Top Chef: Texas' Chris: We Were Up for 96 Hours
This season of Top Chef: Texas has been really cooking! TheInsider.com caught up it's latest castoff, Top Chef's happy-go-luckiest cheftestant ever, Chris Jones. With his ultra-positive attitude in tow, the Chicago-based chef dished on everything from being up for 96 hours between the barbeque challenge and Restaurant Wars to the drama in the house and all the internet hubbub about his high pony tail (turns out he has been growing it out for Locks of Love!). Check out what the chefm who really does "love everybody on this planet," has to say about his grueling time on Top Chef!
Insider.com: How does it feel to leave so far into the show?
Chris Jones: Of course it’s a great opportunity to be working with these people for so long, and to make it as far as I did. I guess my biggest concern is that I just want everybody to be proud, and I just want to make sure I represented everybody well.
Insider: A lot of people seemed like they got really into the drama of it all, but you seem like everyone’s favorite jolly guy.
Chris: I’m not a drama person. I don’t believe in yelling in a kitchen, I believe that emotions get in the way of the actual beautiful food and cooking, especially the creativity of what we are doing as chefs. All of that is not needed, within a kitchen. I stay away from all of that as much as I possibly can, and honestly, I really do love everybody on this planet. Until you tell me, "I don’t like you and I hate you," then I’m going to get along with everybody, and even if you do say that to me, I am still going to like you, I just probably won’t talk to you as much.
Insider: It seems like you tried a lot of wild, interesting things -- do you ever think you went too far?
Chris: No, because if I didn’t go far enough I wasn’t going to be myself. I like to step on the moon for the first time. If I did one thing on the show that no one else has ever seen before, then that’s cool. I didn’t go there to fly underneath the radar, to not be who I was, you got the real deal: Chris Jones. The most important thing that I could have brought to the show is just being me, and every one of my ideas. I go over the top, even here at Moto.
Insider: What is one of the most out of the box thing’s you’ve cooked?
Chris: Cooking with a laser was pretty intense, and that first time I saw edible paper at Moto was weird. I guess the most recent thing was the Miracle Berry. As soon as I saw the miracle Berry and tasted what it did, I was blown away by a thing that could do that to your palate. There are a lot of things that people haven’t seen in the world, and there’s a lot of ways to cook that haven’t been done – that’s exciting.
Insider: What dish were you most proud of cooking on the show?
Chris: The tribute dinner [to the person that inspired you to be a chef]. Even if I had gone the entire season and won, I would trade every cent that I made to do the tribute dinner for my grandmother. That was the most amazing experience; I know my grandma thinks I’m crazy for saying that but to have the opportunity to truly honor the person that got me into loving food is such a great thing. That’s my life, this is my career, it’s what I love to do, and being able to do that was amazing.
Insider: Was that your favorite challenge?
Chris: My favorite challenge was the "Snow White" challenge though. I go back and forth between the tribute dinner and the Snow White challenge. It was fun to do. And just like the tribute dinner, there was a lot of pressure: there was no team, it wasn’t barbecue, it wasn’t sage, it wasn’t chili -- it was just us cooking what we like to cook and that was tough. You have to be creative, and you’ve got to show off your wild side. Every chef did a great job, and it was amazing experience to be a part of.
Insider: And you got to meet Charlize Theron!
Chris: Charlize Theron is a very beautiful woman, not as beautiful as my wife, but it was a pleasure to meet her.
Insider: What do you think would be the hardest part of the show?
Chris: The hardest part of the show was …just so many extreme elements to it, the lack of sleep, cooking times …. -- You know I don’t mind hard work, and I love doing that kind of stuff, but when you’re up 20 hours barbecuing on equipment you’ve never used before, or being in a brand new kitchen for the first time and trying to find everything quickly – those are the things that I think are tough on a chef, and make the challenge hard to do.
Insider: What do you think the hardest challenge was?
Chris: That would have to be the barbecue challenge going into the Restaurant Wars. It was very, very difficult. The statements we focused on were to keep your emotions in check. We were up for 96 hours or something like that, so they don’t show that on TV but it was an epic battle for all the chefs to get through, and that was extremely difficult.
Insider: I actually recently read that after 17 hours doctors think that lack of sleep starts to affect your mental state.
Chris: Oh yeah, your eyeballs start floating into your skull. It’s kind of like, “oh my god what’s going on” – that’s when it’s toughest to keep your sanity and focus because it’s almost like you’re on drugs, it’s totally a rollercoaster.
Insider: So how did you get into molecular gastronomy?
Chris: That’s actually a crazy story. I was classically trained, despite all my crazy ideas, and that’s kind of how I got into Moto. I worked in Le Français, which was in Wheeling Illinois, and when it closed down a friend of mine went from back of the house to front of the house when she was working at Moto, and I had just helped to open a catering company in the city. I was done with catering and was looking for a new home, I wanted to get back into fine dining and she said, "Hey these guys at Moto are crazy, I think you’d get into it, they kind of have the same mentality you have. It’s not yell at you French cooking, but you’ll like it." And I said I’d give it a try, so I staged, and I actually staged on my birthday, and it was cool because there was no yelling, and the ideas that they were doing were things that I was told I never could do, so it opened this whole new world of cooking that I never thought was possible in French cuisine. I just got into it, and its fun. It’s fun to do things that no one has ever seen before, it’s fun to break all the rules in what people think is a good dish, and so that’s why Moto and our sister restaurant ING are doing so well, because when you go there, it’s fun – people enjoy playing with their food.
Insider: So I have to ask, the hairdo – do you have a name for it?
Chris: It’s called: putting it up as quick as I possibly can so I can get as much sleep. I grow out my hair regularly for Locks of Love, and I didn’t expect to be on the show, and so I was like, “Well if I get on the show I’ll just put my hair up,” and I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t know it was going to be this big thing about hair on the show. I didn’t even mention it, and it’s pretty long now, it’s actually twelve inches, so I’ve only got a couple more inches to go before I cut it off, so in six months you’re going to see me with you know, a marine haircut.
My hair constantly changes, and I don’t think a lot of people realize that until it’s shown and I’m like well, it’s not a big deal.
Insider: Yeah it’s funny, a lot of people are like, "You’ve got to ask him about the hair!"
Chris: Yeah, and I wasn’t trying to have any style with it. The New York Times did a small article on it, but my only goal is to get it up quickly and keep it growing out during the whole entire thing. I didn’t even picture it being a "thing" with people.
Insider: It was a pretty dramatic season, more so than a lot of past ones – why do you think the girls had so much drama on this season?
Chris: Well you know, and I’ll speak for the girls, everybody really got along. I really think overall, people liked each other. I think they took a lot of clips and things, and they made more drama out of situations than their may have actually been. Heather is a strong woman in the kitchen. She says her mind. She didn’t say it behind anybody’s back, she didn’t say it in an interview, she just straight out said it. You know, Lindsay and Sarah and Beverly, I don’t know – I stay away from all of that. I don’t understand boys versus girls, it’s just chefs versus chefs, and whoever has the skills to pay the bills is going to win. That’s kind of how I looked at it, so I don’t like to pay attention to those things, it makes you get involved.
We all talk together, we all get together, and everybody gets along. It’s not like, "Oh I hate that person!"
TheInsider: What is your favorite food guilty-pleasure?
Chris: Oh, I am a cheeseburger man. I love cheeseburgers more than any other thing. In fact, when everybody asks what I’m going to do when I retire and am done with fine dining, I say that I am going to have a cheeseburger place. I want it to be so unhealthy, I want grease to smear when you bight into it, that’s the kind of burger that the world needs to have, and if you’re going to go for it, you might as well -- not to Mc Donald’s, not Wendy’s, but to a true blue delicious cheeseburger.
TheInsider: Where is your favorite cheeseburger?
Chris: It’s Jacks Old Fashioned Hamburgers, its in Fort Lauderdale Florida, there’s also one in Pompano, and they do fresh ground beef on the premises. They use an American provolone cheese blend, and they don’t put any condiments on the burger because the burgers are so good that you do not need them.
Insider: Now that you are not on the show, and Beverly defeated you in last chance kitchen, who are you rooting for now?
Chris: I should say that I am rooting for my Chicago favorite, Sarah, now that she is the last Chicago person left, but I loved everybody on the show. If they could all win, and it’s a five-way tie at this point, its 125k, I’d be very excited for all of the chefs. I honestly don’t know who is going to win, I don’t have a favorite, I want Chicago to take home the prize, of course I loved working with Grayson, Paul’s the guy to beat in my eyes, I mean, he’s the man. I wanted to beat him all season long; I’ll tell you that right now, so for all the chefs out there, I hope they bring him down, and for Paul, I hope he wins.
Insider: What’s next for you?
Chris: Right now at Moto we actually have a sister restaurant named ING and we are doing Miracle Berry flavored tripping menus there. So that’s really what the biggest project I’m working on is, the miracle berry, and there’s so many different uses for this miracle berry; we work with diabetics, cancer patients in conjunction with their doctors, and that’s the major project that we’re working on right now. We want people coming in and checking it out.