to be in the front of the house because you think that’s going to help you in the competition in some way, then you choose a dish that’s not so time sensitive. You choose a protein like a braised meat rather than a fish that’s so delicate and has so many components to put together.
NEXT PAGE: ‘I think the men lost because they weren’t working together.’
I think the men lost because they weren’t working together. They seemed organized but they just weren’t paying attention to detail.
I loved the concept [behind the name Canteen]. Expectations or managing expectations in your customers is very important. So I liked that it was not trying to be fancy. It said, “We’re doing canteen food because that’s what people like to eat when they just want to eat something yummy.” I like the [concept], I just think that it didn’t follow through. At the end of the day, the theme or concept that the chefs layer on top of their food helps, but if the food doesn’t deliver…
[It was important for the boys to expedite the dishes because] delicious food sitting in a pan is not delicious food seven minutes later on a plate that’s been waiting to be picked up. If you’ve got a warm plate, which you should have, and you have a sauce on it and it’s under some warming lights, if it sits there and it doesn’t get picked up, then that sauce congeals because of the heat.
Cooking is three things — it’s many things, but mostly it’s three things. It is ingredients and how you put them together; heat and other ways of manipulating the chemical makeup of those ingredients (marination, freezing, dehydrating, but mostly it’s heat); and timing. The amount of time you administer heat to a compound of ingredients is what cooking is. That’s why the clock is your enemy on Top Chef.
I think [Paul’s] pâté was nice. It was very homey and canteen-y, but the idea of the pâté was still elevated and kept in mind what we’re going for — the big picture of the show.
It’s always a hard decision [to vote someone out], because these chefs are pouring their heart into everything they’re making. I have so much admiration for them, for what they get put through and what they agree to put themselves through. I really like Ty-Lör, but on that day it was right that he went.