Emeril Lagasse
Credit: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo
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As told to Nuzhat Naoreen.

The thing about the show is that it’s so real and so awesome that it’s really hard, especially as time goes on, to eliminate [contestants] because they’re all pouring out their heart and soul. I hate to see them go home because they have so much talent.

[These contestants] have really worked hard at getting where they are right now. Now that the [pool is] getting smaller, we were at six, now it’s five, it’s like right to the point of being on the fence, where you don’t want to see anyone go home, but somebody’s got to go home.

No one has an idea of what’s coming, so you truly have to be mentally prepared and physically prepared. There’s no, “Ok, I won the quickfire or I won the challenge, [so] I’m going out and partying tonight.” No, because you have got to be on your game. Keep in mind, now these guys are living together too. So, they’re really seeing [each other’s] strengths and weaknesses. But they are [also] becoming so bonded that it’s really difficult at this point for anyone to go home.

[The pairings] were not planned in advance. It was basically drawn last minute. I think it was a great balance. I don’t think anybody out-shined or outweighed anyone.

That was a really tough day [because of the] blazing heat. The conditions and the guests were all real. They were all hospitality people from San Antonio. It was not easy. That’s the thing that I just love about the show. It’s like there’s no BS.

I think that [the contestants] all wanted to kind of be safe. The challenge was rough and they wanted to be safe. At this point they are really, really out of energy and out of nerves. So, it is a tough one. You know what I was surprised about? I was surprised that no one went a little more Southwestern.

I would say Sarah [had the biggest challenge in making her dish healthy], because I think everybody predicted what she was going to do, so I think everybody’s expectations were, “This is going to be perfect.”

I would have never done a chicken salad, [like Grayson and Chris, especially] in that heat [and] in those conditions.

It was a reach [for Chris to supplement tofu for mayonnaise]. Keep in mind it’s a 100 degrees. I think some of the people judging and some of the guests were like, “Really? You really have the nerve to do this?” Intellectually, I totally understand what Chris was trying to do but I don’t think at the end of the day it fulfilled everyone’s expectations. I think he was kind of on the fence [prior to this challenge], and I think that this really put him over the fence. He’s a very talented guy.

I think Lindsay has a great attitude and is talented. I think she’s probably underrated out of the group.[Grayson] doesn’t have a great attitude. She gets a little frazzled and gets a little cocky. They’re all getting vocal now. It’s coming down to the wire.

I’m always amazed to see what the public thinks but at the end of the day when you have enough of them as in this case, they’re weighing out what they think as if they were a customer in a restaurant. So, do I necessarily personally agree on the vote? Not necessarily all the time. But the end result, I have to say, is the same thing as being in my restaurant or being in [the contestants’] restaurant. The people, the clientele, they’re the judge. [In this case], I think [the guests] overall did the better job.

When you start talking about Paul, Sarah, Lindsay, Grayson and Ed, you could gamble or pick straws because that’s what it’s really going to come down to. Now it becomes a serious mental game and I can’t wait for you to see what’s coming up.

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