On the last episode of Top Chef, we said farewell to Mark Simmons. All of his midnight musical serenades and bubble bath hi-jinks couldn't convince the judges to keep him there.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to engage in a funny conversation in which Mark told me what he's been up to and what he thought of the whole process. He's not bitter, but he's not rooting for anyone, only himself. To find out what he had to say,
YumSugar: How'd you end up on Top Chef?
Mark Simmons: I'd just seen this really big line of people about eight months ago and I thought — for sh*ts and giggles — that I'd go stand at the end of it.
YS: Really? You didn't know what it was for?
MS: Well I figured out it was for Top Chef. There were some really crazy guys there. Guys drinking vodka straight out of the bottle. I was thinking to myself there's no way I could compete against these guys. But then I ended up on the show.
YS: Was the experience what you were expecting?
MS: Yeah, I knew it was going to be an experience of a lifetime. It was going to be a great learning event, a very difficult situation where I'd be living with 16 other cooks in a small house.
YS: What was it like living with all those other people?
MS: Not so easy, and I don't think they appreciated me playing the didgeridoo at twelve o'clock at night. But it was fun, like me and Spike would often have a bubble bath together on Sundays after the challenges.
YS: Are you keeping in touch with any of the other chefs?
MS: Yeah, you know there are quite a few of us in New York. Me, Andy, Spike, Dale, we go into each other's restaurants to catch up and for a cheap-meal [laughs].
YS: Did you think you should have been sent home when you were?
MS: I think it could've been any of us three. In one way or another our dishes were flawed. I was surprised I was going home. I didn't have a speech prepared. I was totally surprised by the [goes into a pretty funny Padma impersonation] "Pack your knives and go" of her monotone voice that she does [laughs].
YS: What was going through your head during judge's panel?
MS: To begin with, when I said to Tom, "You don't like me," it was just light-hearted banter. It took the edge off of it for me. It was an innocent joke that I enjoyed. . . What was going through my head? Well I was just trying to decipher what the challenge was. In my mind the challenge was to create a meal for $10 from Whole Foods. Other competitors went and bought $10 worth of food and then used another $10 worth from the pantry.
YS: Did they ever say you couldn't use it?
MS: Well it was a point to me. The challenge was create a meal for 10 bucks. You shouldn't have to rely on other ingredients.
YS: Did you end up tasting other dishes?
MS: No, and I'm glad I did not. I didn't get to try them, there wasn't a lot there. I literally had a carrot, some squash and I couldn't afford to give anyone any. I mean, Tom ate a lot of mine, straight from the pot even. And ironically, he was double-dipping his spoon. I think that's where some of the banter came from.
And you know, Andrew's did look really good and refined. I was surprised that he didn't win.
YS: So who are you rooting for now?
YS: Now that you're out of it, who are you rooting for?
MS: Now that I'm out, I'm not rooting for anyone. I'll continue to root for myself. But I think Dale is very strong at the quickfire challenges, and Blaise is very methodical, and Antonia is a strong contender too.
YS: You said it was just banter, but at the end, Tom reassures you that he doesn't feel that way. Do you think he took you seriously?
MS: I'm surprised he brought it back up. My approach to humor throughout the entire time was very deadpan. I'm usually a lot drier, so I was surprised he thought I was serious.
YS: What's it been like watching yourself on TV?
MS: There are a couple of episodes I had to watch with one-eye closed. Like, oh sh*t, not fun. It was really surreal. Watching myself, this is who I am in real life. I'm glad I was portrayed as who I am.
YS: So what's next for you?
MS: I'm back in New York and at Public. They're looking to open another space down the way and I hope to be involved with that. But actually, I just got married on Friday.
MS: Thanks. So yeah, I'll be on honeymoon in a couple of days. So I won't be working, I'll be in the Greek Islands.
YS: Sounds fantastic, why'd you choose there?
MS: I travel a lot, and so does my wife, and it's some place neither of us have been. It just sounds truly wonderful and romantic.
Photos courtesy of Bravo