Fresh off a reprieve and a little holiday break, it was time for the remaining contestants to step up their game. This week, two chefs were eliminated after serving up a family-style meal that was subjected to a blind taste test assessed by new judge Toby Young and, in a twist, each other. Calling separately, this week’s ousted chefs … Melissa and Gene … opened up about where they went wrong, what they think about the outspoken Young and face up to our five burning questions. … -Brian Orloff
So what did you think of Toby Young?Melissa: I didn’t know anything about him. Most of us hadn’t even heard of him. I think he’s very strongly opinionated – and he’s a man of words. I don’t know if I appreciate how he describes things because … I don’t think he uses food descriptions. I think he’s just making fun, in a way, and that’s pretty brutal. I respect him as a critic and a judge, but I think he and I are completely opposite . We all missed Gail once Toby opened his mouth.
Going into this challenge, nobody had been eliminated. What was the climate in the kitchen this week?Gene: It was stressful. I was on the bottom three in two previous episodes and I just wanted to get a win. I was dying for a win. Melissa: I think everyone was very focused on what we were doing. We were just trying to create the best food we could to represent ourselves.
Take us through your approach to this challenge and where you might have gone wrong.Gene: I like to think outside the box and I’m a risk taker. I’ve cooked it before. And daikon is a tricky ingredient. You either hate it or you love it – and the majority of the public just knows daikon served cold when you go eat at sushi bars. It’s an acquired taste. Melissa: I think this was probably the hardest challenge for me. I’ve been doing Latin American food for the past three years, and I wanted to do something that was upscale Latin street food that was family style. I just really wanted to make something light and refreshing but to have a lot of different textures to the dish.
What did you think about the twist – that you cooked for your competitors?Gene: It felt weird, especially seeing the other chefs being the tasters because we thought this was probably everybody’s chance to talk down about everybody’s food. But it went well. It got kind of scary once I heard Toby Young talk about Rhadika’s dish. But all in all, are going to say what they want to say about other ‘s cooking. Melissa: It was hard to watch that critique. We all ripped each other’s food up — and rightfully so. I wasn’t impressed with anyone’s food that day. But at the same time, that’s what the point of that was – to show that we need to do better than this.
What did you hope to prove by being on the show?Gene: In this day and age, tend to forget about hard work and I wanted to show them that if you just put your head down and work hard, you can still get places. I think I opened doors for who weren’t fortunate enough to go to culinary school – like I didn’t.
Our Top Chef 5 Burning Questions: Describe your Top Chef experience in one word.Gene: Fabulous. Melissa: Exciting.
What is in your refrigerator right now?Gene: Kimchi and Spam, actually. Melissa: Sriracha
Name one food you cannot stand.Gene: Lima beans. Melissa: Natto – it’s fermented soy beans.
Pick your favorite fast-food restaurant.Gene: McDonald’s. Melissa: In-N-Out Burger.
Best thing about cooking in New York?Gene: The . Melissa: The feeling you get when you’re there – the buzz.