Photo: David Giesbrecht / Bravo
This week marks the return of Slashfood's exclusive exit interviews with the latest Top Chef contestant to get the boot. In an effort to prevent spoilers, we've included the text after the jump.
From the start, Miami based chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo stood out as one of the more brash, opinionated contestants in the Top Chef: D.C. bunch -- immediately after Episode 1, she posted "Just Sayin'," a YouTube video responding to host Padma's critique of her food (which has since been removed). As the season progressed, the producers started to show a more charming side of Andrea after she won Episode 4's "Room Service" elimination challenge. On Episode 5's Quickfire, Andrea was confronted with her Miami rival Michelle Bernstein, who judged her food to be less than appealing -- faced with that embarrassing criticism, she remained as poised as she was vulnerable.
In the end, the judges had issues with her pan-seared swordfish and its overpowering vanilla-mustard beurre blanc.
Slashfood spoke with Andrea about the now infamous "peagate," being confronted with Bernstein and the inspiration behind the curious white maple gravy she served with the miniature chicken and waffles.
This week's episode was like that movie Clue -- a classic "whodunit" – except everyone kind of knows who did it.
ACR: Actually, it was me. I took [the pea purée] and gave it to Alex because I thought he needed a little help.
How nice of you.
ACR: Just kidding.
Well did he take it or not? What's the vibe?
ACR: You know, I don't know. Everyone is innocent until proving guilty. I can't say that I actually saw him take it. All I know is that I never saw him make pea purée and I know that Ed had pea purée and at the end it was on Alex's plate. That is as much as I know. I saw the poll on Bravo last night and the viewers were 90% sure. So you can go with that.
Okay, I'll go with that very scientific polling. You unfortunately got dismissed for a vanilla issue. What's worse: over-salting or over sweetening with vanilla?
ACR: I guess on that show, over sweetening is worse. It's a judges table and in their minds vanilla was the loser, so I pack my knives and go. You know what I mean? It can go any way.
Speaking of judging, last week Michelle Bernstein, someone who you're familiar with judged you -- is that fair?
ACR: You know, I don't know that it's really fair. I was surprised to see her there and a little bit uncomfortable. I don't know if someone can judge fairly in that situation. It was what it was and when you sign up to play this game, anything can happen. It's beyond my control. But it definitely made me a bit uncomfortable. Did I deserve to be in the bottom three on that Quickfire challenge? In my mind, no. In many people's minds, no.
Every contestant probably has a rivalry at some point, but you don't see people really deal with it in that situation.
ACR: Yeah. What can I say. I didn't hide it, I'm not that kind of person. I don't know that it was very fair but I don't make the rules. It's over.
Last night you made some chicken and waffles -- they looked like one of the best things out there.
ACR: I thought so. I mean who doesn't like chicken and waffles?
I don't know...insane people?
ACR: You know, who thought a cucumber cup could go on a toothpick either? I learn new stuff every day.
Can you tell a little about the sauce you made, the maple white gravy?
ACR: It was thinking "biscuits and gravy" and going with the whole southern vibe. That was the idea of it. Sometimes you just pull stuff from out of nowhere.
Were there dishes you cooked that you thought were great but were overlooked?
ACR: You know, I've been doing this for years. I'm pretty confident in my ability to cook. At the barbecue, I thought my dish was awesome and so did the people who ate it and so did my colleagues. But it kind of got passed over. It's all about the people who are judging it and what they prefer. I can't go back and second guess. I keep my dignity intact. I have so much going on in my life --Top Chef, albeit a very interesting experience, is a really small piece of who Andrea Curto-Randazzo is.
Have you seen a spike in business this summer?
ACR: A little. At Talula, here in South Beach, it's just so seasonal and in the summer it's dead anyways. So it's hard to gauge. But I do have some people coming in because of the show and the new restaurant that I'm at, The Water Club, I have people coming in just to see me. People would notice me around; at first it was a little uncomfortable because I dig my privacy. It's really nice and I guess I just got a big taste of how popular the show is. I'm one of those contestants who didn't watch the show prior, so I guess I never realized it. I kind of wished I had, because everyone else on the show seemed to have been for years.
I remember after the first episode, you posted a response video -- did you get in trouble for that?
ACR: I can't talk about that.
Did you try anyone else's dishes, something you thought was killer?
ACR: I did from time to time, try other people's dishes. I can't remember anything in particular that stood out, but I did get a good gauge of who can do what and whose restaurants I would like to eat at.