More Over eleven seasons of our award-winning show Top Chef, we've met dozens of culinary geniuses—and it isn't just the winners who've gone on to have incredible careers. You may also be surprised to learn which Cheftestants obsessed over the dishes that led to their elimination.
As the clock counts down until the next Top Chef is revealed, be sure to catch up on all the action from our Emmy-award winning series Last Chance Kitchen. Carla Hall, Season 5 and Season 8: All-Stars How has life changed for you since Top Chef? I always tell people "It's because of Top Chef It's been a whirlwind! What was the toughest thing about doing both Top Chef and All-Stars? Being away from your support system is always really hard.
But because I've always worked away from home it wasn't as hard for me. Being judged was the hardest part. There were so many times I wanted to go home when people started talking about my food. Another part that's hard is you meet these people who are your friends, but at the end of the day it's a competition. What's the biggest lesson you learned? I found my voice. You're always working for somebody and making other people's food as a caterer, and I never thought of what my voice was until Top Chef.
Then I realized I'm southern and I do Southern food. Now I don't apologize for that. Any ingredients or cuisines you were terrified to cook on Top Chef Let me count the ways! There's no way I would make it on Top Chef now. Breaking down half a cow?
There are so many things. In my season, it was eel. I didn't have to do it thankfully. Do you remember the dish that led to your elimination?
You go through it in your head so many times. It was a beef dish. I also did a cheese souflee and the oven was too hot and that was a mess. For All Stars, I did this pork dish and it was overcooked.
I had thrown it in the frier and I knew that was a bad move. And my sides, I made a compote that was too sweet--an apple and spicy sweet potato mash and I didn't have enough acid on that dish.
Have you made any of those dishes since? As a matter of fact, the spicy sweet potato mash is in my cookbook. Would you do Top Chef again? But the crazy thing is I loved doing All Stars. All the people I was rooting for I got to know through that season and I got to know them as real people.
I loved that bit. But at the end of the day, after all the challenges, you knew you were staying with them. It's fun to do it with your friends. Mike Isabella, Season 6 and Season 8: I was still nervous trying to raise money while I was on the show. But once I finished, that restaurant opened up. And there was a line out the door for three months!
It was a huge success. And now I own another restaurant Kapnos , a Greek place. We're also doing G Sandwich at the Nationals baseball stadium. And I'm opening up three projects in What was the toughest challenge about being on the show? Getting eliminated on my first season. I didn't let that go for a long time. You're stressed about it and you watch it and then you break down. You still have the support from your fans and friends, but that was the hardest.
Do you remember the dishes that led to your elimination? We went to Tom Colicchio's Craft steakhouse. And I was planning a dish, but then they said you couldn't use any meat. We had to make a vegetarian dish. So I made one with three ingredients: I messed it up. Have you cooked with those ingredients since? I went back to work after that happened and I started working with leeks and carrots everyday.
I was so pissed at myself. But when I went back to All-Stars, my challenge was to cook with leeks, carrots and potatoes. I was trained on it! Any strategies while filming to intimidate your competitors? On both seasons, I would always try to talk some smack. I had a big resume coming in.
I had worked for four different James Beard chefs. And I tried to get at them. When I did All-Stars, I became friends with everyone and focused on myself.
But it was easy to get into their heads [laughs]. Dale Levitski, Season 3 and Season 8: It's definitely opened up a lot of doors, not necessarily with getting jobs but in validating a lot of stuff and getting attention and getting people into the restaurant. I was fearful that it would box me into a TV chef douche bag. We didn't know the phenomenon it would become. Have you caught any of this season? It's stressful to watch! It's not entertaining for me. I want to be in the challenge—it's such a blast.
If I could make a career out of Top Chef challenges, it would be so much fun. What's the biggest thing you've learned? Being told in no uncertain terms that what you made sucked on national TV will teach you a lesson or two.
On All-Stars, I did a veal thing with some french toast and a puree. It was a total disaster. Have you made the dish since? I now serve it at my restaurant, actually. Did you have a strategy to psych out your opponents? I tried not to let being sequestered get to me.
Some people got ridiculously paranoid and Big Brother-ish. For me, I just went with it and was relaxed and made it a life experience. Any ingredient or cuisine you were afraid to have to cook? I don't have cake recipes memorized. Just send me home now! What's next for you? I do private parties and consulting I hate that word.
I'm also doing some product development for a major food company. That kind of stuff. And I'm gearing up to get back into restaurants with a different type of restaurant group that's totally private. I would definitely do All-Stars again. I think I was in a weird place at the time.