Burning Questions

Eli elaborates on his relationship with Robin.

Sep 23, 2009

Bravotv.com: First the Quickfire, What wast the inspiration behind your dish?
It was a play on the juxtaposition between healthy and simple food and layered, complex fatty foods. Trying to really show the marked difference between the two as well as the fact that they're both enjoyable.

Bravotv.com: You make a comment that you think Robin got the win because Chef Bernstein felt sympathy about her cancer ... Care to elaborate?
Yes, even though I was in the top three in the Quickfire I didn't think I should have won and I want to make sure that's clear. The dish that should have won was Michael V.  Everyone in the room saw how elaborate his work was, the level of execution, and were just stunned. It was brilliant. He integrated two dishes, as opposed to a duo, while showing multiple techniques and philosophies.

Robin's dish was weak. Little technical work or conceptualization went into it. I also thought the two dishes she presented didn't work together in concept.  She presented two dishes with a loose tie (if any), and with little philosophy behind it. During her explanation to the judges she talked about "when she had cancer" no less than three times.  It was disgraceful.
I've had significant personal experience with cancer, and I'm not discounting the huge impact living through that disease must have had on Robin. Both of my grandmothers, my aunt, and my cousin all died of cancer. It affects me and my family everyday. I don't have an issue with her becoming a stronger person because of her struggle, but being part of a family who has been through a similar struggle she made it appear cheap and as a grab for attention. It seemed clear to me as well as everyone else in the room that her explanation was not about her food but an attempt to pull on heart strings.

Bravotv.com: It kinda seemed like everyone was just so against Robin at this point. What was it like in the house? Was everyone just against her? Or just resentful that she was still there and won immunity?
I'm not going to lie and say that Robin and I are great friends or that people weren't upset that she stayed on beyond some other chefs who were highly regarded in the house. I do respect the judges and their opinions, but I also believe that often times she turned out to be the "lesser of two evils" type of chef. I never really saw her style — there didn't seem to be a vision behind much of her cooking. I'll say that her attitude isn't the best and I found her tactics off-putting, and I think many of my castmates would agree.

Bravotv.com: Onto the Elimination, you had to deconstruct sweet and sour pork. What was your thought process on this?
I wanted to take the traditional dish and break it down to its elemental components and traditional garnishes and make it a white table cloth dish. Depending on where you're dining, sweet and sour pork has many different garnishes. But the true style is tempura pork with a sweet and sour sauce. One of the things I try to do is have a fresh, herbaceous salad on many of my dishes, so I took a traditional American-Chinese side of broccoli and broke it
down into several forms.