On this week's Top Chef, we saw final-four contestant Antonia Lofaso leave Puerto Rico. When I spoke to her yesterday, she was in New York lunching with fellow finalist Stephanie. The two chefs were in town for Bravo's A-List Awards, and Antonia was nice enough to take a break from her meal of gnocchi and sweetbreads to chat about her time on the show.
Antonia isn't just a Top Chef contestant; she's also a fan who has watched the series since the first season. To hear how her experience compared to what she'd seen on TV and find out what her 8-year-old daughter thought of it all,
YumSugar: How’d you get involved in Top Chef?
Antonia Lofaso: It was actually something that came through my restaurant group. [Production company] Magical Elves did a little scouting, and they made a recommendation. At that point I was just turning 30 and wanted to put myself out there and push myself.
YS: So were you a fan of the show before?
AL: I’m a huge fan of Top Chef. I watched it since season one. It was kind of nerve-wracking watching it: The day before I left, it was the episode of season three where they had to cook on the plane. I thought, oh my goodness, am I really going to do this right now?
YS: Do you think what viewers see is an accurate representation of what really happens?
AL: I think the show is very accurate. Obviously in the long run, there needs to be a story told and people want to see a story. But for the most part, everyone says what they say and looks the way they look and does what they do. Someone could say, "Oh that was misconstrued," but you did say it. I’m waiting for Top Chef to have replays, where you say, “I didn’t do that,” and then you see Padma hit the switch.
YS: How long were you at judges' table? What was going through your mind?
AL: The whole process goes on for hours. By then it was six o'clock in the morning, and we'd been up since 8 a.m. the previous day. It’s like that movie Defending Your Life. You get up there and talk about your concept. They want to understand the story you’re trying to tell, what experience you were trying to get across with your food. And they let us talk for as long as we need to, so that they have all the information they need to make a proper decision.
YS: What would you have done differently in this challenge?
AL: If I could do it again, I don’t think conceptually I would have done anything differently. I felt like I really wanted to take advantage of the ingredients we had and make it more about the island than about doing pork belly the way I’d normally do pork belly. Execution-wise, absolutely I would do it differently. That’s where I fell the most short was on my execution. I pride myself on being a very strong technical chef, so to be called out for that was hard.
YS: You seemed a bit more frazzled in this episode than in past challenges.
AL: I actually felt that. My restaurant just opened eight weeks out from the show, and to tell you the truth, I wasn’t there mentally in any capacity that I should have been. I got off the plane in Puerto Rico, and my head was still in California. Not that that’s any excuse, but it was just disappointing. Of course everyone’s like, you just opened a restaurant, you haven’t seen your daughter. I knew all this, but I still love the fact that I'm able to produce under those circumstances, and unfortunately I didn’t produce. For me that is upsetting.
YS: How is the restaurant going?
AL: The restaurant is going really, really well. I’m blessed. I’ve got a great location, and the restaurant group is full-force ahead. They plan on opening Foxtail at the Sahara hotel in Las Vegas next.
YS: You said that your daughter told you to win or not come home. Were you allowed back in the house?
AL: Yes I was. My daughter was very sweet actually. You always teach kids that whether or not you win or lose isn’t important, and when I got home it was very, “Aww, don’t worry mommy, at least you tried.” She liked seeing me on TV, but I think it was more exciting for her friends at school. I’m definitely the cool mom.
YS: So this is probably a silly question, but who do you think should win?
AL: I’m sitting here with Stephanie, so I have to say Stephanie. I really hope that Steph takes it. She has a huge heart and great integrity. I love Richard 100 percent, but of course, we’d love to see a woman win this year. And if it’s not going to be me, it’s going to be her.
Photos courtesy of Bravo