Leave it to Top Chef to throw a Quickfire featuring sponsored product Quaker Oats into the same episode as a Super Bowl–themed competition with a handful of has-beens from the show's earlier seasons. Tasked with creating a regional dish in twenty minutes, season five's cheftestants came out on top against their predecessors, but not without some major losses, leaving Fabio, Jeff, and Stefan on the chopping block. In the end, Fabio's overcooked venison was overlooked in the interest of keeping the show's European duo intact. That meant that Jeff McInnis, he of the golden hair and busy plates, was sent to pack his knives. We spoke to him on the phone this afternoon, and he told us about Josie's slimy seviche and life after the show.
Between the three of you, do you have any idea who made the worst dish? Did you get to taste the other ones?
Yeah, we all got to taste everybody’s food. In my opinion, obviously mine was better. I definitely think it was better than Fabio’s. We all looked at Fabio’s and how well-done it was, and there were definitely thoughts that it was going to be him.
I’ve never heard of warm seviche before — it sounds gross! Have you ever heard of it?
It doesn’t exist. It was very original, that’s for sure.
Did Josie make that up?
You can’t seviche a shrimp in twenty minutes, it’ll still be dead raw. Josie had a can of black beans that she had put in a sauce pot, as you saw, and she threw the shrimp in, heated them up, and voilà. It definitely wasn’t seviche, but something like it.
The bizarre thing is that the judges kept calling it authentic.
I heard Toby say it. Great guy, but maybe he doesn’t know a lot about Miami. He’s from England, right?
You were criticized throughout the season for overcomplicating your dishes. Is that the kind of work you do at your restaurant?
I wouldn’t call it overcomplicating. I would call it not the simplest cuisine, not the simplest flavors, or maybe just not grilling chicken breast and putting it on a plate.
On Top Chef they seem to appreciate simplistic cooking.
That’s what Tom likes a lot. That’s his style of restaurants, what he looks for in his chefs and cuisines. I’ve been to a couple of his restaurants, and it’s very simple food. It’s amazing food, but it’s simple. If that’s what he likes, then maybe that’s what the competitors should be cooking. Otherwise, you might end up on the chopping block and going home.
What was at stake for you in this competition? Was it the money?
No, it was never about the money. I never thought about that. I guess if I had made it to the finale, I would have started thinking about that. Getting older in life, unless you’re playing in a softball league, you’re not really doing a whole lot of competing. So I had a shot at this, and I thought it would be a good time.
Have you received any business offers as a result of being on the show?
But I also think that it’s an asset to you.
Yeah, definitely. Being able to watch yourself on TV. In this competition, I got to cook for a lot of amazing chefs, got to eat my food and critique my food, and where else in the world can you go for six weeks and cook for that many amazing chefs and have them tell you, speak to you, about your food and the way you work. It’s a huge learning experience.
Do you have advice for future contestants?
Yeah, do your homework. I never did my homework on what Tom and everybody likes and dislikes. In the first challenge, I served Tom okra and truffle oil on the same plate. Those are two things he hates.
Read more posts by Michael Alan Connelly