Bravotv.com: Are you a big Bears fan? What are the tailgates usually like?
Yes, I am. I don't usually go to tailgates but they usually have lots of people BBQing, throwing footballs, that sort of thing.
Bravotv.com: What do you think the most important factors were to being successful at this challenge?
Picking an appropriate dish and organization
Bravotv.com: What was the biggest problem with Ryan's dish? Could he have made a successful dessert?
It wasn't the dish -- it was the dishes. He tried to do too much and so everything suffered.
Bravotv.com: Dale wins with his tandoori pork ribs -- can you elaborate on how these were, why these were a good choice?
They were appropriate for a tailgate but he brought it to the next level and they were delicious.
Bravotv.com: What would you have made with this challenge?
Cooking competitions are great for some people but it isn't for me, so I wouldn't have made anything because I wouldn't have done it. Bravotv.com: Mark got called out for his sloppy work area -- how much of that do you think was due to his choosing a charcoal grill? Would you have ever chosen that to feed that many people?
I use a wood-burning grill to cook for over 100 people every summer in my backyard, but I use proper sanitation procedures. It wasn't the grill -- it was his lack of proper sanitation.
Bravotv.com: How close was it between Nikki (ran out of peppers, onions), Mark (sloppy station), and Ryan (unsuccessful dessert)?
Not close at all.
Bravotv.com: Can you tell us a bit about Blackbird and Avec?
Mike Sheerin is the Chef de Cuisine at Blackbird and his is really just doing amazing food. And I think the pastry chef, Tim Dahl, is making the best pastries in Chicago right now. Koren is at the top of her game and I think the Food & Wine award is just going to give her the recognition she deserves for the work she does. They all work so hard making me look good, but it is a great team effort and I really appreciate them in the kitchen.
Bravotv.com: Why is Chicago such a great spot for Top Chef this year?
Because we have so much going on, from Grant Achatz to Koren and Giuseppe Tentori winning Food & Wine this year to all the NYC chefs coming to town. It is an exciting place for food.
Bravotv.com: Are you a Top Chef fan? After you experience, do you see any clear front-runners yet? It was such a great time, spending time with Tom, a great chef and good friend. I do see front-runners but I am not saying anything.