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October 9, 2015

The Latest Eliminated 'Top Chef' Contestant Was 'Ready to Go'

by Allison Waldman, posted Jul 29th 2010 4:15PM
art_smith_padma_lakshmi_top_chef_bravoYou might think that when Padma Lakshmi tells a chef to "pack your knives and go," it's the worst thing that could happen. However, this week's eliminated cheftestant from 'Top Chef: DC' had a very different take on leaving the show, and in retrospect, won't let the experience affect what's next.

Who was it and how did he/she reach this conclusion? Find out in the exit interview below.

WARNING: Spoiler Alert!

When Miami chef and restaurant owner Andrea Curto-Randazzo discovered that she had to cook swordfish for the elimination challenge, she wasn't thrilled. In retrospect, she would have not prepared it with a sweet vanilla mustard sauce, and -- perhaps -- she would not have been sent home.

"But on the other hand, you can't second-guess yourself," she said in a morning-after interview. "I was taking a chance. If I do too much of that, rethinking my choices, I'll drive myself crazy. You have to move on."

For Andrea, the true tests of the competition were the head games and strategy, and she admitted that she wasn't sorry to leave when she did. "I can honestly say that at that stage of the competition, I was mentally ready to go. I missed my family and I didn't feel like doing it anymore. That's not a cop-out or an excuse. I just know where my head was at. I don't think I mentally prepared myself to be there. If I did that, I might have hung out a little more."

Andrea had more to share, including her take on the mystery of the pea puree from last night's episode, her ire at facing guest judge and personal rival Michelle Bernstein, and her disdain for Oprah's favorite chef, Art Smith:

andrea_curto_randazzo_top_chef_bravoWhat was your take on the great pea puree debacle?

It's almost great that that happened because it takes the focus off the fact that the judges hated my dish. I didn't see it actually happen. I didn't see him [Alex] actually take it, however, I know Ed made a 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. Innocent 'til proven guilty. Nobody can actually prove it. I didn't see it happen. It was a little stinky, the whole situation. The viewers think he did it, we know that from the poll last night.

Art Smith mentioned he could sense your aversion to swordfish when he tasted your dish. Do you think you put less into your dish when you were cooking it?

Absolutely not. I think that was a ridiculous statement that Art Smith made, but maybe that's part of his job as a judge, to make ridiculous statements. I cook with ingredients I love, I also cook with ingredients I don't love. It's not about what I love. I fare just as well either way. On that specific day, that dish just didn't work out the way I wanted it to, or they weren't feeling it. I didn't agree with his statement at all. I thought it was bogus.

Was your rivalry with Michelle Bernstein in the previous episode played up a bit for television?

I don't know that it was played up on my part. I was visibly annoyed and I truly uncomfortable with that situation. I don't know how fair it was. Yes, there's a rivalry. Yes, I was shocked. I'm pretty sure that all those faces you saw me make on TV were real. ... I absolutely do not think that she is more qualified than I am to be a judge. We are rivals in business.

Do you think 'Top Chef' rewards people who take bold chances more than people who play it safe?

I don't know. That's a tricky question. The show is interestingly set up. It's as much mental as it is your God-given talent, if you will. There's a big mental game going on. And then you're at the mercy of four people who are the judges that day and they have their likes and dislikes. A lot of things come into play.

Were the opinions of the judges constructive?

I don't want to be rude, but I don't need four people behind a judges' table telling me whether I can cook or not. I know I can do that. Some of the judges I respect a little more than others, some not so much. I really did enjoy Eric Ripert. How's that? I thought he was fair and honest in a way that didn't have to make people feel like they were idiots.

Did you have trepidation about going on the show?

There was much trepidation. There were a lot of factors involved. I have a family, I have three businesses, there's a lot going on in my life. I didn't really want to leave all of that. The reason why I did 'Top Chef' was because I needed a little boost in my career. It seems that being a really good chef and working hard is not enough. You have to put your mug out there. That was the deciding factor. I did have to get pushed and shoved into doing it because I didn't want to go on television and have to jump through hoops.

What's your take on fellow cheftestant Angelo Sosa?

Angelo wasn't the most popular person on the show, but I think that he was definitely focused and he had a plan when he came into it. I don't think he was trying to make friends. He was playing the game. I distanced myself from him when I saw what he was all about. I would like to know Angelo outside of that situation and hope that he's a different kind of person.

Did you have a favorite challenge?

All the challenges became more ridiculous and very stressful. It's hard to pick a favorite one because when you're in the moment of it, it is very stressful. The one that was the lightest and the happiest was the one at the school. The kids were great. They made the day a happy day.

Is it true that you would never do 'Top Chef' again?

I think it's a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. It was extremely difficult for me to be away from my family for that period of time. Even though I work, being mommy is very important to me. It was a situation that was a challenge, but it was a game and it was a mental thing and it's out of your control, and I'm kind of a control freak. I didn't have control in these situations, so for that, I wouldn't do it again. I would not say that I didn't take some great things away from it. Been there, done that, moving on. I don't have any regrets. The best thing that I have taken away from the show is some really awesome friends. I'm very thankful for that.

Do you have advice for any future 'Top Chef' contestants?

The biggest advice I would give is don't let the mental get to you. That is so much of it. The strategy of the games being played, the people around you, the way things are set up and the rules and regulations. It's all mental. Everyone there can cook; that's why they got there. Most people go home because of mental mistakes or their mental state at that time.

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Every single one of the other contestants were cowards for not saying anything about the puree incident to the judges. It just doesn't vanish from one plate/area and magically appear fully prepared in another. But hey if that's how the glorified servants on this show want to get ahead let em.

July 30 2010 at 1:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really never get the attitude of chefs who don't want criticism in this way.

July 29 2010 at 4:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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