'Top Chef' eliminated contestant talks strong audience reaction: 'It's wild, honestly'
SPOILER ALERT: Don’t keep reading unless you want to know who was eliminated from Top Chef last night.
That sound you hear isn’t Josh twirling his mustache because he has the fry-est chicken in the land. It’s the sound of Top Chef fans everywhere reacting to the elimination of chef-testant Josie Smith-Malave — some with anger, and some (#teamjosie) with sighs. Last night’s episode saw Chef Josie slip up on the fried chicken challenge, which the judges found too greasy. EW checked in with her about Kristen-gate, audience reaction and what’s next.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like, going into that episode: Was your mind-set really just to prove that you deserved to be there?
Yes. [laughs] Yeah.
Obviously the episode spent a bit of time revisiting Kristen and Restaurant Wars, so there was a lot of focus of you coming out of that challenge. Was that where you were coming from, too?
Yeah, you have to — that’s what Top Chef is about. You’re gonna have successes and failures and you have to keep your head up and you can’t even let the last challenge affect you. I mean, once the judges make their call, you’ve gotta move on. You can’t second-guess it. You have to be like “Okay, done. Now I’m gonna do the next challenge — what do we do?” And you have to have perseverance and you have to keep on moving forward, really regardless of what’s happening around you.
Were you surprised by the fried chicken challenge? Were you prepared? From the couch, it looked like you were pretty prepared up until judges’ table. What was your reaction like?
God, I was like, “Fried chicken, are you kidding me? Like this is ridiculous.” But maybe I should’ve just focused on making fried chicken and not included the idea to go with biscuits and salad. This was the challenge that I was trying to prove something I guess, and I was trying to be a little more ambitious, I guess, ‘cause I just know how I like to eat fried chicken and I like to eat it with some biscuits and that’s how we do it. So I think I should have just focused on the chicken and then given the judges what they wanted and maybe this would be a different conversation.
Do you think the judges made the right call? Was your biggest mistake really the grease?
You know, I got a lot of feedback that day at the table. I know that’s not what I heard at the table. The biggest problem with my fried chicken was the grease — I mean really? The last time I checked, fried chicken is kind of greasy, that’s what I know. I’m not gonna lie and say, “Okay, sure, I could’ve let it drain a little more and it wouldn’t have been as greasy.” But the fried chicken sandwich at my spot in San Francisco is the most popular. It’s my best seller. I mean, fried chicken — whatever. And I think Stefan, they were unimpressed with his cordon bleu. I don’t know if mine was the worse.
Now that the show is airing, you get a big reaction from the fans. Were you conscious at all of, “Maybe my behavior is going to elicit this reaction.” Or were you surprised, once the episodes started airing?
I know, tell me about it. Talk about strong reactions. I didn’t realize that the mention of my name or the introduction of a photo could cause such a riot. It’s wild, honestly. And it’s cool, too. [laughs] I’m not gonna lie. At first I was a little hurt by the things people were saying. And I had a few conversations with friends and family and they said, “Josie, really, give me a break. You’re this, you’re that. Don’t let what they say — unless they know you and unless they’ve eaten your food, they should just shut up.”
Heading into Last Chance Kitchen, from where I sat, the energy in the room seemed really pro-Kristen. What was it like during taping?
I was just like, “Listen, why do we even have to do this? Just give it to Kristen. I don’t care. I don’t care!” I never wanted to see Kristen go home. We were roommates, we hung out plenty. At the end of the day, when I heard her say a few things, she’s young — she probably could have been a little more tactful with what she was saying on-camera. I’m not going to hold it against her; there are no hard feelings. The same goes for Brooke: there are no hard feelings. They showed this season that they were catty. They acted like little mean girls and that’s fine, that’s their personality. I happen to know that Brooke is a really nice girl when she’s not insulting me. And the same thing goes for Kristen and they’re both very super talented and it was an honor to be in the same room with all of these chefs.
Looking back over the season, what was your favorite challenge and your biggest moment?
My best moment had to be winning immunity and being awarded that immunity by Dana Cowin from Food & Wine. One of my favorite challenges — I really loved the oyster challenge, it was neat, even though I got stuck in the mud. It was a first-time experience and I’ll never forget that, it was so much fun. And eating those fresh oysters. That was an incredible experience.
What’s next? Oh my God — watch what happens, man! You can go to my website, chefjosie.com, and keep up with what’s happening, there’s a lot going on. When I come out and tell people, “Rock ‘n’ roll” or “Rock on, rock star,” I’m not kidding. I’ve lived that life. That’s how I roll.