Love her or hate her — and I have a feeling I know where most of you stand on this one — Lisa Fernandes is a passionate chef. She showed that her fiery personality and kitchen skills could put her on the path to becoming a Top Chef. Unfortunately for her, she fell just short and had to settle for a runner-up prize.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Lisa. We spoke about bloggers, her bad reputation, and things she would have done differently. Is she rude, or was she just portrayed that way? Find out when you
YumSugar: How'd you end up at Top Chef; what made you audition?
Lisa Fernandes: They contacted me, and they wanted to meet me and chat with me. They really liked my resume, and the next thing I knew it was like, "Hey, you're leaving in two weeks."
YS: Was it what you expected?
LF: I knew it would be everything I expected and then some. It was stressful. I didn't realize how the whole TV world works. They're hurry up and wait, and there's not a lot of sleep. You can' t go to the bathroom or smoke a cigarette without someone watching over you. You have to ask for permission for everything; it was a bit weird.
YS: You were definitely this season's "bad guy." Do you think you deserved the reputation?
LF: Well, with the cameras running 24/7, you only get to see a small portion of everyone's personality. So it's a selective reality show; you only see what they want you to see.
YS: So do you think you were portrayed unfairly?
LF: Well, there's a lot more to my personality. Like in the finale, it's me, not stressed, just relaxed and running around cooking. It's my passion and my life. I'm glad that they just let me show that.
YS: You did Asian food for most of the season, so why did you decide to do Latin food in the first half of the Puerto Rico challenges?
LF: Asian and Latin foods are similar — well, not totally similar, but they have similar flavors, and I lived in south Florida for six years, and I thoroughly enjoy cooking Latin food. Asian and Latin are my two favorites.
To be in Puerto Rico and cooking for Puerto Rico natives was an honor. I felt that I should really try to showcase that I don't only cook Asian. I wanted to cook everything that was local and fresh and do a great job doing it. I mean, I'm not going to cook Asian food for the rest of my life.
YS: You really seemed to hit your stride during the last challenge. Like you mentioned, you appeared calm and collected. Why do you think that is?
LF: That's really how I cook and how I am in the kitchen. There's a time for stress and a time for focusing on the task at hand. You don't have to be running around like a maniac, getting wrapped up in your own head. You have to stay calm. This is what I do for a living, and what I do for fun, and what I do all the time. I don't need to be stressed out.
YS: So what was going through your mind during judges' panel? How long were you there, can you say?
LF: Well, let's just say it takes a really long time. You're standing there, listening to them, it's all important feedback, stuff you need to take in and remember. Stuff you should focus on for the next time you cook for everyone. Then I'm also listening to tallies, and I'm listening to who's in the lead.
YS: Speaking of which, a lot of people feel the scene where you're tallying up who won and not including Richard was pretty rude. Did you even realize what you were doing?
LF: Again, it's selective reality. It's only a small part of the conversation. They film so much that they pretty much have a reaction shot for everyone with every kind of facial expression. It was a very calm conversation that I think Richard actually started. It wasn't meant to be rude towards him at all. I hope he knows that wasn't the case. Although even from the way they edited judges' panel, didn't it seem that way, that Steph had two and I had two?
YS: Sure, it seemed like it was split between you two.
LF: Exactly, and I'm a direct and straightforward person. You get it all out in the stew room. We're not allowed to talk to each other until we get there, so you just put everything on the table.
YS: Since you've mentioned being direct, you recently said some unflattering things about bloggers. Do you really think that every blogger can't cook or afford to eat out? Do you stand by those words still?
LF: I want to apologize for the way that came across. There was a lot of negative things about me, and I was trying not to pay attention to it, but it was just getting to me. I invite anybody to come and have me cook for them. I do apologize.
YS: So what are you up to these days?
LF: I'm actually working at Mai House [where Spike was]. Spike is helping his family open a restaurant in DC, so he brought me in to watch stuff for him. I'm playing around and having a great time.
Photos courtesy of Bravo