On the last episode of Top Chef, Manuel Trevino had to pack his knives and go. I had a chance to chat with Manuel yesterday and I asked him about his time on the show, and what it was like to say goodbye. To learn more about Manuel and find out what he had to say,
YumSugar: How'd you end up on Top Chef?
Manuel Trevino: I applied. [laughs] Actually, I don't know how we got connected but I was approached when season one was being pitched. But at the time they didn't want only experienced cooks. However the show has really developed into sous chefs and chefs. As the third season was airing, my office assistant and one of my hostesses said I should do it. I said I did, and it wasn't right then. They convinced me to give it another shot.
YS: So was the experience what you expected?
MT: I don't think any of us could have expected the way the show works. We knew it was a competition, but how the magic happens, so to speak, you can never expect something like that. You never know what's going to happen. You wake up and you never know.
YS: Alright, so let's talk about last night's episode. Did you expect your dish to be in the bottom?
MT: I had a feeling that something was awry, because i would see the plates coming back into the kitchen. If the plates are clean, you're doing a good job. But I had a mixed feeling because the portions were big and we were the second course. I didn't know if they were saving room, or if they didn't like it, but as the other teams dishes came back, I saw that some were wiped clean and got a bit worried. Actually the two dishes that really didn't get cleaned were the two teams up for elimination.
YS: Do you regret not pushing your own ideas and going with Spike's movie choice instead?
MT: In the end I did. But I think his main concept was right on with what I wanted to do. The idea was to make a salad without making a salad. Something clean and refreshing.
YS: Do you think you achieved that?
MT: Yeah, but one of the comments the judges said was that it didn't need the fish, and they were correct. If we had just taken that money and bought something else and gone in a different direction without the fish, it may have been better.
YS: So are you going to be eating any summerolls anytime soon?
MT: [Laughs] Maybe not after last night. . . Actually I love them, I think they're great. I definitely order them at a restaurant, but probably wouldn't make them at home.
YS: What will you make at home then?
MT: I love fish. I love making every kind of fish, whatever's in season. I want to work with whatever the seafood purveyor is bringing to me.
YS: Back to the show, how was it to hear Daniel Boulud call your techniques "Level One"?
MT: That challenge was a bit strange. It was supposed to be a knife skill challenge, but sort of changed halfway through. I don't know if you saw Andrew's dish, but he didn't compose or cook anything. We thought it was a demonstration of skills. I must have misunderstood or the judges did. I mean people were using mandolines to slice their vegetables, how is that a demonstration of knife skills?
YS: So do you think you should have gone home?
MT: No. I thought Spike should have gone home. It was his idea, it was his thing. They found a flaw in it, he should have been held responsible for it. I don't understand why I ended up losing. I think I got faulted for believing in my team mate.
YS: Your departure was very graceful and humble. What were you thinking inside?
MT: As a chef you're in the spotlight a lot, in New York you're criticized a lot, by diners, servers, critics. If you can't take something positive away from criticism, it's difficult to learn and progress as a chef. You take from it and turn it into something else and you move on.
YS: Speaking of moving on, I heard you left Dos Caminos suddenly, what happened there?
MT: It was a mutual departure. I was ready to move on. I've been there for four years and I'm looking for bigger and better things.
YS: Do you have anything in the works?
MT: Right now I'm enjoying a bit of time off. It's been nonstop and I'm really enjoying time with my family. I'm looking to start something different, looking to getting back into fine dining and the corporate structure. I'm ready to go back and try new things.
Photos courtesy of Bravo