Spike Mendelsohn is the proud owner of two popular Capitol Hill eateries, but he never lost his hunger to take home the title of Top Chef. Expectations were high when joined this season’s All Star cast, battling it out against other DC-area favorites such as Carla Hall and Mike Isabella. Alas, when the owner of Good Stuff Eatery and We, the Pizza paired a tangy tomato-tamarind soup with bland shrimp, the judges were nonplussed, asking Mendelsohn to pack his knives and go. We chatted with him about strategy, Angelo’s sabotage, and who he sees as the top competitors.
What happened Wednesday night?
"There was a lot of bad luck for all of us involved. We just didn’t stay focused—we were rushing too much. Maybe we had a little too much strategy in the game? I’m not sure."
Could Team Yellow have won if you’d stuck with the strategy?
"I think the strategy was really, really appropriate. Behind the scenes we talked about it for an hour, and we came to agreement. Also I felt the strategy was really important because we had someone with immunity on our team. Tre should have never served his dishes."
Do you think Angelo sabotaged your dish?
"Sabotage is a strong word. He was overly excited. But—if he put something in my dish that didn’t belong in there, would he want the same done to his dish? Probably not. I think Angelo saw me building a lot of momentum, and saw me as a threat. Maybe this was a perfect opportunity to get me out of the game. I think he and Tiffany both contorted my dish."
Why were the shrimp under seasoned?
"In the heat of the moment, we weren’t thinking straight. I had all my three dishes plated, and everything had salt and was seasoned. Angelo and Tiffany came and threw my dishes away and started placing my stuff everywhere and didn’t season anything. I’ve made that dish before and was a hit—though I usually make it with scallops. I don’t know why I used poached shrimp."
The restaurants you own are casual burger and pizza eateries. Did you feel off your game because you no longer work in fine dining?
"Maybe I am a little out of practice. I’m now in the position of restaurant chef and writing cookbooks. I’m not in that day-to-day grind, getting up at 7 in the morning, and cooking fine dining food. That said, I’m a chef, I’m creative. It’s like riding a bicycle."
How on earth did Jamie get out of presenting her dish? Do you think she’s afraid to compete?
"Yeah, hello! We are actually on an Emmy-winning show called Top Chef where people cook and present food. I’m not sure what show she thinks she’s on."
Standing at Judges’ Table, did you know you’d be going home?
"Every single chef thought Casey was going out. But I knew as soon as the game was over that I was going home. I’d lost all four points in the head-to-head battle. Casey came up to me and said, ‘listen if you don’t want to go home, I will because I’m done with this competition.’ But that’s just not my style anymore. I’ve matured a lot in the last three years and I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus. But I know Casey wants to go home."
Who do you see as the strongest competitors?
"Every single fan, chef, and judge knows that Richard Blais is one of the oldest contestants and has the most experience. And he’s a super-hard worker and creative and really wants to win this title. And I hope he does because it means a lot to him. People refer to Carla as an underdog, but she’s someone to be reckoned with. She cooks very soulfully and with a lot of love—and that’s what cooking is all about."
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