A string of early victories made Greg Gourdet one to watch from the beginning of Top Chef Season 12. But in the end, it was Mei Lin's toasted strawberry yogurt curd concoction that won the judges' praises and clinched the victory. Although he didn't walk away with $120,000 and the title, Greg tells The Daily Dish he would do it all again. We sat down with the Portland-based chef to chat about what he learned, what he regrets and the food he never wants to cook again.
How does it feel now that the finale has aired?
There's a lot of mixed emotions, more sadness than anything. I definitely took some missteps in the finale. It just is what it is. Sometimes you have bad days. It just happened to be one of my bad days on the finale. I'm really happy I got that far. I think I did a really good job. I'm disappointed that I didn't take it all the way. But overall I'm happy and I'm happy for this chapter to end and for whatever's going to happen next to start happening.
What were your expectations going in to Top Chef and did any of them prove true?
I didn't expect it to be this hard. You want to be on TV and think it might fun, but I didn't expect to learn so much about myself throughout the process. I really didn't expect to be so inspired. The competition tests every single ounce of you—just being there alone with yourself and no resources and being forced to cook in all these crazy situations. What I got out of it was so much more than just being on TV.
You said you learned a lot about yourself. What's the biggest lesson?
I think the biggest lesson I learned was how much I don't know about food.
How is that possible given the career you've had?
I've been cooking for 17 years, I run a multi-million dollar restaurant. I know a lot about food. But at the end of the day, if you think about all the different cultures in the world, all the traditional dishes, every single spice—there's so much out there that you don't know and this has really inspired me to learn more. That's the biggest lesson I took away from Top Chef.
What's the one thing you never want to cook again?
Goose! [Laughs] I just don't think it's gonna work out.
Would you do Top Chef again?
I definitely would. It was just really fun. I'm an adrenaline junkie. I think you just get so addicted to the rush of working so hard to get something. And then you get all the accolades, and you're at the judges table sweating and freaking out, but hearing praise from the judges and winning challenges—every single challenge is a mini victory.
Have you kept in touch with any of your competitors?
Oh yeah! We talk every day! We're on WhatsApp together, it's ridiculous. Katsuji over-posts, obviously, because he's like that. He'll just post ridiculous pictures and memes of us. There are a couple outsiders who don't talk as much but most of us are on it and we talk everyday. We have a good bond. I just invited Mei to an event I'm having in Portland.
What are you going to do now?
Just go back to my normal life. I'm still living in Portland. My restaurant is very busy. We're working on another restaurant in a different city so I'm pretty busy. I will appreciate having my Wednesdays back and maybe having a full day off again. I'm just exciting for the opportunities that are going to come my way, being able to travel and just experience more food stuff.
Would you want to venture out and open your own restaurant?
No, I work for a great company and they've been extremely supportive throughout the years. We have plans to work together for a while. My restaurant is something that's really dear to me. I've been there for five years, so it's a big part of my life. I really want to see what we can do with the concept. I've always wanted to be someone who manages a few different restaurant concepts and working with my company, we're going to be able to do that together. It's cool, I've never opened a restaurant as executive chef before so, that's something we're going to work on together and take it from there.