When one thinks of Thanksgiving desserts, s'mores don't necessarily come to mind. Unless you're Richard Sweeney, of course. Last week's axed Top Chef contestant will forever be haunted by Thanksgiving s'mores. I spoke to Richard, who was surprisingly cheerful, today about his time on the show, life after the knife, and the Foo Fighters. To find out what he had to say about his experience, read more.
On his decision to make s'mores: I'm trying to think exactly how it came up. They requested chocolate and bananas and first we thought about doing a frozen banana with a warm chocolate sauce. I can't remember if they were my idea or not. I noticed lots of little things since I've watched the episode, and ultimately, I shouldn't have done that dessert. I did dessert for the Craft challenge and desserts are usually the kiss of death on Top Chef. Why I chose another one is beyond me. I should have stayed away from desserts and avoided them for awhile, but I thought I could do the s'more. Now everytime I get close to a s'more, I tear up.
On serving the Foo Fighters: I think they know actually a lot more than you would probably guess about food. Especially for what we got to see on air, they edited out a lot. They picked up on a bunch of little things we did. My team lost, so I don't think they appreciated my food very much. I think the initial comment that Dave made — when he said it, it sounded really bad, but it was done in a joking way. I didn't take it offensively. At judge's table, I realized the vanilla cream sauce I made had fallen and it did look kind of like spit. It was disappointing that I didn't get to find out what they thought about the other dishes I made. I did a spin on a Caprese salad. They wanted a mayonnaise-based salad, so I made a pesto mayo for Caprese. I made a spicy sweet potato dish that the judges really liked. When I went into the stew room, I didn't think I was totally safe, but knowing I had one good dish and two bad, and Jeff had three bad, and Danny had two bad, I thought I was somewhat safe because Jeff and Danny had no positive critiques. I went back thinking I wouldn't be on the chopping block.
On Tom and Padma: This is such a popular question. It's really hard to get to know them super well. You don't have a lot of contact with them. We don't finish a quickfire challenge and have a beer together, so it's really hard to know their personalities. But from the promotional shoots and the time spent with them, I noticed that Tom's a quiet guy. He kicked it to himself. His professionalism really shows. He wants it to be about the food and not about personality.
Padma's just as beautiful in person. All the gay guys at the bar ask me that. After she spit out Ariane's dessert, the next time she saw Ariane, she went up and asked her if she was OK. It was nice to see that human side of the judges. It's their job to judge us and not be our friend, but it's nice to see that human side. We see that little by little at events, too.
On living with the eliminated contestants in the sequester house: We drink a lot. I made lots of sangria. I came up with about 30 sangria recipes because we got sick of wine by itself. We had cable, but no Internet or phone connection. We watched the Olympics and we went out together sometimes. We were actually in Jersey City. No one expected us to be there and when we went out we would get a questioning look. It was relaxing and stressful at the same time. You want to know what's going on in the kitchen, but if your not in the competition you want to go home. It was almost too relaxing. We got stir-crazy. It's still very confined. The cast and production people are taking you where you need to go. When someone was eliminated, we were stuck in the house all day waiting for them. It was a stressful, relaxing, weird drunken time for all.
On the remaining chefs: Stefan is someone to watch out for. He's the most traveled and has been doing this for a long time. He knows his stuff. Fabio has consistently been doing well. There's a couple other people who haven't gotten a lot of face time yet. Ariane bouncing back this week, was a testament to her. To be in the bottom two weeks in a row and come back in a challenge where everyone is asking her about the turkey, we didn't trust her, and to come out on top is hard. She stepped up and showed she can do it.