This week’s Top Chef featured a Quickfire of lobbyist-friendly toothpick snacks, followed by an elimination challenge that sent the contestants to cook a “power lunch” at the Palm, using the restaurant’s proteins. Saddled with swordfish, Miami chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo dished it up pan-seared with a vanilla/mustard beurre blanc. Alas, the judges found her dish too “sweet” and “totally unfocused” and sent her home. She chatted with us about the case of the missing pea puree, her rivalry with fellow Miami chef Michelle Bernstein, and why she wouldn't do the show again.
>>For a recap of episode 7, click here.
If you had a chance to do it over, would you cook the swordfish differently?
"Yeah, I probably would. But I was taking a chance and if I do too much rethinking, I drive myself crazy, so I just have to move on. It’s always a challenge to cook in anyone else’s kitchen – you don’t know where anything is. On that specific day, things didn’t work out as well as I wanted them to."
In an interview you said about Top Chef: “I would never do it again, ever.” Why?
"It was extremely difficult to be away from my family. It was a challenge—a game and a mental thing, as much as a skill thing. I’m a control freak and I didn’t have control in a lot of situations. I didn’t really want to go on TV and jump through hoops. I did it because it I needed a little boost in my career. The economy hit my fine dining restaurant hard. I was in the limelight but I stepped out to have a family—I have three beautiful girls and being mommy is very important to me. But I don’t have any regrets and the best thing I’ve taken away is some really awesome friends."
The star of this episode seemed to be the pea puree. What really went down?
"I know Ed made pea puree. He couldn’t find it and pea puree wound up on Alex’s dish. I don’t want to point fingers, but there’s a lot of speculation going on. I didn’t actually see it happen. I didn’t see him take it. Still, it was a little stinky, the whole situation."
Was your rivalry with Miami chef and guest judge Michelle Bernstein played up?
"I was visibly annoyed and pretty uncomfortable with that situation and don’t know how fair that was. There is a rivalry between us and our businesses. I don’t think she is more qualified than I am to be a judge."
Did you find the judges’ criticism constructive?
"Some of the judges I respect more than others, some of them not so much. I enjoyed Eric Ripert—I thought he was fair and honest in a way that didn’t make people feel like they were idiots."
What's it like when Tom is in the kitchen?
"Tom doesn’t really faze me. I saw him walking around and I think he was trying to intimidate. I was really focused and he didn’t bother me. He’s not the biggest known chef I’ve cooked in front of. Sorry, Tom."
Does show reward those who take bold chances more than those who play it safe?
"It’s hard to say. The show is as much mental as your God-given talent. Everyone there can cook – most people go home because of mental mistakes or their mental state at the time. I don’t think I prepared myself to be there. I missed my family. I’m just checking it off as a life experience. Been there, done that, moving on."
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