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'Top Chef All-Stars' Eliminated Chef: 'People Did Not Follow the Rules'

by Allison Waldman, posted Dec 2nd 2010 6:30PM
top_chef_logo_bravoLast night,Bravo's 'Top Chef All-Stars' got off to a roarin' start with a dramatic episode that resulted in one of the most recognizable contestants being sent home early.

There were also All-Stars pushing the limits with their antics -- going over the time limit, tweaking dishes that were supposed to be replicated ... All in all, it was an exciting show.

Today, TV Squad caught up with the first All-Star to pack their knives, who revealed tidbits about fellow chefs ... and most significantly, criticized head judge Tom Colicchio for "selling out."

Elia-Aboumrad_bravo_top_chef_all_starsIn a surprise turn of events, Elia Aboumrad was last night's eliminated contestant. In season 2, Elia had made the final four and she seemed a likely choice to go far in this competition.

Nevertheless, it only took one bad fish dish, which the judges felt was uninspired and dull, to end her run. Elia had some forceful thoughts about the judges' reaction to her food, as well as the experience overall.

Read on for some eye-opening thoughts from this chef.

Was it more emotional this time around on 'Top Chef' when you were told to pack your knives?

It was just very humiliating. Last time, I made it all the way to the very end. This time was just extremely, extremely humiliating to be eliminated on the first night, especially when you feel it was not fair. I didn't appreciate the comments that were made. I didn't think they were on point. I just took the humiliation to heart. That's why I got so emotional.

What do you think went wrong with the fish dish you prepared ... was it a miscalculation on your part?

No. The truth is that it wasn't supposed to be a fish that was cooked full-through. It was supposed to be medium rare. I explained that I wanted it that way that was the style I was going for. It seemed like they had already made up their minds even before I could speak for my dish. I did fish for four years for chef Joel Robuchon. Of course I made mistakes, but never, never something like this. I've cooked for all these restaurants and never had a reaction like this. It's just very frustrating for me. So, no, I don't feel it was an accurate observation by the judges.

What factors went into your decision to come back to 'Top Chef' as an all-star?

It took me a while to make up my mind. I was inclined to say no, but then I thought more about it and who were going to be the judges, who were going to be part of the cast, and those were the things that helped me make up my mind to come back. I was told it was going to be a great season and it was going to be a lot more about the food and less a personality contest.

What can you tell us about your restaurant?

It's going to be in Los Angeles, West Hollywood, and it will be called Avec Moi, and it will be fine dining French cuisine. A lot of classic French cuisine, a lot of old dishes but revisited with a twist. It's going to be a lot of who I am.

If you had it to do over again would you do anything differently?

I don't know. I felt comfortable with what I made. I felt comfortable with the flavor. It was made very, very clear to us what the rules were and I followed them. Under those circumstances, I don't see myself going back and changing anything. According to the rules that were given and the time constraints, I would not change it.

Elia-Aboumrad_top_chef_all_stars_bravoWere others not true to the rules ... some dishes were tweaked, weren't they?

Some of them were definitely tweaked. Some of the main ingredients that were in the original dishes weren't even used. Many of the techniques were not the same. It was made very clear by Tom what the rules were, and yes, I do believe that a lot of people did not follow the rules. I believe that nobody was held accountable for not being true to the original.

Do you feel like you made a lot of friends in the 'Top Chef' family?

I have to say that that is the best thing that 'Top Chef' have allowed me to have. I am very, very close with Ilan Hall (season 2's winner). We are like family. We've developed a truly beautiful friendship ... Besides Ilan, I have become very good friends with Fabio (Viviani) and Tiffani (Faison). I have been friends with Stephen Asprinio since before the show. We worked at Robuchon at the MGM together.

This time around, I was lucky to have met Jennifer Carroll and we were able to spend a lot of time together. I discovered a wonderful woman and an amazing professional. I wish there were more women like her in our profession that are not trying to push you out because you are a woman, but invite you in to work together. I had also met Dale (Levitski) from season 3 and we developed a very nice friendship, and Spike (Mendelsohn), too. I definitely have very good friends from the 'Top Chef' family. I'm very, very thankful for that.

Are there any people you've developed an antipathy like Anthony Bourdain?

I don't know the man. I haven't read his books. I don't watch TV, so I don't know him through the media. I knew Tom (Colicchio) from when I was opening the Robuchon restaurant at the MGM in Las Vegas. I helped a lot in his restaurant. I thought I knew him, but clearly I don't. People change. Fame gets to your head and makes it grow. He has become a very different person.

How has Tom changed?

He is not all about the food anymore. He used to be about the farmer's market. Now it's high fructose corn syrup and corn-fed beef on the menu, which is sad. He has turned into this moneymaking machine more than staying true to the source of our profession, which is nature. He's not incorporating that into his food anymore.

... I worked in a lot of restaurants and met a lot of chefs and Craft Steak was one of the places where I spent time. Most of Tom's menu had grass-fed beef, his products were organic, his chefs loved him and it's just really sad now ... I think it's so important for us as chefs to be true to our profession and to be on the organic bandwagon. We will be with the people who are doing things right. By not doing this, we are betraying our profession; we are not feeding the source of our profession, which is nature.

Since that time, Tom did a commercial for Coca-Cola, which is basically poison. ... I went back to Craft Steak to have dinner eight months ago and there is not one grass-fed animal on his menu. There are rarely organic products on the menu. All the beef is corn-fed. Corn-fed is cheaper. It made me really, really sad. His chefs don't talk about him the way they did.

It broke my heart that someone who knows what it's all about, and who came from nothing when he started out ... Sadly, he's shaping the culinary cuisine in our country and he could be the voice for something amazing and instead he's sort of like selling out. ... It's just heartbreaking that somebody that has so much talent and a voice today is not doing what I believe is the responsibility of every one of us as chefs to do.

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Although I do agree with some of what Elia Aboumrad has to say in this article, I found her arrogance and prideful behavior to be her undoing. She was very mouthy and inappropriate. Plus, she couldn't cook, which is the probable real reason she was bounced.

March 01 2011 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I find Bourdain refreshingly frank and very entertaining in everything he does. He loves good food and doesn't hesitate to call people out when they fail to provide it. The fact that (off-camera at least) he and Eric Ripert are very good friends is more than enough evidence for me that he is a highly regarded food expert and decent human being.

In my opinion particular sequences of phonemes have no magical powers to corrupt. They are only "evil" because you choose to declare them evil inside your own brains. Grow up; sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you.

December 03 2010 at 4:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bourdain is a fraud. I'm not sure why every show on TV with Judges think it's necessary to have a rude, pompus egomaniac on the Panel. His comments to Fabio were totally uncalled for. I was hoping Fabio would jump over the table and deck the jackass.

December 03 2010 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Renee Ifill

Sour grapes. You played yourself when you went to sit in a corner, rather than hear the truth about your food. What's your excuse for the fish scales you left on your dish? Did your mentors teach you that technique, along with under-cooked fish? You dish looked bland and sad. Not one person at the table appreciated it. Were they all wrong? Shame on you for going after Tom. If this is an example of your "new maturity," you've certainly got a long way to go.

December 03 2010 at 3:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why is it when you get The wanna be Barbie contestant on one of these reality contest shows, they always have to be the poor sport and cry foul? she is so lacking at taking criticism that she lashes out at everybody to defend her little world from crumbling, being a good culinarian is all about criticism, It is what makes a good chef great, In my years in the kitchen I thrived on it, and I took the good with the bad and I prospered..The difference between myself and these fools are they are school trained paper chefs and never learned common sense cooking as well as hard knocks. You get kicked in the ass, you will not do it again....Don't be a baby Elia.

December 03 2010 at 3:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why was she on the show for two straight seasons? Whats up with that? They can't find enough new qualified contestants? Anthony Bourdain is really hard to stomache. A more arrogant, self obsessed, stuck on himself man is not to be found on TV. His show conceptually is great be he is such a turnoff his show has become a turn off.

December 03 2010 at 2:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hannah Smith

I thought it was refreshing to hear the true story about Tom Colicchio. I have noticed a change him, especially this last season. He no longer mentors the chefs...instead he is rude and takes every opportunity to make passive aggressive commentary to and about the chefs. It is time for new judgee... Tom and that awful Padma need to be replaced.

December 03 2010 at 2:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm actually surprised she's calling out Tom so much in this interview. I'm not sure if what she said was true or not, but I feel like it's not the right way to go about her interviews for the show. This interview disappointed me.

December 03 2010 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Elia, you are truly beautiful and talented, but karma is a bitch, isn't it?

December 02 2010 at 11:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Deborah's comment

Elia, I liked you on the show, and now that I hear your interview, the lack of maturity, the poor sportsmanship, your lack of business accumen is showing very badly. Come back in about 10 years, when you've grown up a little, listen better to the rules (Tom did say "Tweak the dish but don't stray to much". You made the EXACT same blech dish as last time, and your surprised you got voted off the island Suck it up and grow up. Have a cookie. With high fructose corn syrup and grass fed chocolate.

December 03 2010 at 8:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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