In a decision that seemed to shock and displease many people - including, it appeared, her own competitors Richard Blais and Stephanie Izard - Antonia Lofaso was sent home from Top Chef 4 for underdone pigeon peas and an unrefined plating.
While Antonia, like every chef on this season of Top Chef, has not been without her ups and downs, she's been well-regarded on the show for her ability to make simple but delicious fare. She's been named by several of the previously-eliminated chefs as one to watch, and her pre- and post-Top Chef career has been very impressive as well, with years at Spago and now an Executive Chef role at new L.A. restaurant Foxtail.
Antonia took some time out of her extremely busy schedule as Executive Chef of a newly-opened restaurant and single mom to talk with us. Read on for the highlights and audio of the interview.
We had a slight issue with delay between her end of the call and mine, so please excuse the overlapping audio at times. Also please excuse that I TOTALLY NEGLECTED TO ASK HER FOR MORE KNOCK KNOCK JOKES. I had idly planned to work "Smell mop who?" into the conversation at some point, but got distracted.
Antonia says that her elimination was difficult, and she can understand why viewers might feel like sometimes the eliminations are not entirely fair. For herself, though, she can acknowledge that she was not at 100% for that particular challenge, and as the Top Chef drinking game teaches us well: "There is no room for error." She says she and Dale have talked about it and they both know that they could have done better in the challenge for which they were sent home. While she notes some kind of cumulative assessment would be great, she seems to have made peace with the idea that it was her misstep at this point that sent her home, and she is diplomatic about Lisa Fernandes remaining in the competition.
She also notes that Lisa is a great chef and person and reminds us to keep in mind that the show is edited and we don't get the full sense of the individual person. She also says that Stephanie is on her list as favorite for the win.
As to her performance in that final competition, Antonia says that she was working so much and so hard at her brand-new restaurant (she worked up until 1:00 AM the day she left for Puerto Rico at 4:00 AM), that it was hard to unplug from the incredible stress of that process in order to fully engage in the competition.
In addition to all of that, she is, of course, a single mom, and her daughter is very involved in her cooking life too. While her daughter vacillates between interest and disinterest with Top Chef, she loves good food and enjoys joining her mom in the kitchen. Antonia also notes that the kids at her daughter's school seem more invested in the show than any adults she meets. (Side note: thank goodness for the bleeping, I guess.) She says she thinks an early interest in food is key to eating healthy for the rest of one's life.
She's back in L.A., hard at work in her restaurant, so if you are in the area, check out Antonia at Foxtail.
- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
(Image courtesy of Bravo)