Antonia: No-Win Situation
Antonia Lofaso answers our questions about soup, Spike, and seasoning.
Bravotv.com: You won the Quickfire. Is your palate something you pride yourself on?
Yeah, I mean definitely. Your palate's what makes you good ....
Bravotv.com: Do you think a palate can be trained or do you think it's just something you're born with?
I haven't really given that one much thought. I mean I think in some ways, it's something you're trained with especially if you use the verbiage to what it is that you're tasting. So it's kind of just being around it, and being around good quality products also really helps. I was trained in a really great kitchen that always had really, really high quality products, so you kind of know what to look for ....
Bravotv.com: Ming Tsai was the guest judge. Do you have any thoughts on him?
Yes -- I'm a huge fan. He basically brought Asian cuisine and made it fine dining in the United States.
Bravotv.com: Onto the Elimination. What happened with the soup?
You know, it's so funny. [Spike] got kinda called out in the last challenge for not really having quality on his dish. I worked in a lot of banquet environments, working with Wolfgang Puck, and, yes, absolutely soup is always an option. But with a $500 budget, I just really felt like soup wasn't going to show the value. We had so much money to spend. We wouldn't have spent even half of our budget with butternut squash. And he's like, "Oh put truffle oil on it." You don't just put truffle oil on everything .... I was really into just doing high quality, high value products. And that's sort of where I was with not wanting to do soup. And also to execute soup in a kitchen that we've never had and having all the little Top Chef curve balls that they like to throw at you. Trying to serve a hot dish I thought wasn't the smartest idea. And, but at the same time, I said on the show, which I thought was so funny, "I will do soup. If you want to do soup, I'll do soup." It's so funny because he was literally like, "No you didn't." I was like, "Honey, it's on film." It's on film. I said straight out we're all there, we're all used to being in charge, I'm gonna make my voice known. I would have been called out had I not stepped up and said anything, and they're like, "Oh, you're a losing dish and, oh, Antonia didn't participate because she felt like she could just coast and she had immunity. I mean, I've seen it happen all the time on previous shows where the person who has immunity just kinda coasts and says, "I don't really care. You guys decide." I was there to input no matter what. I felt at the very end I still wouldn't have made soup. ... Soup is a great [indicator of] whether a chef is a chef, but in a smaller environment when it can be executed properly. It was more what we needed to do: 80 people in a controlled environment, trying to serve a hot product to me wasn't a smart idea.Bravotv.com: Did you try to step back a little with the execution. You prepped the vegetables, but ...
It wasn't so much that I was stepping back from the execution. We kinda just divvied up responsibility. Spike was like, "I'll slice the beef." [Zoi] said, "I'll help you with that." I said, "OK -- while you guys are slicing the beef, I'll take care of all the vegetables." You don't need three people slicing beef, obviously. So while they did that, I cleaned and prepped all the vegetables. Now, while I was still cleaning and prepping vegetables, they were done slicing the beef, Zoi comes over and says, "I'll do the mushrooms." I wasn't going to be like, "I'll do the mushrooms. I'll do everything." It's just kinda like the way it falls. And it's funny cause even on the other teams when they're like, "I'm gonna do this, and I'm gonna do this, and I'm gonna do this," a lot of those teams were also very divided. Stephanie's team? They were really divided. Lisa was not on board. It was just really just Dale and Stephanie, and they all picked something to do. So, it wasn't an intentional, "I'm gonna step back and make you guys ...." Prepping all those vegetables, and cleaning all the mushrooms was more work than slicing .... You know, if you really look as far as work contribution.
Bravotv.com: You tasted the dish, right?
I did taste the dish.Bravotv.com: Did you think there was a problem with the seasoning?
Spike and I argued a lot during that episode, specifically during the plating. Zoi kept making jokes like, "Mom and Dad, don't fight" because what happened was, only half the plates were out at first and Spike was putting the salt down and brushing with olive oil, and he was doing it out of sequence. He was salting half the plates, then putting capers on half the plates -- it wasn't being done in sequence and we were arguing about it. We didn't know which one had already been salted and by then it was just like whatever. And then by the time I, when I started putting the [salad] on the plate, I didn't taste it at first and then did taste it, and realized it did need seasoning. So we did go back and re-season it, but there were already plates that had gone out that definitely were underseasoned.
Bravotv.com: Which were probably the judges' plates.
Oh, they definitely were. And I knew it. When they said it was underseasoned I was just shaking my head. It's our own fault because the truth of the matter is you get put on a team and ... it's just one of those things where you have just that negative energy. Spike was screaming in the supermarket. He didn't want to do the dish. The really, really messed up part about all of it was at the very end, after we saw Richard's dish and we saw how it went out, we were completely convinced that there was no way our dish was going to be called out on the bottom. We really did. But if it was underseasoned, it was underseasoned. But it was just so funny because [Spike] was so excited about it when he saw it go out. And then as soon as a judge said [something] .... Where are your morals? Where do you not just say, "You know what? I still decided to do this dish. That's just what pisses me off to no end ... people just backtracking. Yes - the dish was underseasoned, but own up to it. I really feel like if we had stood there united then Zoi might not have went home .... It might have been a different outcome had we fought for our dish ....
Bravotv.com: What did you think of the fight in the stew room?
... I was really trying to ignore [Spike], but he was just being so ridiculous. "You never said you'd make soup." I can't wait, I really just hope he saw that where [I said] "I will make soup, if you want to make soup." And the problem is ... he didn't want to take the lead. And then complained about it .... Everyone has a good idea 100 times a day, whether or not they take steps and move forward and actually do it is a whole other thing.
Bravotv.com: You seem like you're a really big Top Chef fan. Are you a die-hard fan?
... I just love the whole concept of the show. It's just brilliant to me. I've watched it since Season 1. I stumbled upon it randomly on Bravo, and I just fell in love with the show. Every year, there's always the same sort of setup of shows. You guys always have the palate test ... and it's always my favorite one. It's just so much fun. ... I was even more excited that I won it, but I was just really excited that I got to just play it.