Hi all! Sitting on a very crowded plane to Aspen. I thought this might be a good time to answer a couple of questions for you. As always, thanks for your interest and continued support.
Q: A few of us at the Bravo boards were wondering what was in the "Top Chef" pantry. Would it be possible to share this information with us?
A: Unfortunately, due to legal reasons, I should probably not divulge the breadth of the pantry. Let's just say it's a very large assortment of food that any chef should be able to make a meal out of. Dry goods include spices, dried fruits and nuts, a variety of grains, oils, condiments, and cooking alcohol. The fridges are always stocked with dairy (you would not believe just how much butter the contestants go through), fresh herbs, and basic vegetables and citrus fruits. For Quickfires, I supplement the pantry with proteins and other ingredients like cheese, depending on the challenge, so we don't have to spend time sending them out shopping.
Q: What happens to any leftover food?
A: This past season the crew ate VERY well. Anything that sits out for an extended period of time (like the fresh foie gras left on the counter by one very irresponsible contestant) gets pitched for food safety reasons. Shannon and I cooked up leftover proteins and made snacks for the crew all the time. We had actually created a huge Easter feast for the crew and threw a party in Shauna's room, as it was the one "dark day" for all of us. Sometimes I would send a box of goodies to the contestants in their penthouse, like after the citrus challenge (the rest of the juice went towards Shannon's and my cocktail efforts). Every now and then some of our hardworking local PAs would get to take home something spectacular like king crab legs. Either way, I hate seeing food go in the garbage. Q: When the season ends, what happens to the items in the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer? A: It all goes to the local food shelter and/or is given away to our PAs and other assistants on set. Some of the dry goods, like spices and cooking alcohol, are boxed up to go to the finale location.
Q: How many of each plate, utensil, glass, pan, etc. do you have?
A: We've actually built up quite the collection of dishware and glassware from the three seasons. During the past two seasons, shopping for plates and stuff worked into part of the storyline. We had accumulated so much that there were only a few instances this season where we would need to send them out to buy these things, which in the end saved us money and time. Unpacking everything was not much fun, though I did run into a few plates that I had bought myself during Season One. Repacking it all was even worse.
Q: How do you decide what items to use?
A: When we first set up the pantry, Shannon and I went through everything and it was A LOT. We sent a palette or two of boxes over to the Salvation Army. We ditched the old pots and pans because I had ordered a ton of new stuff from Calphalon. Each pot, pan, cooking tool, etc. came with a frustrating amount of packaging (my own version of hell will involve peeling stickers off of a billion things). We had to go through all the dishware and decide what would be an appropriate amount for the pantry. For the most part, only Quickfires utilize the dishware in the pantry. Last season we had toted a lot of glassware and plates to and from Elimination Challenges and I did my best to avoid that hassle this season. Anything that was missing, or something that the contestants simply could not live without, we went and bought at a restaurant supply store. However, when a certain item or appliance breaks due to a contestant's carelessness, we are hesitant to replace it.
Q: Are there any items you would like to have in the TC but you can't have, for whatever reason?
A: Funny you should ask...there's been talk of whole animals, live or already slaughtered, for a challenge. However, production knows that while it is a reality of the cooking industry, it's probably way too graphic for television, and PETA would be knocking down our doors. Who knows, maybe we'll give them a bow and arrow in the finale.
Q: How have you lost so much weight? Can you tell me about your diet?
A: I had consulted with Andrea after the show and had done the Master Cleanse for a week. It was incredibly hard but did me a world of good. There's been a lot of talk about these cleanses on TV and the Internet, and whether or not it's safe. Of course, one should always consult their physician before doing something as radical as a cleanse. When I am feeling sluggish I cleanse, but for no more than 3 days at a time. Anything past a week, I think, is unhealthy. The important thing to remember is that it's not about losing weight, but about removing toxins from your body.
Besides cleansing, I changed my eating habits. I don't go to the gym. I work too much and am too tired at the end of the day to hit the treadmill. But I eat more now than ever. I eat only whole grains, no more refined sugars or starch, which is tough because we make the absolute best French baguettes in the world at The FCI. Lots of fiber, fresh fruits, and vegetables, no caffeine, cut back my protein intake (this was tough because I crave "texture" all of the time), and the biggest thing: I eliminated a majority of dairy from my diet. I occasionally indulge in a little cheese and ice cream, but I had never realized how much dairy I was consuming all of the time, and I'm not even lactose intolerant. I have 3 meals a day, and I make every effort not to eat past 9pm. If I need to graze on something I make sure it's carrot sticks or hummus. Fiber is the key. It was very liberating to find out about all of the good carbs I could eat. Anyone who knows me and goes out to eat with me would say that I eat like a champ. Lastly, I cut back on my alcohol consumption. I opt for a scotch or bourbon on the rocks, rather than sugary cocktails, beer or wine. I happen to love whiskey anyways (too much whiskey makes Wong frisky).