Care for some duck testicles, anyone? How about a nice llama steak? Or some crocodile? This week’s episode of Top Chef offered the contestants a, er, delectable array of exotic proteins in the Quickfire Challenge, before pulling the ol’ bait-and-switch and making them exchange ingredients with each other. Later, they broke into two groups and faced off in a “Cold War,” creating their best chilled dish. After critiquing each other with a froideur not exhibited since Stalin, the contestants sent two dishes to the chopping block: Kenny’s chilled lamb duo and Tamesha’s scallops with rhubarb and long pepper. The judges found Tamesha’s strong flavors too overpowering, and the Oval Room sous chef packed her knives. We spoke with her about taking advice from Angelo, being the youngest competitor, and flavor combinations that push the envelope.
>>For a recap of episode 6, click here.
How much of a role did Angelo play in the creation of your dish?
“He had no hand in telling me how to do my dish, or in seasoning it. I was 100 percent comfortable in preparing my own dish. I see Angelo as a mentor for young cooks. But I can’t say he’s my mentor because I hardly know the guy personally.”
There seemed to be some tension between you and Amanda.
“There’s something about her that just rubs me the wrong way—just her personality and the way she works. I’m very cool and calm, and I get along with just about anybody.”
Does she deserve to still be in the competition?
“Uh, not really.”
You talked about giving the chefs a “new experience” with the long pepper. What is it?
“Long pepper is an Asian spice. It’s similar to Sichuan pepper, which has a numbing effect on the tongue when used in a large quantity. In a small quantity, it’s kind of sweet and a little bit peppery. This dish wasn’t the first time I used that flavor combination. I’m always looking to do new and interesting things and work with flavor combinations that people have never heard of before. That’s the whole purpose of being a chef—to keep pushing that envelope and give them something new and exciting.”
The judges questioned the way you cooked the scallops, saying they were raw on one side. Why did you prepare them this way?
“The scallops were seared on each side and cooked through, and then cut in half—instead of putting one humongous scallop on each plate.”
Do you still think it wasn’t fair you were sent home?
“I was very surprised when they announced my name. I went in with a lot of confidence. I knew the group didn’t like my dish, but I didn’t think that was enough to send me home.”
As the youngest competitor, what was it like cooking against chefs who had ten to 15 years more experience than you?
“At first, I was a little intimidated, but after the second day I told myself there’s a reason I’m here. It’s not because I’m the youngest, but because I’m talented. At the end of the day, I have everything to be as great a chef as any [of the other contestants]. I’m stronger than I really think I am.”
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