Wednesday night we watched as the second cheftestant left the Top Chef house. And while Valerie Bolon may never look at blinis the same, she was able to look back and cherish the time she spent on the show. Yesterday afternoon I got to speak with her about her experience. To see what she had to say, including her pick for the win and who she would like to see leave,
YumSugar: Why did you audition for Top Chef?
Valerie Bolon: I've been a big fan of the show. I think the show is a great show, and it showcases all sorts of great talent.
YS: OK, I guess I should just get right to it: How did it feel to get kicked off so early?
VB: [Laughs] Not a good feeling at all. Certainly not when you're looking forward to improving yourself and getting through all the challenges. I didn't feel like I was gonna go, I was really surprised by it.
YS: At what moment did you realize you might be going home?
VB: When they said my name. Seriously, my heart sank into my stomach, I was really surprised.
YS: If you didn't think you were going to go, who did you think was going to?
VB: I thought they were going to send Nikki home, especially after the time spent at judge's table.
YS: How long were you at judge's table?
VB: It was a long time ago, I'm not sure, a half hour maybe? It's not the five minutes they show. They just argue with you and tell you that they didn't like your food.
YS: What was it like to hear people criticize your food?
VB: It was painful to hear people criticize your food. You certainly don't want to hear it. It was one of those things where I made a few bad judgment calls. You have to be tough and defend yourself as much as you can. Be strong and tough and suck it up.
YS: So did you think it was fair decision?
VB: I think it could have gone either way. Her dish was really bad.
YS: Did you get to taste it?
VB: No, they stopped serving it because it tasted really bad! It looked awful. But then again, my dish wasn't so great either. It was sort of a tough call. All it takes is one tiny miscalculation and that is going to send you home. I think it ended up being a big reality check for a lot of talented people.
YS: So are you keeping in touch with anyone?
VB: Definitely. You bond with them, you're living in the house together. Most of the people were very cool, very talented. I look forward to going out and eating at all of their restaurants.
YS: Back to the blinis for a second, what about gorillas made you think of them?
VB: Actually, it wasn't my idea, it was Antonia's idea. I wanted to do a vegetarian dish because a gorilla's diet is strictly vegetarian. I mean gorillas don't eat lamb, but that's something the judges overlooked. Also, I thought we should have something with bananas in it.
YS: So will you be making any blinis anytime soon?
VB: Certainly not! I've burned that recipe from my collection for good.
YS: So what was it like seeing yourself on TV?
VB: Nervewracking. You just don't know how it's going to be edited. We see it when the world sees it. You watch yourself and you don't remember what you said. You're being filmed 24 hours and you do so many interviews throughout the day. It was hard to watch. I'm sort of relieved I don't have to be stressed out and can enjoy watching the rest of the season.
YS: Who do you think could win the season? Are you rooting for anyone in particular?
VB: Any of those people can do it, but I'm rooting for Stephanie, she's one of my closest friends. It would be nice to have a female win it this year. Although I don't want Antonia — everyone else but her.
YS: You don't want Antonia to win because of the blinis?
VB: Well, we didn't get on so well. Sometimes you just don't mesh well. I consider myself to be pretty personable and get along with almost everyone. But hearing some of the things she had to say about me were just, wow. We didn't hit it off that well and I felt like she sold me down the river.
YS: So what are you going to take from this experience?
VB: Being able to have this experience, to be chosen for it out of so many people. It's really a true example of believing in yourself. It was a very nervewracking, daunting task. Not to know if I would be good enough or could handle it. It's all about attitude and staying positive, that's how you get the most out of your life. It helped me believe in myself and know that I should always do so.
YS: So what's next for you?
VB: I'm working as a personal chef. I have some private clients that I work for. I'm really enjoying that. We'll see what happens down the road, maybe Steph and I will partner up. We'll see what comes up, maybe a restaurant? Who knows. We'll just have to see what the future holds.
Photos courtesy of Bravo