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Chef Grayson: Last Chance Kitchen is Bullsh*t
TheInsider.com caught up with Top Chef: Texas' ousted cheftestant Grayson Schmitz after her wild ride on the hit reality show. From her opinionated thoughts on Last Kitchen to being maxed out by her final episode and even her infamous -- "Like a meatball comment," she had a lot to say!
TheInsider.com: How did it feel to go home when you did?
Grayson Schmitz: Actually, I’m not going to lie, I was completely maxed out at that point when I got eliminated. It is such a physical and mental game that I think towards the end, we were all just dying. I was definitely at peace going home, I was tired. Of course I wish I could have pulled through a little bit longer, maybe get a chance at the big bucks, but I was definitely at peace. As you noticed, I didn’t cry, it was more of saying goodbye to my friends. At that point, that was the hardest thing for me.
TheInsider: Because you were so exhausted from the competition, how did you feel when you found out about Last Chance Kitchen?
Grayson: I mean I was wrecked; I was actually kind of pissed about it, as you can kind of see by watching it. I definitely asked Tom [Colicchio] if he was f*cking with me, and he said, “I don’t wake up at 6 o’clock to f*ck with people” [laughs]. I walked in the door, and I had no idea what was going on. Basically, when you’re that far in the competition and you get sent home, you cope, like the second Padma [Lakshmi] said "pack your bags and go," I had accepted it. And then I walked into the kitchen and they were like, “okay you have to cook again. Ready? Go.” Everything is turned upside down, and you have to bring yourself back to where you were, it’s an emotional game. I was not ready for that, and personally, I think the whole "Last Chance Kitchen" thing is not an awesome idea. I think it’s cool for the eliminated chefs to do this separate competition, and basically, if somebody got eliminated too soon, like in my opinion Nyesha [Arrington] did, then I think it was cool for her to do this whole competition, and then at the end maybe get another little prize, but to go back in basically refreshed. I just know how everybody felt when I left, like I know where everybody’s heads were at, and we were mentally, physically, and emotionally beaten down. For somebody to be essentially refreshed and get thrown back into the mix is bullsh*t.
TheInsider: Do you think they should do Last Chance Kitchen again next year?
Grayson: I think it would be really cool if they did, because I know that the web show is up for a nomination, like it did really well. I think it’s an awesome idea, and it gives Top Chef contestants a lot more PR, more face time, and they actually get to cook kind of what they want in that kitchen. It’s not like, "here, cook this stupid shit that I put in a basket." They kind of actually get to show how they really cook, while on the competition it is very hard to do that, because you’re putting all of your food into these parameters.
TheInsider: There have been a lot of really weird challenges this season. What would you say was your most difficult challenge?
Grayson: The most difficult was hands down, the barbecue. That was like hell on wheels, we were delusional. I definitely saw an armadillo that night, a real one, I wasn’t hallucinating. It was crazy; we were up for like 40 hours straight, with knives, cooking over coals. It was rough!
TheInsider: I talked to Chris [Jones] about this, and he said how difficult restaurant wars was, because he said it was right after the barbecue challenge.
Grayson: That was really hard for the guys. Although, the girls team didn’t get any extra time to plot or anything, but they were definitely running on E, and had to go first, so we may have had an advantage there. I don’t know, but [the girls] are still better!
TheInsider: Your sassy "like a meatball" comment to Tom Colicchio seems to be one of the highlights of the season. How’d that go over?
Grayson: I don’t even know why I got so heated, I think it’s because I was in the top, I wasn’t going home, but in my head, all I could think about was Chris, because I knew that if Tom hated the chicken salad idea, Chris would take the fall for it since he was the other chicken salad. I wasn’t going home, but I felt compelled to stand up for my homeboy, because I love that dude. The whole conversation was him basically telling me, “Do you really think you can win with a chicken salad sandwich?” I told him that I thought that I had made an elevated chicken salad sandwich, and he wished I had stepped up my game a little bit and made something finer, so that’s when I said, "like a meatball?" That was my worst judges table, I was so mad at Tom, but then at the same time, it’s so hard because I respect the s**t out of that man. To say anything was kind of strange for me, because I was raised in kitchens where you do not talk back to the chef, all you say is “oui chef!” If they tell you to jump off a bridge, do it, and then come back into work the next day. I’m kind of militant when it comes to that, so saying something to Tom was probably naughty, but he seemed to love it. He told me that he thought it was hilarious.
TheInsider: It seems like everyone likes each other this season, but there have been some really tense moments, certainly around Beverly [Kim]. Do you feel like you were her protector?
Grayson: I think that I wouldn’t want to put the label of her “protector” on the table, just because she can take care of herself. That girl is feisty, she is a bulldog. She will barrel through a brick wall, she’s super smart, and she knew how to play the game. So protector no; friend, yes. If somebody says something screwed up, no matter who it is, I will usually say something. I feel like I kind of have a mediating personality.
TheInsider: Why do you think people kept on ganging up on her?
Grayson: I think it was because it was easy. Also, she was CRAZY in the kitchen. I had a different relationship with her because we actually ended up rooming together a few times, so I knew things about her that nobody else did, and we developed a relationship. I’m not going to lie though, competing against the girl was not fun, because she’s crazy. She’s so ‘balls to the wall’ so you just want to like, hug the wall while she flails through. So I did sometimes get why some of the other competitors were like, “what the f*ck?” At the end of the day, she’s an amazing person, so I just overlooked it in the kitchen I guess, and she’s also a phenomenal chef. Her food hands down speaks for itself, and that’s the awesome part about it. They can’t really say that she doesn’t make good food, because she does. She gets nervous, knocks things over, and runs into things, but at the end of the day, what she set out to do was make amazing food, and she did.
TheInsider: What is your favorite food guilty pleasure?
Grayson: I have been known to get down on Shake Shack. Also, I’m kind of a whoopie pie girl, which is bad [laughs].
TheInsider: What are you up to right now?
Grayson: I’m actually doing a lot of different events, thankfully for the show. I’ve been called to do wine dinners, and I’ve been working with my sister a lot, which I never thought would happen. We never really got along growing up. She’s the typical older sister, and I’m the typical younger sister, and she has like a billion initials behind her name – a law degree etcetera, and I am a chef, so we are basically night and day. Through this whole experience we have been working together, and who better to have by your side than a family member? She basically does all of the event planning and front of the house sort of stuff, all of the PR, and I obviously do the back of the house. We work really well together, and it’s actually pretty hilarious to watch us, so we’re thinking about maybe trying to take that somewhere. That’s pretty much what I’m doing right now, but I also do some recipe development for Olivia Chang every once in a while.
TheInsider: Who do you think should make it to the finals?
Grayson: The whole competition, I really thought Paul [Qui] was amazing. The guy has this crazy talent. His flavor profiles are insane, they are unlike anything I have ever seen before, and it’s amazing. He has a very, very special talent, and it’s his creativity. On the other hand Lindsay [Autry] is a total bulldog, but she’s a complete lady and composed about it, which I think is hilarious. She’s so southern; we always called her our southern belle. Her food is amazing, I feel like it’s always very balanced. I cook completely different from her, so I really like her style, it’s new for me kind of, and I like it. But then Sarah [Grueneberg] makes the most incredible Italian food ever. She learned in Italy for awhile, and she was under Tony, and he completely took her under his wing and taught her everything, so her knowledge on Italian cuisine is out of this world insane. She is such a talented person, so oh my god, I pretty much just went though everybody. And Ed [Lee] should be on Masters! He’s already got an empire!