Photo: Myles Aronowitz / Bravo
Slashfood's exclusive exit interviews with the latest All-Stars contestant to get the boot. In an effort to prevent spoilers, we've included the text after the jump.
When Anthony Bourdain says your dish tastes like a head shop, you know you've got problems. During Season 1 of Top Chef, Stephen Asprinio was known more for his high-end suits and encyclopedic wine knowledge than his cooking skills. Seven seasons later, not much has changed. Asprinio went into his challenge – cooking a dish in the style Michael White's seafood-focused Italian restaurant Marea -- with confidence, but ultimately overloaded his plate of fennel-pollen–scented salmon and was sent home along with fellow contestant Dale Levitski.
Were you hesitant to come back to an All-Stars season after being out of the kitchen for so long?
This is the most cooking I've done since Top Chef Season 1. I don't cook on a day-to-day basis anymore, and I don't claim to be a working chef – that would be silly. I'm pretty much a businessman in the hospitality industry now. For me, coming to Top Chef All-Stars wasn't about the competition, it was about the experience. I would have been out of my mind if I thought I was going to come in and wipe out people like Angelo Sosa, Tre Wilcox and Richard Blais. It's just not what I do anymore.
You were confident coming into this challenge, but the judges said it needed editing. What happened?
I just think I was trying to compensate for my personal shortcomings. I was out of practice and I just overcomplicated my dish. I think if I'd just grounded myself a little bit, I would have come out on top. Unfortunately, I just got a little too crazy on that plate.
What's changed in the Top Chef universe since Season 1?
It's evolved in an amazing way. Now these kids are getting $10,000 for Quickfire challenges and have every imaginable ingredient under the sun in the Top Chef kitchen. We didn't have any of those things. We had to work with basically nothing. Now there's stuff to do molecular gastronomy, every spice known to man from every part of the world -- it's just a different ball game now.
Do you think the judging has been fair this season?
Without a doubt. To say it wouldn't be fair would be questioning the credibility of Tom Colicchio. There's no incentive for him to do anything other than be fair. It's not like he's benefitting in any way.
Any bickering in the house this year?
The level of professionalism in this season is unparalleled. I've seen some disgraceful things happen in seasons past. Even myself -- in my season I was very young, and very arrogant. I was still finding myself as a person and as a professional. I'm older now, and now you see everyone's matured, everyone respects each other. I can't believe how happy it was in the house, everyone was just so content. There was so much camaraderie that it really did feel like a true family.
Who is a threat to win?
Without a doubt, I'd say Angelo Sosa, Richard Blais, Tiffani Faison, and from what I saw from Dale Talde, he's in the running as well.