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Spike Mendelsohn Tips His Hat to Top Chef

Spike Mendelsohn showed off some seriously sharp butchering skills on this week's episode of Top Chef. But in the end, he failed to make the cut for the final four.

He's certainly been one of the more colorful chefs this season, so I was excited to chat with Spike yesterday about the whole frozen scallops incident, the recent rumors about his job, and his affinity for fedoras. Oh, and in case you're curious, the 27-year-old chef is currently single. For all the juicy details on Spike,


YumSugar: What made you go out for Top Chef?
Spike Mendelsohn: I applied actually for season three. I had a lot of friends and family telling me I should do it. I was part of the final 30, in the final casting, and then they just decided not to use me. I was pretty much bummed out. I think I sent them some type of hate mail at some point. I guess they liked my spunk, and they reached out to me for season four.

YS: So you were pretty familiar with the show?
SM: I had definitely watched the show. I had a couple friends who were on the show. Marcel was a good friend of mine from culinary school, and Harold from season one I also got to know.

YS: Was it what you expected?
SM: You don’t know how well you’re going to react in front of the camera. You have pressure in the kitchen as it is, but being on camera and the competitiveness adds even more. I didn’t take it too seriously. Some people are all about the food and took it so seriously. I took more of the approach of showing who I was as a person and doing great food at the same time.

YS: Tell me about your decision to use the frozen scallops.

SM: To me, I felt like every ingredient in that walk-in should have been top notch. I heard there were scallops there, and I had conceived a scallop dish the night before. I think you could even see how nervous I was. I was like, I’m totally gonna go down for these frozen scallops. At the end of the day, I just screwed up. Normally, I would never use frozen scallops, but there’s ways of getting around things. I could have probably done something that called for wet ingredients, scallop ceviche or something that.

YS: In retrospect, how do you feel about what you said to Rick Tramonto about the scallops?

Maybe it was undeserved, but it was a point that I was trying to prove. He went after me a little bit, but I was like, the fact that you had frozen scallops, to me, was appalling. I was expecting the most beautiful diver scallops ever. I’d done so well in the quickfire, and I’d finally gained some momentum, so I was a little upset. I have a Greek temper, so I lashed out at him, and after I said that, I was appalled that I’d said that to him. I apologized to him three times. I think they showed me shaking his hand on the way out.

YS: What did you think about what went down at the judges' table?

This one really took awkwardly a long time. Hours and hours. They were really going back and forth with me and Lisa. I’m not quite sure what they based their decision on, even after watching the show. You think, OK, they thought her dish was the worst, so why am I being sent home? My other dish was really good, and I was proud of it. It was exactly what Rick Tramonto would have liked to serve at his steakhouse, and he said that. The only flaw for me was that I had to do tasting portions of that dish. My thinking was, I want to give them the whole chop, let them pick up a fork and knife and feel the texture of it. That’s the whole experience of that steak. If you ask me to do a tasting portion of a tomahawk chop, you lose the whole reason I want to cook it.

YS: What's next for you?
SM: Right now I have Lisa helping me at Mai House. I know there’s been a lot of rumors out there on the Internet that I got fired and she took over. But Drew [Nieporent] and I are very good partners, and I mentioned to Lisa if she was interested to come help me out, and she was. I’m gonna go launch my new concept, Good Stuff Eatery, towards the end of this month. Eventually, I want to open my own fine dining restaurant, but I don’t want to do that right now. There’s too much pressure and critics out there for a 27-year-old after doing the show. I wanted something simpler to capitalize on the publicity [from the show]. I came up with this great concept in DC, all organic food, and all I’ve got to perfect is burgers, fries, and milkshakes. And I’m bringing wedge salads back. It’s much more about being a restaurant chef than a kitchen chef on this one.

YS: Finally, I gotta ask about the hats. Are you just a hat guy?
SM: I wear hats. I’m a hat guy. I love my hats, I love the fedoras. I feel like I sport ‘em really well. I used to wear a couple hats here and there, but after being on the show and being the chef who wears hats, I gotta live up to it.

Photos courtesy of Bravo

Join The Conversation
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
jav I'm with you!
javsmav javsmav 9 years
I was really hoping for a double elimination. Spike AND Lisa needed to 10 episodes ago.
caligirl101 caligirl101 9 years
Ya, he definitely wasn't one of my favs.
Happsmjc Happsmjc 9 years
CaterpillarGirl from what you said it sounds like Chef Tramanto had absolutely nothing to do with those frozen scallops being in there--he probably also had no opportunity to police what food was brought in. It also sounds like he too was not happy those were in his restaurant--but I just saw Spike's point on the situation. I hate that it was part of his downfall! Also, hasn't Lisa been in the bottom just as much?!?!
sprock sprock 9 years
I can't believe people are sitting here saying he shouldn't have been kicked off. The guy has been in the bottom SEVEN times. Anyone who was in the bottom that many times should not deserve to go to he finals.
yellowbanana yellowbanana 9 years
I haven't seen this episode yet. From what I'm reading, yeah its a little surprising they'd supply him with frozen scallops and then have the gall to complain about the ingredient's quality. That's their fault, not his. But from the episodes I have seen, he kind of seemed like a d*****bag
MuggleCrazed MuggleCrazed 9 years
I think Lisa should have gone. She's done nothing for me. However Antonia is still the girl I'm rooting for!
shoneyjoe shoneyjoe 9 years
Ding-dong, the witch is dead! Well, not quite. Lisa is *also* in the competition still. I kind of wish Spike had gotten onto the show last season - he would have gotten his rear end kicked a whole lot sooner. I never liked him. I'm glad he's gone.
anniekim anniekim 9 years
caterpillar--thanks for the back story. It does change the way I look at the issue. It doesn't let Spike off the hook, but it makes Tramonto's position much more clear. Spike makes a good point about the steaks being compromised as tasting portions. I'm not too sad about his departure. I'll be happy with either a Richard or Stephanie win.
foxie foxie 9 years
Caterpillar, no need to be all up-in-flames about it. As per what was aired on TV, the whole challenge was to make dishes based on what is in stock in the restaurant's kitchen. To ME, and to most people I'd imagine, that means that these are things that the restaurant uses. If this restaurant didn't want to be associated with frozen scallops THEY should have sent the frozen scallops back. I don't see how anyone could seriously fault Spike for not knowing they were of poor quality. I think the guest judge just had his panties in a twist because Spike pointed out an obvious hypocrisy. @ happs, I completely agree!! They're going to give this away to a woman, deserving or not. Richard SHOULD win, but Stephanie WILL win because the producers need a woman to finally take the prize.
jellydonut80 jellydonut80 9 years
he annoyed me with all of his stupid hats. i really want antonia or stephanie to win - but richard seems like an ok guy so i wouldn't be heartbroken if he won.
chiefdishwasher chiefdishwasher 9 years
SSS, Spike was set up by the Sea Scallop Setup. Any of the contestants would have thought that all the food being provided would be top quality.
Peggasus Peggasus 9 years
No, I have never liked Spike either. I'm happy he's gone. I thought he should have been gone weeks ago. Attitude aside, I haven't been totally 'wowed' by any of his dishes, that I can remember. And I don't remember any of them. Also, at the beginning of the Quickfire he said that both of his grandfathers were butchers, and yet later in the show he said that 'one' of his grandfathers was a butcher. So which one is it? Not that it matters much, seeing as he won the QF, but it's in that same vein that I never believed much of what he said, especially like in that lunchbox challenge when he took bread, lettuce, tomatoes and chicken out. He certainly did that for spite, and no other reason, no matter what he said about it. And that meal sucked.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
I think I'm the only one who never liked Spike. He's an interesting person, but I just never found his food to be up to par. I DO think that Lisa should've been kicked off in this case, but Spike's comments were inappropriate.
DMBloyola6 DMBloyola6 9 years
Nothing special to add here -- I just love Spike. Okay, fine, I have something! I did notice that he shook Tramonto's hand on the way out. And I also noticed that Spike always shook EVERYONE'S hand and was also courteous about holding doors open -- the boy has got some damn fine manners. And I can't fault his Greek temper -- I've got an Irish one. GO SPIKE!
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
thanks happ for the grandma leson, I mean bad I am just not that smart i gues. Chef Tramanto (who got free advertising from this) willfully agreed to have a cooking show competition serve customers...not necessarily his regulars per Se (believe me they choose the people in there) knowing that they might get served mediocre to poor to amazing entrees, after all thats what top chef is about. whatever the chefs chose to make out of the freezer had nothing, Nada, zip to do with him and his professionalism as the owner of that restaurant. Spike had no right to point his finger at all. To quote Tom "With all due respect, the scallops were in your walk-in.” My heart sunk when I heard this because I’ve known Rick for years and can say with certainty he doesn’t use frozen seafood in his restaurant. Along with the high-end steaks they had provided for the show, Allen Bros. had included a variety of other products to round out the restaurant’s existing stock, including frozen scallops, which is how they came to be in Tramonto’s walk-in. I learned later that Rick knew this when we taped the show, but chose not to make a federal case out of it. But as a colleague and fan of Rick’s, I feel it’s important to set the record straight" From Tramonto's quote about the scallops "We never ever purchase frozen seafood, so it isn’t anything that’s kept in my coolers normally. In the real world, when you’re a chef, you may get something you didn’t order from the purveyor, or there are other people there accepting your product and it does make it into your cooler, but you as a chef need to know when there is an inferior product, and you need to be able to say no. As a top chef, your quality conscience needs to be at a top level. Spike failed that test"
Kate-Marie Kate-Marie 9 years
His reasoning and defense in picking the frozen scallops makes complete sense to me. Too bad he went home, it definitely should have been Lisa.
Happsmjc Happsmjc 9 years
Well, regardless of who supplied the meat, a great chef would not allow it to be served at HIS restaurant to HIS customers if it was not high quality, that food is still going out with HIS name on it. If I owned a restaurant I wouldn't let frozen scallops through my front door--no matter who supplied it. So, I still think Spike has a valid point and believe that should have been said to Tramanto. Also, I think Spike felt like once he picked them he had to use them for some reason and couldn't pick something else. I agree Foxie--I think the producers want a woman to win so they kicked off all the guys. Lisa should have been gone weeks ago. I'm not sure why she is helping Spike at Mai House--I would want nothing to do with her. And CaterpillarGirl, it would be Spike's words were a "moot" point. I'm a law student so I need to know that stuff. And my favorite line from Jesse's Girl is "I wanna tell her that I love her but my point is probably moot". I'm a dork I know.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
To set the record straight, and this is from tom and from Chef Tramanto...The people who supplied all the meat for the quickfire (allen Bros) supplied all the meat and extras for the elimination challenge the ingredients had nothing to do with that restaurant or Chef Tramanto, so spikes words were a mute point. That said, I believe Lisa should have gone, not spike.
foxie foxie 9 years
He got booted so unfairly. From where I'm sittin, he's TOTALLY right about the scallop thing. How is the guest judge going to complain about the quality of scallops HE has in his restaurant??? Insane. I'm convinced the producers decided to just kick off everyone moderately interesting this season.
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