Virginia Sherwood/ Bravo
Top Chef Dakota: I Went Out in a Ball of Fury
December 20, 2011
In one of the most uncomfortable Top Chef judges' tables in the history of the Bravo Show, Dakota and Nyesha were sent packing in a double elimination. We caught up with W Hotel executive chef Dakota Weiss after the heated episode.
Meg: How did it feel to go home in last week’s double elimination?
Dakota: It was terrible. I mean, what a gut-wrenching feeling. It would have been hard had it just been me, but to have a double elimination…it was really not fun at all.
I would rather eat snails for breakfast every morning than have to ever deal with that emotion and that feeling ever again.
Meg: Was it the emotion of going home or essentially being responsible for someone else going home?
I think it's all of the above. In the heat of the moment I really did feel 100 percent responsible for undercooking the venison. But looking back at it, it was a team challenge. Maybe we both should have been on top of the meat more than just one person.
Meg: What went wrong with the venison?
Dakota: I think ultimately you never really know, but a lot of things factored into it. When we did the trial run with the first rack of venison, it was at a point where nobody was really in and out of the oven.
When it came down to us actually cooking the venison, you got all these chefs in a teeny little kitchen with one oven and six burners. Everybody’s opening the doors, grabbing their stuff out, closing the doors, and the heat in the oven doesn’t stay consistent.
I think that was the main problem with it. And the second is that I had the timing down but when it came down to it, it just wasn’t enough time for it to roast properly inside.
Meg: On the show you seemed to have a lot of guilt because of Nyesha. Do you still feel that way?
Dakota: In the heat of the moment I definitely did but now watching it and hearing what the judges were saying about how they really loved the dish, I don’t really feel that guilty in retrospect.
It was a team challenge, and yeah, it stinks but there’s always Last Chance Kitchen.
Meg: You seemed nervous a lot about what the judges thought about you. Do you think that your confidence was a factor in how you played?
Dakota: I’m not a competitive person whatsoever. I’ve never been into sports. I hate competition and I think that definitely had a huge factor in it. As far as confidence goes, if you put any chef into the situation that we were put into ... people show it differently.
I’m extremely emotional and I’m OK with people knowing "I’m upset about this," or "I’m not upset about this." I’m not afraid to show people how I feel. I don’t guard myself that way. I’m a very open book. Some people can take that as not having confidence.
Meg: The judges table was one of the most uncomfortable I’ve ever seen. How was it being in that room?
It was like you could cut the air with a knife, it was so thick and stuffy. It was so hot and we were all so tired. The kitchen we were in was extremely hot. There was no air so we were like crusted in salt crystals from sweating. Then you have the Heather and Beverly drama.
I’m beating myself up for making a silly error and it was intense. I’m glad that I don’t ever have to have that feeling again.
Meg: Heather seemed to berate everyone, did it feel that way to you?
Dakota: She definitely has that type of very outgoing, outspoken personality. People either suck it up and ignore it or they combat it. At that point, we all just wanted to get through the day and move on to the next challenge. Every day’s a new day but seems like a lot of harsh feelings kept coming up between [Heather and Beverly].
There was just too much going on. It was an overload.
Meg: You seemed to be the only one who stood up for Beverly.
Dakota: I’m kind of like a mother hen sometimes and I don’t like people to be bullied. At that point, it was pretty obvious that Heather knew she had the upper hand. After a while, it’s like "I can’t take this anymore! Give me a break!"
Meg: Is there anything that you wish you could say to the judges or any other contestant?
Dakota: I wish I hadn't gone out in such a ball of fury and tears, but again that’s who I am. If I’m feeling something I’m not afraid to let anybody—the judges, other contestants, people who I don’t know, or whoever -- know it. That’s who I am and if I’m feeling it you’re going to know about.
We all work so hard to get where we are in our careers and to even be chosen to be on the show alone is such an honor. It was a really wonderful experience to meet all the other chefs and the judges.
Meg: Were you happy that Nyesha won Last Chance Kitchen?
Dakota: I was definitely happy that she won. Absolutely. I’d be happy if Whitney won. I’d be thrilled if I won. Once you get out of it and then you go back in you want to win really badly, but I’m happy Nyesha got another chance.
Meg: What's your food guilty pleasure?
Dakota: I’m all about butter, cream, and cheese. If I have Mac-and-cheese, I’m a very happy person. All three put together. How can it get any better?
Meg: So now that Top Chef is over, what are you up to?
Dakota: I am still with the W Hotel in Westwood, [CA]. I'm the executive chef of the hotel. There are two restaurants and I also do all the room service, banquets, basically everything.
Meg: What is the main thing you are taking away from this competition?
Dakota: It put my head in a whole different place as far as my skills and what I’m capable of. It was nice to know that I could get to the point of being on the show. Ultimately, it was just the experience of meeting everybody and knowing I can push myself to do great things in really bizarre and unusual circumstances.