Virginia Sherwood/ Bravo
Top Chef:Texas' Keith: 'The Daggers Were Out'
November 18, 2011
Things are bigger in Texas and certainly the newest season of Top Chef: Texas is certainly no different. With new judge Hugh Acheson, an amped-up Texas-sized season and the addition of Last Chance Kitchen (where chefs get another opportunity to be Top Chef after being kicked off), the first elimination episode was not without drama. While the first cheftestant is headed home, many more chefs are about to mosey on other to greener pastures with their packed-up knives in tow. TheInsider caught up with eliminated chef Keith Rhodes to discuss his time on Bravo's hit show.
TheInsider.com: How does it feel to be the first one eliminated?
Keith Rhodes: To tell you the truth it sucked. I did not want to be the first one eliminated. Coming into the show I knew that anything goes …. One of the things I was told was that you might make the best dish but you might get voted off too. There are just a lot of different factors; it definitely sucks. But I think there is some redemption in the Last Chance Kitchen.
The Insider: So how did you feel when you found out about Last Chance Kitchen?
Keith: I was packing my bag to leave and there was a letter there … and I looked at it, I thought it was a thank you for being on the show but it was an invite you back letter to give you another chance to try to get back on the show. And I thought that was really cool . At first I was a little bit in shock because … I thought it was all over. At one moment I had prepared for, 'its over I’m going back home' and then it was like, 'whoa, I’m going into the kitchen to compete again.' Believe it or not [doing Last Chance Kitchen] was more enjoyable than having to rely on the team to support you, only relying yourself.
The Insider: You had some issues with your fellow teammates, how did you feel about them?
Keith: Being on the regular show, in that first elimination it was a team challenge but as much as it was a team challenge it is Top Chef individual contest. I thought that the daggers were out immediately and they were poking me in the side.
The Insider: You had an unusual path to the show, was being on Top Chef Texas what you expected?
Keith: Being there it was fun for me. I am established chef in my area but coming to Texas I knew it would put me out of my comfort zone I didn’t know exactly what we were going to do but being around other individuals and working with other individuals was something I was looking forward to.
The Insider: So everyone wants to know, why did you buy the pre-cooked shrimp?
Keith: There were a number of factors: being in a different kitchen working with people I never knew, looking at the budget. When I purchased these shrimp they were in a nice display case and they looked ideal for what was supposed to be a shrimp cocktail. … Later [at the Top Chef Kitchen] when we were unpacking them, we found out the shrimp were ice cold frozen at the time and they had an off odor to them. At that point they were rendered unusable. As top chefs outside of the kitchen I thought we would be able to overcome that and move on but … Sarah and Lindsay saw it as [something] to take away from me as a person. … If I had a chance to go back would I have bought the precooked shrimp again? No I probably wouldn’t have bought the shrimp at all.
The Insider: Since your teammates Sarah and Lindsey had extensive background in Mexican and Southwestern cooking, did you feel like you got thrown under the bus for the corn tortilla vs. flour tortilla choice?
Keith: No doubt, I could not believe that [Sarah and Lindsey] helped me with the [flour tortillas] and then at the end [they] are telling me that I made poor decisions. If this is how [they] conduct [themselves] on a national show as a team, Lord knows how [they] conduct yourself in [their] personal kitchens.
The Insider: Do you have any regrets?
Keith: I have no regrets about anything, its just unfortunate about the flour tortilla because I had so much more to give and so much more I wanted to show, it was really ironic with the Top Chef Last Kitchen that popped up that I had the opportunity just to come back for a little while and give people more of a taste of what I can do.
The Insider: What do you think of the new judge Hugh Acheson?
Keith: I don’t want to get too deep into it but I thought he was a character. I think he said some of the things that Tom and Padma didn’t want to say. I thought he brought a little agitation to what was going on. He was the one who wasn’t afraid to say a few things, push a few buttons, but did I agree with what he said … at the end of the show, no I did not. But it's a show and its supposed to be entertaining, he said what I made wasn’t an enchilada it was a burrito. And I was standing there and I thought, 'dude how could you really say that? Does that look like a California forearm burrito? No it doesn't' But I knew it was for the show and it was for the ratings. … The opportunity to be there and be around great chefs, not only competing with great chefs but being judged by great chefs is a great thing. It’s a tremendous opportunity. [Chef Hugh] does great work in Georgia, I cant wait to eat at his restaurant.
The Insider: What’s next for you?
Keith: I’ve relaunched my restaurant in downtown [Wilmington, North Carolina] as Phun Seafood Bar, which is a Vietnamese bar that serves pho, banh me and little seafood snacks. We have a couple of food trucks that are going to be ready in four weeks that will take seafood out to the community and it’s with a bit more accessible price points. We’ve had a lot of luck in Wilmington. We've just been blessed.