Getting Sam Talbot on the phone is like trying to reach the President, except that I bet President Bush has less on his calendar these days than Sam.
I finally hunted him down for a chat as his new kitty cat meowed loudly in the background.
I HAVE TO START WITH THE GROUP'S DISLIKE OF MARCEL. IT SEEMS LIKE A "LORD OF THE FLIES" THING BUILT AND BUILT AS THE COMPETITION WENT ON. IT SEEMS LIKE YOU GUYS JUST DIDN'T LIKE HIM BUT IT'S HARD TO SHOW HIM ACTUALLY DOING ANYTHING TO YOU GUYS BECAUSE THERE ISN'T ONE INCIDENT THAT HAPPENED... CAN YOU EXPLAIN IT?
It's not that he is a bad person.. The lord of the flies thing is not the right mentality. Marcel has great ideas and is a good cook. He is an instigator and it is hard to explain. There's a lot of things that he did. Did he deserve to get manhandled? NO. That was ridiculous. When Frank threatened him, that's not right. I don't hate him. He has an ability to get under your skin and I have heard that the producers are finding a hard time showing why he's provoking us. You're not going to find one incident but it's a lot of undermining, sly vindictive comments that built and built and built. You're never going to see him lash out at someone -- it's not like that. It's all under the breath stuff that drove us crazy.
YOU ARE GETTING FLACK FOR NOT JUMPING IN AND STOPPING CLIFF WHEN HE ATTACKED MARCEL IN HIS SLEEP. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
In watching the show when Tom called me out for not doing anything.. I mean... Cliff is not my co-worker or brother nor is Marcel. I am not related to them and they are grown adults. Every action has its consequence. I was sitting on the couch not doing anything. I didn't know that this was going into fruition. I was just sitting watching. Everybody was drinking and it got out of hand. When they showed me sitting on the couch saying "go in there" I was saying it because I thought he was going to come back with a bat or something. I thought he should go in to see if he was ok. If Cliff actually hurt him or a fight broke out I would've stepped in. At that moment I didn't feel like a babysitter. I didn't think he was in danger of bodily harm at that minute. At that point everybody was drinking and I wasn't in charge or the babysitter. Not to sound crass but that's how I saw it.
SOME PEOPLE THINK ALL OF YOU SHOULD'VE BEEN ELIMINATED. THOUGHTS?
DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT IMPRESSION OF HOW THINGS WENT DOWN REGARDING ALL YOUR TREATMENT OF MARCEL AS YOU ARE WATCHING THEM UNFOLD ON TV?
Perfect example in the fixture store when I started yelling at him when he's at the counter ringing up his goods and all of a sudden I attack him and yell at him. The thing is that it is not fair to say that all of a sudden I never showed any emotion because I was just there to cook and then all of a sudden I attack him. I think people see the show and know that I am helping people for seven episodes and then all of a sudden I lose my temper. What happened was -- whether it was edited or what -- he was talking to the guy behind the counter and he said "I wish I would've taken that discount" and I civilly say I got offered the same discount. Marcel accused me of cheating and I told him that chefs get a 20 percent discount. I think Marcel tried to cheat and tried to get a discount. Every time we got a challenge, the producers read rules to us before challenges, and what was not shown in this instance was Marcel accusing me of cheating and then me going over there and asking the store owner which one of us was cheating. Marcel tried to barter at the counter, which is against the rules. They showed me attacking him without cause. I think someone watching the show might realize that there was reason for me suddenly losing it after I've been below the radar. He was accusing me of cheating. It's not that he's saying vicious things. He says these comments all the time. At that occasion he was trying to barter and that's why that happened. When you're in isolation with someone for 30 days there's a point where you can't take it anymore. He had started something with almost every one of the chefs. I'm 29 years old I 've been cooking since I was 13 and I've been runnning my own kitchen since I was 23 and I can honestly say I've never met someone like Marcel. When people start saying that Bravo should be ashamed or whatever, if you were to go back and look even at Betty during the Friday's challenge, it's not that you're going to find one comment. It's just little innuendos that get under your skin and everybody has met somebody like that. There is somebody like that who gets under your skin with a tic-like comment. It's said and it gets under your skin and it is buried there. It builds and then you blow up. It was silly when I saw myself attack him in that episode but it was the 25th day of being sequestered with him and I had heard so many of his comments over and over and then he came to me and he accused me of cheating and I couldn't take it.
LET'S PLAY TOP CHEF WORD ASSOCIATION:
he's the man
YOU AND MIDGELY HAVE BECOME GOOD FRIENDS... WERE YOU SURPRISED HE WENT SO FAR IN THE COMPETITION?
To be honest, when I first met Mike he said he recently graduated from culinary school, I thought he came around. His cooking evolved as did his outlook on the challenges. I think he was tired of the judges hounding him. I would talk with him, and Ilan did too, and we tried to help him out. I wasn't surprised as they went on. He won that whole challenge with the deadly sins and that was a great one, my favorite one.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE COMPARISONS THAT YOU ARE THE HAROLD OF THIS SEASON?
I guess it's a compliment considering that he won last year! I don't see any except that we're both around the same age and living in New York City. It's just one of those things people say. I haven't thought about it too much to be honest, Andy.
WHO DO YOU THINK ARE MORE TALENTED, SEASON 1 CHEFTESTANTS OR THOSE FROM YOUR SEASON?
I think that on a whole I would say there was a solid four last season, you could get rid of a lot, whereas this year maybe we had five.
DO YOU STILL HAVE THE GIRLFRIEND?
ONE MORE THING -- DO YOU STILL STAND BEHIND YOUR WATERMELON AND CHEESE DESSERT EVEN AFTER BEING EVISCERATED BY THE JUDGES FOR IT?
Yeah I mean the thing is I told Tom and Gail that I have done that dessert before. If I could've used the original cheese it would've been better. You try to make it work with what you have and that's what I tried to do....