Virginia Sherwood/ Bravo
Top Chef's Nyesha: It Became a Personal Attack
December 21, 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 Nyesha Arrington after the heated episode to get her reaction to her untimely departure.
Meg: How did it feel to be kicked off of Top Chef in a double elimination?
Nyesha: It was frustrating. I mean, I really wanted us to rise up. It was our time to start doing some amazing cooking. Dakota was really adamant and felt secure about cooking to finish, and so I was stoked on that.
Dakota did amazing and I had every bit of faith that she would. I didn’t doubt her for a second. We divvied up our tasks and I took the bulk of the work on the plates so that she could focus on the meat and dial that in.
Also, I did the marinade for it, I did the sauce and the flavors were really spot on. I really wanted to win that challenge and I got sent home on it. Yeah, it sucks.
Meg: Did you feel like you had to build up Dakota's confidence?
Nyesha: Yeah, constantly. She totally did. It’s a very, I wouldn’t say "volatile" environment, but you can tell that everyone’s really stressed out and it’s starting to wear on everyone how tired we are. It’s been a big, big roller coaster of emotions. I think everyone was just tired.
[As for Beverly], she didn’t stand up to herself like she should have against Heather. I think Heather just became a kind of antagonistic role with her and just started to bully her more and more because she wouldn’t stand up for herself.
Meg: That was one of the most uncomfortable judges' tables I’ve ever seen. How was it to be there?
Nyesha: You know, we’re all in a pretty awesome environment. In that moment what was going through my head is frustration. There’s no reason that we should have been in that bottom. Then it became a very personal attack.
I was so mentally exhausted and I looked over and couldn’t believe it. There was another part they didn’t show when Heather asked me, "Nyesha, would not agree that Beverly is weak?" I was thinking, "That’s not why we're here. We're talking about that challenge tonight. Why do you keep bringing up this damn shrimp. I don't understand."
Meg: What would you say is your cooking motto?
Nyesha: I don’t know if it’s a motto but when people ask me, I say that my style is unpretentious and well-executed. That seems to be something that’s very difficult to orchestrate: well-executed food.
Chefs can dream up food all day but to have your cooks execute it well is very important.
Meg: Do you have any food guilty pleasures?
Nyesha: I am a sucker for a cheeseburger. I can eat burgers all the time. My guilty pleasure is definitely something like In-N-Out, things like that.
Meg: What are you proudest of during your time on Top Chef?
Nyesha: I am most proud that I didn’t get too much involved in drama. I definitely went in with the mentality of "straight cooking," and I think I succeeded at that. I went in and wanted to make well-executed food. Although I don’t think it was highlighted very much, I went in and made some cool dishes.
Meg: What made you the most uncomfortable?
Nyesha: Thinking that I would be able to make long-lasting friendships with the other chefs. There are so many levels of competition in Top Chef. I think the most uncomfortable was the mental game that plays behind it.
Meg: How did it feel to do Last Chance Kitchen?
Nyesha: Awesome. It was unadulterated cooking. Really, super passionate, just totally connected cooking. Totally different setting and you’re making your own self-expression on a plate. There’s no fifteen other chefs in the kitchen and everyone trying to vie for camera time. I was just able to cook food. So, that was awesome.
Meg: Were you happy to get your chef coat back?
Nyesha: There was a very mutual respect when I was battling against Whitney because we both share so much of the same food. We started to develop a really good friendship just before she got eliminated and it was really good to see her again.
To get the jacket from her, I got a little choked up. She’s such a talented chef and it was cool to cook next to her.
Meg: The other Chef'testants seemed really positive about your win.
Nyesha: I went through the whole experience and I was a very cordial person, very real and honest. I think that the people who saw that appreciated it.
Meg: If you could say anything to either the judges or any of the other chef'testants, what would it be?
I’m embarrassed to have served undercooked venison on the plate in the last challenge. I don’t want people to think that that’s how I cook in my normal life. I wouldn’t serve that [at my restaurant, Wilshire]. I want to tell Greyson to cook her little heart out because she is an amazing chef.