Top Chef's Beverly Dishes on Mean Girls
She was underestimated and mocked by other cheftestants, openly challenged throughout the season, and was thrown under the bus by fellow females Heather and Sarah, but is that phasing Top Chef: Texas' Beverly Kim? Not even for a second. After getting the boot on last week’s Top Chef -- has dusted herself off and gone back to the kitchen. TheInsider.com caught up with Beverly and found a chef whose quiet confidence allowed her to put the past in the past, free herself from an abusive relationship, understand where her trash-talking rivals are coming from -- and stand out as a force to be reckoned with.
Meg: How did it feel to leave when the judges said every single dish was pretty great?
Beverly: Yeah, it was the first time I’ve ever seen the judges stand up and clap for us, so it was an honorable experience. I think being eliminated on that note, while devastating, is juxtaposed with knowing that at least I went out on a good note and with a dish that was delicious, and I would very much rather be eliminated that way than in a group challenge where I didn’t have a voice or a point of view. I think at one point you have to give it up to like the subjectivity of the judges and there are just some things that aren’t in your control at times. You do your best, and there were definitely minor mistakes … but I was accepting of it eventually. It was sort of devastating at the same time.
Meg: Some people’s dishes were very bloody and wicked, and yours was elegant, do you think that was a factor, and would you re-think your dish?
Beverly: I think that that definitely had a factor in the dish being eliminated because people really embraced the wickedness, and almost grotesqueness of just tapping into that dark side. That was a challenge for me, but yeah, I wish I had taken it a little further and had more fun with that grotesque aspect of it instead of focusing in an elegant dish. It was sort of like misinterpretations, so any opportunity you can, embrace a challenge and I think that is what judges are looking for: to really embrace it, get into it, and take risks.
Meg: I feel like Grayson was sort of your champion, do you feel like she threw you under the bus a little bit during the judging?
Beverly: Well the thing is, we are all fighting for ourselves at the end of the day, and as much as we are all friends, when it comes down to it nobody want to go home, and so I don’t really think that she was throwing me under the bus. I think she was trying to fend for herself, and I don’t take it personally.
Meg: The judges table when you and Heather were on the same team and she called you out for a previous challenge was very uncomfortable. What were you thinking during that judging?
Beverly: It was definitely uncomfortable, I didn’t expect her to bring up the last challenge, and I didn’t really expect her to question my work ethic, but you know what, from what I have seen on Twitter and everything, it’s almost too much now [the backlash], and people have to understand that it was a very competitive environment. It was like life or death for all of us (laughs). That’s kind of how we took it, and seriously, I definitely think that challenge crossed the line, and it’s understandable, but I think you have to see it from the perspective that it’s a competition, and things can get said that are really mean. Things can get said at the heat of the moment. You’re under a lot of stress and pressure, and I’m totally past it. It’s in the past, and I’m cool with Heather. She’s a hardworking, talented chef, and she’s fought really hard. She’s also from that generation of chefs where people did get bullied and talked down to, and that was just part of the kitchen. Being a head chef as a woman, we had to fight a lot for that, and … she has come from that generation, she’s ten years older than me, so I always saw her as sort of like a big sister. It was a -- we can "agree to disagree" sort of thing. I’m cool with her; I’m past it, and I hope people understand that and take that into consideration.
Meg: You’re so understanding!
Beverly: (laughs) You know, life is short, you have to go through life not taking things personally, because doing so will only bring you down. I always try to see things from the other person’s perspective too, but if I hold any sort of grudge it is going to bring me down. We are chefs in the same city, and I celebrate all of the Chicago chefs, and so I feel like we have more in common than not.
Meg: Do you think that the other contestants underestimated you?
Beverly: When you come into a group, there’s a little bit of judgment based on superficial things. People even who watch Top Chef judge me, and they don’t even know me! So there definitely is a little bit of that, I sort of stand out, I’m kind of petite, I come from an Asian-American background, I’m sort of quiet, and I sort of like have this natural smile, so that does throw people off. But don’t underestimate that! There is a huge strength in quiet confidence. I have been in this business for a long time, but part of being a great chef is questioning, “Am I doing the right thing?” It’s important to not have a superficial confidence and to question if things are the right choice. That being said, when I was questioning a lot of things, I think it looks like weakness, and that’s why I think I got misunderstood.
Meg: So I know that you have this quiet strength, and I know you revealed being in abusive relationship prior, what did you learn from that?
Beverly: Oh definitely what I learned from that was that I deserve better! Abusive treatment is never okay. I did grow stronger because of it, but coming out of it was hard because I am a compassionate person and I normally feel like I need to mother or nurture that person, but when it takes away from your own happiness then it is time to move on. I think sometimes you need help, and you need people telling you that you deserve better, and I couldn’t see that at the time. Now looking back, it’s a wonderful thing because I know who I am and I know what I deserve, and I feel sorry for that person who was abusive because you have to understand that they come from a place of insecurity, a place of anger; they come from a place where they’ve been hurt, and so I think with that understanding you can come to peace about it. Whenever you are in a situation where you feel belittled or your'e being harassed you have to speak up for yourself. You have to get help, and you have to say something because you’re damaging yourself and you are not going to reach your full potential like that.
Meg: So it seems like there were a lot of difficult things in this season of Top Chef. What do you think was more difficult, cooking or just dealing with the other personalities?
Beverly: It’s a mixed bag. Definitely cooking under the pressure was a huge stress, but dealing with mixed personalities was more of a side thing. It was harder emotionally than I thought it was going to be, you know from watching the season and then actually getting on, and realizing that it is like being back in high school again. Because I’m an adult now, I feel like I left that in high school! There were a lot of the same feelings from high school where you want to fit in and be part of the gang, so that mentality sort of comes back. Since I’ve been away from that for so long, I just had to be myself, and being myself was being different (laughs). I just realized through the whole process, that I think being different is great. I think the world would be a very boring place if we all acted the same. I’m the first to tell you that I’m not perfect, I’m totally open about that, you know I will bump into things, things will happen under the pressure of trying to do so many things at the same time, and because I want it so bad! I’m very driven and I think that we all get misunderstood when we are trying to do our best. People react differently to doing their best. My way of doing my best is the quiet way, and some others are a little bit bigger about it. It was sort of like a social experiment! As an adult, I really celebrate being different, you might get slack for it, and I can’t believe how much of a love-hate relationship there is with me out there! I’m actually cool with that, I’m cool with the fact that I’m sort of controversial. People can’t decide [about me], some people totally love me and they feel like they can identify with me, and some people have it in their mind that a chef should be a certain way. The thing is to never let it up to the people to decide who you are; you just have to be you.
Meg: How did you feel when you went on Last Chance Kitchen, and none of the other cheftestants thought you were going to win?
Beverly: At first it sort of hurt a little bit, but it’s sort of understandable, because she won five other chefs in a row, and I didn’t know that! So after I had found out that she beat five other chefs in a row, it does make since that people naturally thought that she was going to win. She was on a winning trek, she’s a fighter, and so don’t think it was as much against me, but in the moment it kind of gave me strength, because I was going to prove to these guys that I can do it! There was nothing to lose at that point.
Meg: My last question is, what is next for you?
Beverly: I think that there is something really awesome happening in my life, whether it’s [being chef] at Aria, which is in Chicago at the Fairmont Hotel. It’s a modern Asian cuisine, and we just got Michelin recommended. I am eventually going to have to branch out, but you are definitely going to be seeing a lot of me.