10 Questions With... Stephen
The Top Chef sommelier opens up about his elimination.
I'm going to wait a day before reporting on my experience on The View, which was fantastic, in favor of running my EXCLUSIVE interview with the sommelier you can't get enough of, Top Chef's Stephen!
The Top Chef sommelier is booted but still ready to educate. Read on!
HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT GETTING DINKED LAST NIGHT? WAS IT JUST?
It seemed unjust. I'm not saying I shouldn't have been eliminated, but I was teamed up on by the rest of the contestants. I should have been selfish and stayed in the kitchen but my mentors and professors at Cornell University Culinary Institute of America would've seen me forfeit the guest's experience by staying in the kitchen. I orchestrated an amazing service flow and chose great wines and enhanced the overall experience for our clients, Scott and Scott. I could've stayed in the kitchen but I knew that my competitors were capable of tackling the extra things. I wanted nothing to do with that wedding cake even if front of house was not an issue. They chose cake mix against my will -- I thought it was below satisfactory using a cake mix. I pissed off my fellow chefs by standing up for the cake. Tom said I had a disconnect from the competition and at that point I agree, I couldn't solely focus only on the kitchen. I can't ignore details. If the prize was a million dollars I would've made a different decision, but not for 100 grand. I was happy to make it that far.
IT SEEMED FROM THE SHOW THAT PEOPLE REALLY DON'T SEEM TO WANT TO BE EDUCATED BY YOU...DO YOU AGREE?
That's fine. I think it was my youth speaking in some ways. I have been working front of house and I do know how to read guests. I got caught up in the competition with an advantage by showing how good I could do that. The major detail I left out is that some people love it and some hate it. For example in the restaurant wars' challenge, half the tables were interested and half could've cared less. We would've had a higher rating if I had known who was interested and who wasn't. I was flustered opening a restaurant in one day!
PEOPLE ON OUR TOP CHEF BOARDS ARE PISSED AT YOU! HAVE YOU BEEN READING THEM?
I try not to read the boards on the advice of my dad and my mentors. On my website I am getting emails from fans, the opposite of what I hear are on the boards. People were vicious from the 10 minutes I spent one day reading. It was not helpful to read. I appreciate people's opinions but no one that I read was reading between the lines of what I was experiencing at that moment on the show.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WATCHING YOURSELF?
Watching myself on the show is a very humbling experience for me. Not many people get to see their personalities on national television. I think what I've learned is a lot about myself. There are a lot of changes I'll make because of Top Chef. I am intense and I need to know when to turn it down and when to turn it up. This will come with age and maturity. I've never been able to step outside myself like that. People have said I am intense in an overwhelming way and I couldn't understand -- now I do!
DO YOU THINK YOU COME OFF ARROGANT?
I come off as an elitist. I definitely have an elitist take in my personality but that's from a professional standpoint. I don't think I'm better than my neighbor because of how I dress or the car I drive. It's because of my passion and attention to detail and how much I care about the experience of my guests. I know things can always be better. I criticize my competitors or other restaurants because we're in the hospitality industry -- it's about the guest. The best in our field have proven to be beyond critical. I am just analyzing things that I should keep to myself at times because it comes off as abrasive and is misconstrued as arrogance.
ANDREA TOLD ME YOUR OYSTER DISH THAT TED ALLEN CHOSE AS THE QUICKFIRE WINNER ACTUALLY STUNK. REACTION?
I stand behind that dish 100 percent. I never make excuses for my food. I love that dish. That dish had shock value. It was all about a few bites that are gonna make your eyes roll to the back of your head -- that's what I delivered and that's why I won. Andrea's vegetable slaw, oh my god. Amazing.
OK BEFORE I LET YOU GO, CAN YOU RECOMMEND AN INEXPENSIVE SUMMER WINE?
Yes! Hmmm... let's see. Summer is the time for Rosé.... Chateau d'Aqueria which is a Tavel Rosé from 2004. This is a beautiful simple wine to sip outside during the summertime for under $20.
YUM, I LOVE ROSÉ IN THE SUMMER!
Yes -- it's nice dry, light and fruitful. One of the best-kept secrets of the summertime!
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SAY ABOUT TOP CHEF OR ANYTHING?
It was a great learning experience -- the best in my career to date. I got to learn so much about myself. It was great for me. I stand by myself. I sacrificed my spot in the competition on behalf of my integrity so I hope that comes across....
THANKS STEPHEN. GOOD LUCK!