Top Chef's Beverly: I Proved I Wasn't a Joke
For a second time Top Chef: Texas' Beverly Kim had to pack her knives and go. During her time in the Lone Star state, she was underestimated and mocked by other cheftestants, openly challenged throughout the season, and thrown under the bus by fellow females Heather and Sarah. But the quiet force did not let it phase her. Despite exiting earlier, she eventually won her Top Chef coat back in Top Chef's first-ever Last Chance Kitchen, where she beat out several chefs to become Last Chance Kitchen's victor. TheInsider.com caught up with Beverly a second time and once again found a positive chef whose quiet confidence allowed her to put the past in the past, finally get some respect from her fellow cheftestants -- and stand out as a force to be reckoned with.
The Insider: How does it feel to pack your knives and go a second time?
Beverly: It’s bittersweet. I really wanted to be able to show what I had and be able to cook in the final rounds, but I think that I’m more accepting of it this time around. I got far enough to show what I had, and I think that I proved a lot so I now have some closure and can move on with my life.
The Insider: How did it feel to win Last Chance Kitchen?
Beverly: It was really amazing. Having that opportunity again gave me goose bumps, because I really did envision making it all the way to the end. Sometimes you almost create your reality, so it was really nice to be able to show my real strength. A lot of the challenges were team challenges, and also in the style of cooking that I don’t really do, so I think it was really great. I think it was also great for other chefs to show what they had, like Nyesha [Arrington], who beat like five people. I give a lot of props to her for making it that far. It was great for a lot of the cast offs to be given a second chance. It was nice for people to go home with one more victory.
The Insider: It seems like there was a lot of redemption in Last Chance Kitchen.
Beverly: Yeah, for sure. I think that I had to prove who I was, and that I wasn’t a joke. I got to stay true to myself and the way that I cook.
The Insider: Do you feel like people often came down on you for only cooking Asian food?
Beverly: For sure. I think that it’s still looked down upon sometimes. When you think of Asian food, carry out often comes to mind, but I think that Asian food is pretty expansive and expensive, and it’s something that I love and that I’m proud of. I don’t want to have to be like everyone else. America definitely has a strong European influence and that shows in cooking, where that style is more acceptable. When I didn’t stick to my style it didn’t always work in my favor. I can cook out of my comfort zone, but people come back to my restaurant because they love the flavors that I bring to the table, and not because I think out of the box. I have a soul in my food that shows in the flavor combinations and the technique I bring.
The Insider: What do you think about Last Chance Kitchen in general?
Beverly: I think that it was really awesome. You have to be open to whatever they give you. None of us knew that we were going to be on it, and a lot of people are ready to go once they have been eliminated. The fact that it was a total surprise shows a lot about the fact that I never give up or complain, I just put my head down and I do it.
The Insider: When you came back did you feel like you weren’t wanted, or that the contestants were just shocked in general about Last Chance Kitchen?
Beverly: Honestly, at that point I think I realized that I just didn’t care about what they thought [laughs]. They weren’t really totally open to me about it, I’m sure they talked about it on the side to each other, but they were expecting that they were going to be the final four. I’m sure it sucked psychologically for them to realize that they were going to have to challenge themselves again, because you get down to that mental point where you’re so happy you made it to the final four. I would probably be the same way, but that’s the way Top Chef works, and we all signed up to be open to the twists and turns. This year I think more than ever, it was not only about how you cooked but also your endurance level.
The Insider: I feel like you were really open to the fact that anything could happen, and you were open to it.
Beverly: Yeah, the moment you start thinking negatively you are wasting time already. Top Chef really taught me how mind over matter works, and I’ll keep that with me for the rest of my life.
The Insider: What did you feel about your final Olympic challenge?
Beverly: It was more physical, I think. It sort of threw me off a little bit, because I was focusing more on what I didn’t have in the pantry rather than how to pull through with the little I did have. Mentally I did trip up a little bit in the third challenge. It was fun though, I wish I could have been able to show what I had been working on, but I think my true fans will really come out and see me regardless that I didn’t win, and I think I will be able to take my career far because I worked really hard. I’m glad it’s over so now I can focus on what I do, and move on. I’m really excited for the other three, they’re super talented.
The Insider: Did you feel like the other contestants understood and respected you when you left?
Beverly: Yeah, I definitely feel like coming back in the finale, they had a newfound respect in me. They could see more clearly who I was, and that’s all I really asked of anyone – to be unbiased, and look at what we do and our food as chefs. I think that I proved a lot. The most important thing is making good food and being open minded. I think I learned so much from the other contestants who cooked from a different point of view, and I respect that. I’m more at peace because of that mentality. I know my food will be better because I’m able to learn rather than just think about how different I am from them. It would be a shame to focus on the drama; it’s all water under the bridge. I’m so driven, and I don’t show it through the way I speak, I show it through my work ethic.
The Insider: What are you most proud of from your time on the show?
Beverly: I’m really proud of the fact that I never gave up, and I think a lot of it was psychological, the second guessing nature of the show. I had to get to a point where I had faith in myself. That’s really important as a chef to do; the first person you need to convince is yourself. Top Chef really taught me how to bring in that inner confidence.
The Insider: What are your food guilty pleasures?
Beverly: Sometimes I’m a bit of a ramen noodle junky. Ramen noodles have a really bad rep, but there are actually a lot of really great ramen out there! But once in a while, I will totally do the 99 cent bowl of ramen! I’m also a huge chocoholic and ice cream fan.
The Insider: Who are you rooting for?
Beverly: Actually all of them, because I really do think that they’re all talented, but in my dreams I really wish Paul [Qui] and I could have decked it out. I think that would have been really fun because we both have an Asian perspective, but come from different backgrounds, but I have reasons to root them all on. Sarah [Grueneberg] is from Chicago and she cooks amazing Italian food. Lindsay [Autry] has never been in the bottom, and I think she shows a lot of control and precision, and I think Paul thinks out of the box, but he’s also a gentle soul. On a personal level, I really respect that and the fact that he’s open minded. But I really do root them all on.
The Insider: Is there anything new that’s next for you?
Beverly: Yeah, right now is a busy time for me because the restaurant is getting busier, and so I really want to live up to the image of it, but it’s a lot of work to make sure it’s consistent. I have been doing a lot of things right now, collaborating with other chefs, working on a charity event, I’m going out to the San Francisco Asian-American film festival in March, and entering a cooking demo. Really awesome opportunities are coming my way right now. Collaborating with other chefs is one of my goals right now, it’s beautiful thing to share your point of view with theirs. In the longer road, I do want to have my own place, so look out for that!