Jul 29, 2010

Chat with Andrea Curto-Randazzo the losing chef from the seventh episode of Top Chef DC.

Read judge Tom Colicchio's take on Pea-Gate.

Follow Food editor Joe Yonan's live tweets during the show at @WaPoFoodLive.

Hey, this is Andrea, happy to be here!

Loved your chicken and waffles from the quickfire. Is thievery in the kitchen something that goes on and is just not shown to the viewers? Did Alex abscond with Ed's pea puree?

I don't think that thievery is something that goes on in the kitchen. I also did not see the actual taking of the pea puree. However, I know that Ed made pea puree the day before, but I did not see Alex make pea puree, but pea puree wound up on Alex's dish. You make the call.

How did you feel getting sent home when it is pretty obvious that the wining chef last night stole some of his dish from another chef? How could Tom miss that one?

It sucked! But it was much more interesting TV to watch Alex win with the pea puree drama.

Tom was oblivious really? Hmm.

Can you explain further by what you meant by your problems in the competition being more mental than anything?

I think that a huge part of the competition is mental and I think that you need to block out a lot of what's going on around you to perform. If you get lost in the drama and the arena and all these thing being thrown at you -- some of which you see and some of which you don't -- it screws with your mind. There's no excuses to be made, but I was missing the heck out of my family, maybe on that day in partiuclar, my mind wasn't in the game as it should have been. I know I'm a better chef than what was shown. Cooking in my kitchen here in Miami and cooking on a TV show are two completely different things.

Andrea, In the Cold War episode, you sounded a bit uncomfortable with Michelle Bernstein judging your dishes. You are both Miami chefs and seem to have a bit of history/rivaly going on. I think that the initial appeal of Top Chef was that the contestants were somewhat new to the Executive Chef world -- maybe they were Sous Chefs or fresh from school or switching careers. As an already successful chef, what's the appeal of joining Top Chef? At this point in your career wouldn't an aggressive pursuit of an industry award be more fulfilling than being judged by a rival and dealing with the drama of missing/stolen peas?

Yes, to all of that! It was an uncomfortable situation but in this particular season there were a lot of established chefs. Is it exactly what I wanted to do? Not really, but given the direction my career took -- not that I stopped working, but I did take a break to have a family -- you knid of reevaluate and I said I have to get my face back out there. It was a PR maneuver. Trying to get my name back out there. TV is the way of the culinary world right now. I can fight it, or I can understand that it's a necessary evil.

If you had another chance to do another chef reality show, would you do it again? If so, would you do anything differently?

Only if I was a judge.

Andrea, sorry about the early departure from Top Chef. A few weeks ago there was a guest judge from your hometown that you seemed to have a bit of a rivalry with. Would you be wiling to share more details about that? What happened to cause such a rift?

It's just a rivalry. That's all. I don't want to comment any more than that.

Actually...she stole my pea puree and it really pissed me off.

How have you not worked with swordfish after being a chef in Miami, which is home to readily available and great seafood?

It's not that I haven't worked with it, seeing as though in my kitchen I've been the boss, I just choose not to serve it. It's not one of my favorite fish. We have so many local beautiful fish here in Miami. It's a personal preference.

Hi Andrea -- Thanks for taking questions today. I was really sorry to see you go -- you seem like such a nice person as well as an excellent chef. I would definitely eat at your restaurant! I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about what it's like, from your perspective, to stand before the judges. On TV the music, camera angle, etc. make it very dramatic. What's it like to be there?

It is uncomfortable. The lights are really hot and at some point some of the judges' comments seem a bit ridiculous. I understand that they have to come up with things wrong with your dish, but some of them are just like "Really?" They talk to you like you're a culinary student and really everyone there has run successful kitchens. You wonder how much of it is for the drama of the show.

Do you have a favorite dish? What do you most like to eat?

Picking a favorite dish would be like picking a favorite child -- super hard to do. My favorite things to cook and eat would be Italian. That's my background and it was my amazing Italian grandmother who instilled the love of food and cooking in me.

Who do you think has the most talent and range as a chef-- not personality wise, but food wise? And why do you think there is less cooperation and more game-playing this season compared to last season? It seemed last season's chefs understood that their images would be shaped by the TC experience win or lose and acted accordingly. This season's chefs seem petty and selfish in comparison. ( Not sharing basics like salt, not helping with faulty equipment, openly strategizing against others rather than relying on what is put on the plate.) You stayed clear of this, but others reputations are not faring so well. Maybe it is a case of any publicity is good publicity. Your thoughts?

As far as the most raw talent, there was a lot of talent there. I can't pick just one person. There were a few people who didn't belong there. I will not say who they are.

As far as the petty gameplaying --I didnt' watch the show before I was on it, so I can't comment. I have to say there was a lot of camraderie. It is a competition and there is big money at the end of the rainbow, so who knows what goes through people's heads. A lot of that and a lot of drama is what was presented, but not what the show was completely made up of.

OK, what's the skinny on Ed & Tiffany? They are super cute together! Also, is Kenny as boastful in real life as he is in his talking head videos? That would drive me nuts.

Ed and Tiffany are purely friends and I adore them both. Ed has a serious girlfriend and Tiffany just got married, literally a few weeks ago.

Kenny does like to talk a lot but he is a super amazing che fwith a huge heart and I adore him.

You said you made this vanilla/mustard combination in your restaurant and it was successful. Why do you think it was unsuccessful for the challenge?

There could have been many reasons. It was probably because I wasn't making it a la minute like I do in my restaurant. I don't want to make excuses, but when you're in those confines you over think things or your food may have sat longer than you wanted it to because you miscalculated the time. I had 21 minutes left and thought I had five. I know it's a success, it just wasn't on that day.

Does anyone have any concrete evidence as to whether Ed's pee puree was stolen?

Only the Bravo cameras know that.

Chef Randazzo, How do you feel about the widespread criticism of the this season's talent level, especially in light of the highly accomplished crew assembled last season?

I can't compare this seasons chefs to last season. I have to disagree though. There were a lot of very talented people there. Maybe the way it came off on TV didn't do my castmates justice, but I have to say I disagree.

You seem unhappy with the judges comments. Did you interact with them much beyond the judges table?

No, not really at all. At least I didn't.

I've watched Top Chef from it's inception and it's been a Great Season, so far! Congrats on doing so well Andrea! 1. Do you get to interact with Padma very much, when participating in Top Chef? Any anecdotes? 2.Do you think Alex took Ed's pea-puree?

No Padma anecdotes at all. Sorry.

What dish or dishes are you most proud of when you make them? How did you develop these specialties, if you have any?

That's another hard to answer question. Like picking a favorite child again. I'm proud of many dishes. I'm proud when the customer eats the food and is happy. To pin it down to specific dishes would be very difficult. I'm in the business of making people happy and having an amazing dining experience. That's what I do.

It seemed like you kinda got tired and maybe didn't give it your all due to being tired? & maybe not naturally an ultra competitive person?

I am a super competitive person. Way more than you could possibly imagine. However, perhaps the mental aspect was getting to me and I truly believe that -- and take this how you will -- I'm a person who draws strength from my family. Maybe if I wasn't disconnected from my kids and husband I would have fared differently. That's not an excuse. It's just the facts.

Who do you think is the most talented chef out of the remiaing contestants? Who do you think should have already been sent home at this point? (shh, we won't tell)

I think that you know who should already have been sent home and it's probably the same few people who I think should already have been sent home.

As far as the remaining chefs, my favorite would have to be Kelly. I connect with her food the most. We have a lot of the same food philosophies. I think she's an amazing person and an outstanding chef.

And the fact that it was overshadowed by "pea-gate"

Yes, but is being overshadowed when you're sent home really a bad thing?

You should have tried to watch past seasons of the show so you could have become aware of the judge's tastes, etc... I can see now watching it before, but odd you didn't try to catch up on the past seasons just to get handle on how the show typically goes.

Yes, in theory I should have, but since I run 3 businesses and have 3 small children, I don't really have a lot of extra time. Although I meant to, I just ran out of time.

re: "I'm a person who draws strength from my family. Maybe if I wasn't disconnected from my kids and husband I would have fared differently"... hey that makes total sense to me and doesn't seem like an excuse. thanks for your honesty.

Thank you for your understanding.

What's going on behind the scenes while the judges are deliberating? You guys seemed to be having fun - looked like the booze was flowing and people were getting loose. Love it if you'd give us some scoop on who was funny, who was quiet, what kind of funny things happened...

The stew room has its fun moments. It has its "please get me out of here" moments. We sometimes wondered while we were sitting there if Tom and Padma went out to dinner and would catch up with us when they got back.

Loved chatting with you all. You know where to find me in Miami. Hasta la vista!

In This Chat
Andrea Curto-Randazzo
In Top Chef DC, 17 cheftestants compete in weekly cooking challenges to determine who is "Top Chef." The winning chef will receive $125,000, a feature in Food & Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and will earn the title of "Top Chef."
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