Those rooting for a female in the ‘Top Chef‘ season finale were sorely disappointed by Kelly Liken’s elimination Wednesday night. She’s bummed about it, too. “It was really hard to watch at the end,” she says of viewing her own televised exit, which she did from the comfort of her Colorado home with her husband and friends.
With Angelo, Ed, and Kevin left to duke it out in next week’s season ender, Kelly offered her thoughts on whose game it is to lose, what mischief the chefs got into during off-hours, and provoked intense jealousy when she revealed how the ‘Top Chef’ house fridge remains stocked.
Have you brooded and stewed over what went wrong? Or have you tried to accept it?
I’ve brooded a little bit. I always do. Hindsight is 20/20. My experience in Singapore was really positive. I cooked great food and am really proud of it. I don’t think anyone could say the judges didn’t like my food. At that point they were splitting hairs. Generally I just feel like I need to be proud of what I did.
What do you make of the judges?
They each are so different. At the beginning it’s very difficult to figure out what you can make that all of them will agree on. As much as the rules are that they’re not allowed to use their personal preferences while judging, I believe it’s just human nature – it’s almost impossible. They work really hard to do their best to be fair and to be as middle of the road as they can.
Do you think you were accurately portrayed?
I was generally pleased with it. I was pleased with my portrayal as a chef. I’m my worst critic watching myself on TV so there’s always going to be some parts that I don’t like. Sometimes I wasn’t portrayed as positive as I am, in terms of my outlook on life and my attitude. I don’t know that I was able to show the fun side of me. There’s 17 contestants that they’re trying to weave into a storyline and that comes with the territory.
What was the adjustment like, going from sharing a house with your husband to sharing a house with 16 chefs?
At first it’s very strange. It’s like being thrown back into a college dorm: late nights; sharing a room; sharing a bathroom. That is so different from my life at home in Colorado. There were really fun times too, once you get used to it. You’re never alone, that’s for sure!
Are there any memories from the house that stand out? Something we didn’t get to see?
There was so much. We had this beautiful patio in the back of our house and the weather was gorgeous. We played a lot of games. We played boccie ball a lot. One memory I don’t think got shown – before Tim got eliminated, we would sit outside and play chess all the time. Alex played as well. That was a nice way to wind down after a long day.
Who was the better chess player?
Alex and Tim were definitely much better than me. I was just learning.
Was there a designated cook at the house? Or did everyone pitch in?
There’s definitely not a designated cook at all. We all just took turns. We’d come home really hungry and someone would start cooking, and we’d jump in and help.
And the fridge was always stocked?
That was the best part about the whole thing. Whole Foods stocked the fridge for us, so we’d just get home and it’d be full of everything you could possibly want to eat. For chefs it’s really lovely, because often we don’t have time to go to the grocery store.
Talk to me about Angelo. What’s your opinion of him?
Angelo’s a very good friend. He is intense and he’s very confident. I think that shows on television. I don’t think he’s as manipulative as he’s been made out to look. He’s an extremely talented chef. He gets really emotional about his cooking.
What’s the deal with Pea Gate? Overblown?
I actually wasn’t in the kitchen when the whole thing happened because we were on a stagger. I have always said from the beginning that I refuse to believe someone would do that. Maybe it’s just my altruistic nature. The day before that whole thing went down, when we were doing prep cook, I know that Alex had peas because I tasted them. The reason I tasted them, I remember, is because they were really bad. They weren’t bad because he didn’t cook them properly, they just weren’t in season yet. I remember saying, ‘Alex, don’t use these.’
This season more than ever it seems like there’s this spirit of camaraderie where everyone is tasting each others’ dishes and giving notes.
It’s a really strange dynamic between the chefs. We’re competing so intensely against each other but at the same time, the culture of a kitchen is one of teamwork. No chef in any kitchen can do what they do alone without a great team. It’s kind of strange to be thrown into a situation where all of the sudden you don’t have a team, but all of the people you’re working with you’re also competing with, and you’re living with them. We really were a team. We really did help each other because that’s what you do. It’s so foreign to us to not do that. It worked. We really did all get along well. We all really respected each other.
Who would you like to see win?
When I won that Quickfire with the Emu eggs and got to sit with the judges at the Cold War Challenge, from that point on I became a huge fan of Kevin’s food. I think partially because it’s similar to mine – we both cook really simply. He definitely gets nervous and wears his heart on his sleeve which I don’t think is a bad thing but it may prove hurtful in the competition. I also think Angelo has the classic technique and the experience behind him to pull it off.