Exclusive Interview with Spike Mendelsohn of 'Top Chef 4'
Exclusive Interview with Spike Mendelsohn of 'Top Chef 4'
Spike Mendelsohn's time on Top Chef was a series of ups and downs. He came into the competition with a strong resume, a family history full of restaurants and cooking, and a self-confidence that made it seem like he was destined to make it far in the competition. But starting with a bum batch of meat in the farmers market challenge in episode 2, Spike seemed to start encountering either a run of bad luck, bad judgment or some combination of both.

Despite that, and, as Tom Colicchio pointed out, landing in the bottom seven times throughout the competition, Spike clearly had enough skills and a strong palate that helped him make it all the way to the final five. It was a problem with the protein that started his troubles on Top Chef, and so appropriately, it was again a quality issue with his chosen protein that slipped him up in this last episode, sending him home just before the final four.

Spike still has plenty on his plate (just, we assume, no frozen scallops), and he talked with us about his future plans, his favorite of the final four, future plans for his Top Chef group Mise en Place, and, perhaps most importantly, what the deal is with all the hats. Read on for the highlights and audio of the interview.




While on the show he initially seemed confident about the frozen scallops, appearing to tell Tom Colicchio sometimes they could work, he confirmed that it's not something he would ever use in his day-to-day cooking life. It sounds like the mysterious rules of production locked him into the plan once they were selected. Spike also notes that he thinks it might have been his Greek temper kicking in when Rick Tramanto was grilling him about using the frozen scallops.

Speaking of mysterious rules, I asked Spike about that voiceover bit from Tom right at the end in which Tom listed the number of times Spike and Lisa Fernandes had been in the bottom. It seemed all very Tyra Banks/America's Next Top Model elimination speech, where there is a sudden marked difference in audio quality as a judge delivers some key information that helps to make the judges' decision more palatable. He wasn't able to say whether or not that was in the actual panel itself (you'll hear the Bravo publicist jump in briefly), but the point remains that the show spends all season talking about the fact that a chef is only as good as his or her last dish, so why Tom said this at all seems a bit fishy.

Spike might not always have been a fan favorite on the show, but he seems like a decent guy off camera, and he was open enough to admit his own flaws. He said he did lose focus a little bit on the food in moments like the lunchbox challenge, when he instead spent his energy on trying to make life difficult for the other chefs. He says he would like to one day have a traveling cooking show (some combination of Punk'd, Jackass and Anthony Bourdain's show), and so sometimes he knows he was more focused on the cameras that the competition, wanting to see how he would handle that kind of environment.

As to his competitors, Spike reserves his highest praise for Stephanie, saying that she is the “total package,” with simple but delicious food, a great attitude and front-of-house experience and skills. He also admires Richard Blais' ability to bring a strong, thoughtful concept to the dish. Those two, he feels, are clearly deserving of their spots, but he thinks that otherwise, the past three eliminations have sent home the wrong chefs.

Spike has some big plans for the near future, and no, it's not just his weekly practice with Mise en Place, the group he formed with Mark Simmons and Andrew D'Ambrosi. He's also going to be opening a burger joint called Good Stuff Eatery in Washington DC in a few weeks. (You can check out the website with the pretty cute cow mascot at www.goodstuffeatery.com.) He also hopes to open a fine dining restaurant in the next year or so, but for now, thinks keeping it simple and less-expensive is a better business decision.   Expect to continue to see him in the hats, which he says have been a trademark for most of his life.  His Top Chef competitor, Lisa Fernandes, will actually be filling in for Spike at his previous gig at Mai House, so despite the heat of the game, it sounds like the chefs from this season continue to stay on good terms with one another.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Bravo)