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'Top Chef All Star' Eliminated Chef: 'I Felt I Had to Defend Myself'

by Allison Waldman, posted Dec 10th 2010 5:00PM
top_chef_logo_bravoThe second episode of Bravo's 'Top Chef All Stars' was hardly a sedate affair. Being in the iconic Museum of Natural History in New York and having to cook both a midnight snack and early morning breakfast for 150 children (and some adults) frayed the nerves of several chefs.

For at least one chef, the tension was a little too much, leading to one of the most contentious judges' table encounters we've seen on the entire 'Top Chef' series.

Was the right chef told to pack up and go, or should the judges have made another choice? Who's to say? One thing is for certain: The eliminated chef had plenty to chat about when we spoke via a conference call.

jennifer_carroll_bravo_top_chef_all_starsThe chef who was asked to pack her knives and go was Jennifer Carroll, a cheftestant from season 6. Carroll, who is a chef de cuisine for sometimes-guest judge Eric Ripert at the restaurant 10 Arts in Philadelphia, is a highly accomplished professional who was a favorite during her season.

However, the "Night at the Museum" proved to be her undoing. As she said, "My emotions got the best of me." Instead of listening to the judgment of the judges and accepting their decision, Carroll fought back and defended her dish.

Her attitude was feisty and maybe a bit rude. For more about the show and Carroll's reaction, read on:

What was going through your mind when you realized your team had lost the challenge?

It was disappointing and upsetting to me because I didn't want to be on the losing team. I didn't think my team was in the losing circle, but obviously we were.

Did you plan to defend yourself so heatedly or did it happen spontaneously?

I was very passionate and I was very emotional. It got to the point where the judges were coming at us and I felt I had to defend myself and my team as a whole. My emotions got the best of me, but I went down fighting. I went down defending myself and my dish. Maybe it wasn't the best way to go out, but I still think that I did a good dish.

Of course, there can be a lot of tweaks and different things that I could do to make it a better dish, to make it something that maybe Gail (Simmons) and Tom (Colicchio) would want to eat again. Still, I did my best that day.

Were the judges more critical of you because of how well you did in season 6?

I'm not sure. I can't answer for the judges. I think they thought that I would have won a lot and gone further, but the challenges are tough and they're designed to put us in uncomfortable situations. Some days are good days and some days are not. I think the judges did expect me to go further than I did.

It seemed to me that the judges didn't appreciate your feistiness. Do you think you were insubordinate in defending your dish?

I think the judges were definitely surprised when I spoke up and defended myself and that I did it so passionately. Especially compared to how they saw me in the past, when I was always very gracious and listened to their criticism in a very accepting way. This time around, I wasn't. I think that defending myself surprised them. When I made one comment to the judges, I immediately regretted it.

Was that the comment about the plates?

Yes, exactly. I apologized for that on the spot. As soon as I said it, I was wrong. It was the heat of the moment and it came out and I thought, "Oh my God, I can't believe I said that." I didn't mean to disrespect the judges and it definitely came across like I was doing that. At the end of the day, I thought I did an OK dish. In retrospect, it's not the absolute best dish, but I still think it was good.

Do you think they made this season more difficult than the Las Vegas season?

Well, this season, we had all played the game already and we all came in with an idea of how we were going to be this time around. Whether some were going to edit themselves because they came off not so nice the first time around. For myself, I decided I was going to stand up for myself more. It didn't work out for me.

They're doing tough challenges. It's definitely different this time, even though I didn't make it too far. There's a different feel than it was the first time. There's even more pressure, but it's a different pressure. I was going up against chefs that have done the same thing before just like I had.

Should Jamie have been eliminated since she cut her finger and missed most of the challenge?

Jamie and I were partners for this challenge. We took maybe two minutes to conceptualize the dish and I wish we had taken more time before we got into rushing to get something done. Jamie cut herself and the medics told her she needed stitches. It wasn't my decision to make about her going.

I was concerned and I took it on my shoulders to make the dish. Of course, if Jamie were there, the dish might have been better. I would have had two people. I would have had her hands helping me out and her culinary experience. We could have made it better together, but I wasn't going to throw Jamie under the bus. I'm glad she was OK.

Chef Eric Ripert said in his blog that he wished you had kept your cool. Have you spoken with him?

Of course. I've spoken with him multiple times. Eric didn't train me to be aggressive and to lose my cool. He trained me to be very professional and respectful at all times. That day at judges' table, it didn't shine through. I had the T-Rex inside of me that day. A T-Rex on caffeine.

Are you rooting for anyone to win now that you're out?

I'm rooting for Mike Isabella. We became very close and he's a really good guy. He's also a talented chef. I also like Richard Blais and Angelo Sosa. All of the chefs are really talented. I hope they all do well.

Do you have any regrets about returning to 'Top Chef'?

I don't have any regrets because I went back and got to meet some other contestants that I hadn't met yet, and I made good friendships with them. And, guess what? I had a lot of fun doing that 'food fight' promo.

That was probably some of the most fun I've ever had in my entire life. That was an all-out, crazy food fight that I would definitely not give up having done. Did I win any money this time around? Did I make it to the finals? No, but I had a really great food fight. It was fun.

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Joyce N.

I thought Jennifer was obnoxious. Even some of the other chefs said that her eggs were bland before the judges even tried the dish. Her refusal to listen was boorish.

December 11 2010 at 7:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hannah Smith

All the contestants seem a bit combative this go round...they are arrogant and cocky. Maybe they need Tom Colicchio to put them in their place. They all act as though they are beyond reproach. As for Mike Isabella...I remember his obnoxious and boorish behavior from his stint on Top Chef...I hope he loses.

December 11 2010 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought the judges made a bad choice, and it made them look as if standing up for yourself is a good way to get booted. Well, I hope the contestants continue to stand up for themselves. These judges are often too full of themselves. They may be accomplished men and women but as they showed in this episode they're certainly not infallible.

December 10 2010 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

10 Arts in New York????? Sorry no. That would be Philadelphia.

December 10 2010 at 5:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to DJ's comment
Kelly Woo

whoops, our bad! fixed, thanks!

December 10 2010 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Glad I can help. Have represent the locals.

December 10 2010 at 5:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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