Kristen Kish Talks 'Chef' Controversy, Josie
Exclusive: The ousted favorite on regrets, her legacy and how she almost got hit by a car.
Few Top Chef eliminations have been as controversial as the elimination of Kristen Kish, the mightily talented chef who took one for the team when she bit her tongue and took full responsibility for her Restaurant Wars team rather than speak up about Josie Malave. Fans flooded Twitter and our comments section to voice their feeling that the wrong decision was made, and even the judges in their blogs showed a bit of if-we-only-knew remorse about sending Kristen packing. So, what does Kristen, who's still alive in Last Chance Kitchen, have to say?
The Dish caught up with Kristen to talk about it all, from whether she regrets not voicing her opinion during the challenge to what it was like beating Josie in Last Chance Kitchen, and how her fame has had some dangerous effects ... namely that a fan who noticed her in the street nearly plowed her down with her car. Enjoy our chat below, and if you missed Kristen vs. Josie in LCK, here you go:
So Kristen, seeing the reaction from fans after you were eliminated, what was it like? There was a lot of support, but also a lot of people who were pretty fired up.
I didn't realize there was going to be so much outrage until I started seeing it. When we were in the moment, actually shooting the show, you can't really foresee what's going to happen. Even during the episode when I was watching, it was stressful and everything but I didn't realize people were going to get so pissed off. I didn't know until I started reading things.
What kinds of reactions were you seeing?
Instantly. Everything from really supporting to a little bit supporting ane a little negative towards Josie or just encouraging and amazing things. Saying regardless of whatever happens... It's pretty fantastic.
Was there anything that you were surprised by with the elimination and the blowback from it?
The thing that I was most worried going into it was, and looking back at the episode, was well people are going to think that I wasn't capable of handling her or running a staff or anything. But it's been quite the opposite, with people saying it showed leadership, or I can't wait to work with you someday or can't wait to go to your own restaurant when you open it.
Even the judges hinted in their blog that had they seen what was going on in the kitchen, their decision might have been altered. What's it like seeing things like that from the judges?
Yeah, when I read Tom's blog, it was definitely a really good feeling. It was very nice. I loved when Gail called me stubborn in her blog, because she hit it right on the head. I was completely stubborn in that situation, and it's funny that she called me exactly what it was. They were all very accurate with their comments.
Stubborn because you bit your tongue? Or something else?
Stubborn in the fact that I like to do things a very specific way, and I'm not going to switch that. Fortunately, where I am now I have the opportunities to do a lot of really great things that I like to do and the company trusts that I'm going to do a good job. It's both ways -- stubborn biting my tongue and stubborn that I wasn't going to budge.
Do you wish you had said something?
Um [pause], that's hard. [Laughs] Yes and no. I think given that situation and that time, if I had said something it would have made me look stupid. I needed time to formulate my words with the proper things to say so it doesn't come off as sounding bitchy or whatever. In the moment, for now I'm glad I didn't say anything. But trust me, there are times where I formulate these long answers and I'm like 'God, I wish i just would have said that!' But that took me weeks to come up with.
OK, so moving on from the elimination, you're then bumped to Last Chance Kitchen -- your first week up against CJ Jacobson. Were you surprised seeing him still there?
No, not at all. I thought he was really great and from the time I spent with him I saw a ton of creativity and an amazing chef.
So then it must've been sweet beating him?
Obviously it was nice to beat him for me, but it would have been nice to beat anyone.
And then next up came Josie. Surely you must have had a little extra desire to beat her.
I knew the time would come at a certain point obviously. I was just ready to go. Yes, this overwhelming feeling of 'I want to beat you' floods in.
Moreso than anyone else?
Yeah, just a little bit. Not in any spiteful way, but just 'Dammit, I want to beat her.'
Is there a legacy you'd like to have?
I just want to be remembered for cooking good food and staying true and professional throughout the whole thing.
Have you been getting noticed around town lately?
Ohhhhhh yeah. We have a storefront restaurant, and we just put a blind up because people would stand outside and snap pictures during service of me. It's kind of distracting for the guests. Oh, and I almost got ran over by a car the other day. I was crossing the street and someone was like 'Oh my god' and kept pointing at me, but she forgot to stop her car so I had to put my hand up to get her to stop. But, yeah, I get stopped quite often now, which is quite lovely. Always very nice things to say -- and as long as I don't get hit by a car ...