Photo: Virginia Sherwood / 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.
Antonia Lofaso was pretty impressive during Season 4 -- she made the finals, after all -- but she showed up for All Stars with a new and improved swagger. It looked like she might have a shot at the final two, but she was eliminated in a nail-biter of an episode. After a grueling elimination challenge that involved cooking a "last supper" for Masaharu Morimoto, Wolfgang Puck and Michelle Bernstein, she and Mike Isabella were sent back to compete for the last finale spot. Her "one-bite" dish of grouper had its fans, but Mike eventually nabbed the chance to cook off against Richard Blais in the finale. Find out why she initially said no to the All-Stars season, and what her family is cooking up with Mike's.
Are you happy with the way that you were portrayed this season?
I am. And it's kind of hard to say it was the way I was portrayed, because it's really just the way that you are. I know a lot of chefs try to say that it's editing that gives them a bad rap, but I felt like I came off differently this season, a little more confident and stronger, because I was a little bit more confident and a little bit stronger. I was really proud of what I did and I was really happy that it came across. The whole experience was really postive. Going in there I had a really harsh strong attitude because I knew that was the only thing that was going to get me to the end.
What did you think when you got invited to do All-Stars?
No. [Laughs] I said absolutely not. I thought, I can't do this again, are you crazy? I really did, initially I said no because, listen, this is one of the hardest things I've ever done, even the first time around. Make no mistake: There is no easy way around this competition. You have to go full-force straight into the fire and every day remind yourself that that's why you're there, and never waver. And I felt like I did that the first time, and if I was going to do that the second time I knew how much it takes out of you, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It's a really hard thing to go through. This is something that is also precious to us, and to put it out there for thousands of people to see is just a hard thing for me. I had done so well in my season, and I thought if I do this again and I don't do well, then what I did before will never be remembered. It was a very hard decision to make.
Was it better to go out on such a close decision, or do you wish it had been more clear-cut?
I would have been devastated if I'd made a mistake like I did in my finale where I undercooked something or didn't do something well. It was just based on somebody's preference. Because food is so subjective, you know what may to great to somebody might not be so great to somebody else. I preferred to go out exactly like I did. I gave them a dish that came right from me, right from what I was feeling in that moment. You know what? If it was that close? Even better.
When you saw that you were going to have to cook another round, what were you thinking?
We knew that there was something else coming, but we didn't know what it was. But Tom told us when we first got to the Bahamas: "Listen, this isn't going to be an easy road." So after we had a three-hour cook and all the anxiety and pressure that we went through, I didn't expect it to be over that quickly.
What's your relationship like with Mike now? Do you still talk?
Yeah, we still have playful Twitter banter. Believe it or not, our families have really sort of taken to this idea that we're related and they're trying to dig deep and find out where, exactly. I think they might be planning Thanksgiving dinner. I told Mike, "I'll see you at Christmas."