Love her or hate her, New Yorker Leah Cohen nearly made it to the semifinals of Top Chef. But she was cut on Wednesday after a runny egg dish failed to impress a who’s who of famous chefs. Apart from her food, the chef also cooked up one of the season’s most memorable — and scandalous moments — when she shared a kiss with fellow contestant Hosea, even though both chefs were dating other at the time. Calling from New York, Cohen, 26, talks about the fallout from the kiss, explains why she was “done” with the show long before her ouster and tackles our five burning questions. — Brian Orloff
Everybody is wondering, what’s your relationship with Hosea like now? We’re really good friends. He’s my boy. I love him like a friend. Just straight off the bat we just gravitated together, and it was one night where we kissed. We were drunk and we kissed. It just happened. Of course, I wouldn’t have cheated on my boyfriend on national television, which was probably the most f—-d up thing I did on the show. I can’t take that back. I’ll take full responsibility for my actions.
Do you regret what happened at all?I definitely regret cheating on my boyfriend on national television. He’s not my boyfriend anymore because of what happened on the show and other things. Do I regret kissing Hosea? Um, yes — but no at the same time. I don’t know. It’s weird. Whatever it is, I did it. So, there’s nothing I can do to change it.
You’ve been in the bottom on several occasions. Did you ever feel that you were going to be going home earlier than you did?During Judges’ Table at the farm challenge, I was kind of shocked because I thought “team pig” that was losing team. Then for Restaurant Wars, since we had no idea who was going home, I had made tons and tons of mistakes that day. It was like a bad day of work, but unfortunately if you have a bad day of work on the show, you get kicked off. I would have definitely gone home if it wasn’t for Stefan and Fabio’s work. From then on, I was just over it.
Do you mean you just kind of gave up?I think everyone has a certain level of how much they can take. You can prepare yourself as much as you want, but doing the show, it was way more stressful and challenging than I had ever anticipated. The night of Restaurant Wars, after that challenge, I was just done. I was over feeling the anxiety, the stress and I kind of had enough.
Back to the farm challenge, many thought Ariane, who was on your team, was unfairly eliminated.I really thought that Radhika was going to be eliminated for that challenge, and then when I found out that we were on the bottom, I thought it was between myself and Ariane. They kind of played it like Hosea and I teamed up against Ariane, which was not the case at all. I would have never intentionally thrown Ariane under the bus – nor do I think to this day that I did. And I read that a lot of were upset. I was upset that Ariane got eliminated as well. I didn’t think it was going to be anyone on my team. There’s a level of feeling bad about it, but in the end you’re there for yourself.
Before leaving last night, you said you feel like you didn’t cook your best food on the show. What did you mean?Before coming onto the show, I really did not have a lot of experience. I had never put a dish together from start to finish – and since being on the show, I know I’m a lot more capable of some of the food that I produced. I made a lot of working mistakes, like undercooking the fish for Restaurant Wars. Overall, I think, you’re in a stressful situation and you’re thrown all these curveballs. … They threw me off. I know the food that I do now is way better than anything I’ve produced on the show.
Our Top Chef 5 Burning Questions: Describe your Top Chef experience in one word.Stressful
What is in your refrigerator right now?I have beer and kimchi.
Name one food you cannot stand.I don’t like white asparagus.
Pick your favorite fast-food restaurant.I like New York hot dogs from the street vendors.
Gail or Toby?Gail, hands down. I don’t really think Toby brought much to the table. Toby was just there to be the Simon Cowell of Top Chef.
READ MORE: Leah’s ‘Last Supper’Michael Lavine/Bravo