The Cheftestant also dishes on the hardest challenges and biggest lessons learned.

on Jan 30 - The Dish

After a record-setting run in Last Chance Kitchen (7 competitions!), Louis Maldonado emerged victorious for a spot on the finale. And after last night’s nail-biting episode, he was one step closer to winning (but was unfortunately eliminated).

How'd he do it? The Dish caught up with Louis to talk about his strategy in the kitchen, the hardest challenges of the competition, and the biggest lessons he learned.

Congrats on your Last Chance Kitchen win!
I was pretty strong. And I just got stronger and stronger each episode and with the last one, I definitely had it in the bag, I thought. I overcooked the fish, but flavor is flavor.

How'd you manage to stay in the game for so long?
A lot of it had to do with getting out of the competition early. That drove it a bit. During the normal competition, I didn't get a chance to shine or take a hold of the challenges and just go for them.

How was LCK different?
It was easier for me to grasp because it was straight cooking. There was no little twist. The other challenges were a bit trickier, like, catering an event for 200 people. Those things make it really hard.

What was your toughest LCK challenge?
The beignet challenge. I figured there would be one since we were in New Orleans. And when Tom brought it up I was like, 'You gotta be kidding me!'

Did you employ any psychological warfare to mess with your opponents?
I think coming off a loss on Top Chef and going into LCK for someone is enough already. I had a home court advantage. That gets in everybody’s head. And with Brian, by that time, I’d gone on 7 straight wins.

What were the toughest challenges aside from cooking?
Being thrown off my normal routine. I tried to appreciate it but having my day-to-day routine messed up was hard. Off the show, I like to wake up, go to the gym and having my day set up at the restaurant.

Any upsides?
It was nice not having a phone and not having to talk to anybody. And it also gave me a break from my restaurant. Now that I’ve come back we’ve brought it to the next level. We’re refining and I’m pushing everybody harder. And people are coming in a lot more now because of the show.

What’s your favorite memory from Top Chef?
The entire thing! There wasn’t just one moment. I liked having conversations with the guys at the house in the morning…things like that. Every single day was great.