Editor's Note: We know you missed Head Judge Tom Colicchio's blog as much as we did, so we couldn't be happier to say "He's back!" Chef Tom sat down with our very own Andy Cohen and answered the questions we've been dying to ask. Also, watch what happened when Andy sat down with Tom and Rocco DiSpirito here!
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? WE MISSED YOU!
I was out in LA opening a restaurant, doing my day job! Like most restaurant openings, it was a tremendous amount of work, and effort, and focus, so I had to bail on the blog until it was up and running. I was really happy to see Anthony Bourdain and Rocco blogging! They're doing such a great job and it's so interesting to read their opinions from both the inside and outside. They're giving an overview from both what they know of production and also from what they're seeing as viewers.
DO YOU HAVE AN OPINION ABOUT THEIR BLOG WAR THAT'S GOING ON?
It seems like they've buried the hatchet. Anthony fired the first shot, but I don't think it's very serious. They both respect each other and I think they're having fun.
YOU ACTUALLY READ A LOT OF THE COMMENTS ON YOUR BLOG AND RESPOND TO THEM, RIGHT?
I read ALL the comments under my blog, and I try to read Padma's, Gail's and Ted's. In some of my blogs, I answer stuff that people have posted. The viewer does need to understand that this season was shot in April, and no matter what the suggestions are we can't change anything at this point. I read them because if there's a theme I need to address them. Since I wasn't blogging a few weeks ago, let me just tell you and everybody who wrote in saying how unfair it was that the women were working in high heels that they were given shoes, as were the men! Someone also wrote that they saw Casey in sneakers -- you saw right...
LET'S TALK ABOUT TONIGHT'S EPISODE.
Starting with the Quickfire, I thought it was great. Casey took so long to cut the onions because her knives were really dull. At the end of the night they would have been sharpened. She got caught with her pants down there.
SO WAS THAT HER KNIFE? WAS THAT HER RESPONSIBILITY?
Of course -- a chef should always have a sharp knife, and hers was not up to the task.
SO YOU LIKED THE QUICKFIRE?
I thought it was great. Part of being a chef is being quick. Whoever was fastest with the knife got their props. You try to outwork someone and see how fast you can do jobs. This is stuff that happens in the kitchen all the time. It was really appropriate for the challenge. Brian was definitely faster and had a real method for shucking the oysters. You saw how quickly Hung could break down chicken. He's fast at everything he does. Sara did a great job with the onions -- she's fast. Howie put them behind, but they came roaring right back. Sara just plowed through it and it showed something for that team. I'm glad they got the benefit of some rewards, though I don't know if Stephen was a positive or a hindrance for that team.
WHY WERE YOU IN THE KITCHEN DURING SERVICE AND WHAT DID YOU SEE?
I thought it was important for me to be there. We heard grumbles that some of the chefs weren't working right in the kitchen, and I wanted to see how each chef directed the other chefs and teammates and how they interacted with the front of house people. I don't think I made them nervous being there -- I just watched them. I got to eat everything cooked in the kitchen, and it was great watching them work and seeing who took responsibility and stepped up. I found Sara really in command of her teammates. She had them make stuff over when it wasn't right. The other team was too lax in letting stuff go out that wasn't right.
WAS THAT TRE?
Tre was the chef. The buck stops with him. He should've pushed CJ. I don't think he tried the lobster -- he dumped it on CJ and said it was his deal.
I THINK HIS DISMISSAL IS BOUND TO BE CONTROVERSIAL.
I think so too. If I were writing a blog I would've titled it "Sometimes the Best Chef Doesn't Win" or something. We judge based on the performance in that episode. We all thought Tre was someone who should've been in the finale. I have been to his restaurant Abacus in Dallas; Tre does a great job, and he also was a total class act all the way through. He stayed focused and in shape and didn't get sidetracked by drinking or any distractions. Even when he left he was a class act. Even though he believes in his heart that he is a superior chef, I think he knows that this mistake took him out of the competition. He's a real class act.
SO THEN WHY EXACTLY DID HE GO HOME AND NOT CJ?
One of the things we looked at were all the dishes he was responsible for. So we felt the salmon dish was not great universally -- conceptually it was a bad dish. I thought the scallop was good, not great. That beef dish that we'd commented on the day before and said we didn't care for it? He didn't change it! Crusting a filet mignon, as Anthony Bourdain pointed out, is very 80s and not very inventive. He did the same dish exactly the second time around. He was running the kitchen with no intensity, it was very lackadaisical. I never got a sense that they were really pushing it, and they weren't cooking as if their chance of staying in the competition depended on it. I think Tre was responsible for setting that tone.
HE SEEMED TO UNDERSTAND THAT AT THE END.
The beef dish to me is what really did it. It just capped it and made the decision.
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE RESULTS OF LETTING THIS CHALLENGE GO OVER TWO EPISODES?
I liked that. If you open a restaurant you do a few nights of previews and then you open it. We gave them a chance to get their act together and do it again. Usually in our challenges there's no opportunity for growth. I've been on the other end of some bad reviews -- you read them, look at them, and make changes. This gave the chefs that opportunity to make changes. The team that made changes is the team that won, and the team that made no changes lost. I think it was something that happens normally when you open a restaurant. I thought it was a great thing to do and gave each team another day to reflect and make it better, and we do that every day in our restaurants. Our goal is to make our restaurants better every day, so this challenge was about as real as it could get in opening a restaurant and working through those changes.
ANY FINAL WORDS?
Our restaurant in LA opened to great fanfare and I want thank the "Top Chef" fans in LA for coming out and visiting us. I also just want to reiterate how hard it was for the judges to see Tre go -- he's such a class act, a crowd favorite, and a lot of fans and judges and contestants thought he'd be in the finale. This is one of those things where it's about who does well that night, in that challenge. This was a two-hour conversation at Judges' Table, and in the end in was unanimous that he was the cause of that team's loss. I think Tre also knows that when a restaurant goes down it's the chef's responsibility in the kitchen, and that's one of the reasons he was such a gentleman when he left. He wasn't the chef that we all know him to be. Whether the fans think it's a fair way to judge, it's the way we judge, and we have be consistent.