By People Staff
Updated October 08, 2009 12:00 AM
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Credit: Trae Patton/NBC

Love her or hate her, it’s hard not to have an opinion about Robin Leventhal — the verbose chef who has been in the top and bottom this season on Top Chef. Her fellow chefs have been equally vocal about their redhead opponent — with Mike Isabella going as far to call her one of the “weakest competitors” left on the show. (Isbaella, coincidentally, was paired up with Leventhal on Wednesday’s episode.) Calling from Seattle, Robin opened up about her talkative kitchen behavior, her thoughts on other chefs — and why she’s proud she’s still in the competition. –Brian Orloff

What was your approach to working with Mike Isabella?This is a professional relationship. We have a job to get done and we’re going to do the best we can to make this happen successfully. I’m not interested in power struggles and Mike established his dominance early on in the house — and I think that’s maybe why we butted heads a little. I have a really dominant personality, and I don’t let walk all over me. He made it clear from the beginning that it was his vision. I tried to put out my opinion a little bit. I certainly wanted to impact our plate … but I also wanted to get along with Mike and not have it be a bad experience, so I let him be the man in charge like he loves to be.

After watching the show, are you more aware of certain habits you have in the kitchen?My talking? I knew I do that already just from my employees. I talk to myself; I do it. Even though I knew that habit existed, I maybe didn’t perceive it as something that would be annoying. The editing is illustrating other ‘s perceptions of me. Some are very honest and straight up about how they feel.

Does it bother you that your competitors have been complaining about you?Of course I care. I never am one to want to be hated or disliked or offend or be annoying. I think it’s also a fine line. When you’re working in a restaurant, there’s a tolerance that happens. This was an unusual experience. We were competing — and it was being filmed.

Were you aware that other chefs thought you should have been sent home by now? And did that affect your cooking?From the third elimination on were very vocal about saying, “Why is she still here?” I would care about what head judge Tom Colicchio would say. As far as them, though, it brought out the competitive streak in me and made me want to be that much better at what I was doing. That’s why I was so happy when I won the Quickfire. To me it was affirmation that I really do deserve to be here. I may not be the most progressive of chefs on the show but I certainly know my experience and skills are enough to keep me there.

What was your reaction to like Eli saying you only won because you talked about your battle with cancer?They wanted to see me fail. Whatever I did would have been wrong. That gave them an easy target and it showed a lack of maturity. Ultimately it is poor sportsmanship and it’s unfortunate that my cancer battle was perceived as an excuse. The minute we were given the Quickfire assignment, it clicked — and I knew what the answer was to the challenge.

What do you hope take away from your performance so far on the show?I feel really fortunate that the country sees my personality in my food and sees my experience as genuine and real. I may not leave there “Top Chef” — and I may — but what I want them to know is that I’m a top person. Trae Patton/NBC