Photo: Giovanni Rufino / Bravo
Here's this week's installment of Slashfood's exclusive exit interviews with the latest "Top Chef All-Stars" contestant to get the boot. In an effort to prevent spoilers, we've included the text after the jump.
This week's "Top Chef All-Stars" was all business. (See Slashfood's full recap post.) The cheftestants were yanked out of bed before dawn, turned loose on the open seas, and told to catch as many fish as they could and then serve them up. No Quickfire challenge, no bells and whistles -- just catch and cook. With the threat of a double elimination looming, everyone scrambled, and Season 1 finalist and Boston-based chef Tiffani Faison was sent home for serving up bluefish with crispy skin. Keeping the skin meant the fish's unappealing blood line had to stay, too, and the judges couldn't get over it. Faison talks about that choice, and reveals why she thinks the team of Richard, Marcel, and Fabio copped out.
Nichol Nelson: After you were eliminated, you said you were happy with the way you were perceived this time. What did you mean by that?
Tiffani Faison: In terms of food alone, I saw myself in the first season, but I never really saw me. It was kind of confounding to my friends and family, and I think I just wanted to make sure that it was me this time.
NN: Now that you have a season and a couple of special episodes under your belt, is it easier to cook under pressure?
TF: It's way easier in front of the cameras this time. Before, it was completely alien. There's a lot that's easier this time around, but I think maybe for those of us from Season 1, it was a little bit harder. We've been out of it for so long and it's a completely different setup -- from ingredients to the kitchen to the way the game is played. Some things are the same, and some things are much different. But going into this season, I was much more comfortable. You forget how hard it is until you get back into it, and then you think, 'Oh, yeah, I remember this now.'
NN: Do you regret the choices you made with your dish?
TF: I don't know that I would have done exactly the same thing, but I wouldn't have done it much differently. The things other people did really well -- the fish tacos, the lettuce wraps -- I completely appreciate those, but it's not what I would have done. I think I just cooked really consistently with who I am and what my food is.
NN: Were you irritated that the all-boys team did only one dish?
TF: It was interesting. It's a strategy that obviously could have worked out well for them or not. You have a lot of strong opinions and strong cooks on one team, so it was disappointing to me that no one was really held accountable for not standing up and saying that there was too much on the plate or that the plate was not right. The thing that disappointed me more than anything else is that they caught bluefish. And they chose not to use it. They were at the mercy of what they were catching, I understand that, and I hate to sound like a hippie, but it's about sustainable cooking. If you kill something, you cook it. I think there's a moral obligation to cook it, to represent it in some way. For them to just do one dish and ignore the other fish in your cooler, I think that was a little irresponsible.