Howie Kleinberg, of Bravo’s Top Chef, has never been once to mince words. A tough-talking chef from New York, he butted heads with just about every contestant on the show this season. Yet, underneath that tough exterior, is man with a true passion for what he does. On last week’s episode, he surprised everyone when he refused to serve his dish in the Quickfire challenge, saying he would never serve something he is not proud of. His lackluster performance in dinner service resulted in his dismissal from the kitchen. Now, back home, Howie looks to his future and sits down to chat with BuddyTV about his time on Top Chef.
Below, you will find the transcript and mp3 of the interview.
Hey everybody, this is Gina from Buddy TV, and I’m talking to Howie from Top Chef. How are you doing, Howie?
I’m doing good, how are you?
I’m good, thanks. Let’s start by talking about the Quickfire challenge. It was pretty shocking to see you throw away your dish in the last few seconds. What happened?
Basically, it was a really tough challenge. I think it was the toughest Quickfire we faced the whole time, and it was just one of those things. I really don’t like to put up a dish that I don’t feel strongly that’s a quality dish. It’s something that you learn as a young chef: don’t put up food that you can’t stand by.
Sometimes I think too much for my own good and I’ve kind of always thought in my mind that the Quickfire is not as important a deal, and I never really performed as well in Quickfire as the elimination. So I kind of said to myself, “You know what? It’s not right, don’t put it up, because it’s not an elimination challenge. It really should have no bearing at the end of the day.” But I guess sometimes it does.
When you look back on it, do you regret that decision, or do you stand by what you did?
I stand by what I did. If you’re a chef, then you can’t serve food that you’re not happy with. You can’t and I stand by it, and I would do it again tomorrow, even if I knew it meant me being out because for me, it’s not an option.
Now a couple of the chefs said something on camera about you not finishing the challenge. Did they say anything to your face?
Well actually, following it up one of them said the same thing. And then when you watch the show, they’re saying, “What a cop-out.” You know, it’s all part of the game, I can’t take any of it personally. A lot of people say a lot of things about me but nobody can say that you don’t know where my head’s at and I don’t wear my emotions on my sleeve. I let you know where you stand with me 100% of the time.
I was gonna ask you if you felt like you were portrayed accurately on the show. Is that really who you are in life?
That is I who I am. But you know what, there’s many sides to me, I’m a complex person. There’s not just one side that you can look at and say, “Well this is Howie through and through.” Depending on the situation in my mind, depending on my mind set, depending on specifically the competition.
This competition starts to weigh on you, I felt like I was under the gun from the first panel. It’s a tough thing, and anyone who thinks that it’s not, really isn’t paying attention. Because it’s not easy, and it’s like the challenge of a lifetime for me.
Yeah. A lot of chefs have different opinions on what’s the hardest part of being on the show. For you, what was the most difficult part of being on Top Chef?
Not cooking, so much, as much as the living arrangements. Being separated from your family and friends, and the people that you’re used to working with. Just being thrown into a situation where you just have no real sense of work, no escape from it, really. I mean, it’s 24/7 for six weeks.
Whereas if you have a rough day at the office, rough day at the restaurant, you go home. You have a cocktail, a glass of wine, whatever. You see your wife, your friends. You know, put things in perspective, and you go back refreshed. In this, from the beginning to the end, you’re running.
You know, you’re a person who speaks your mind, you’ve had some run-ins with your fellow contestants. Is there anything you would have taken back, or you’re just kind of, you say what you think?
I think I was fighting for myself, and I mean it’s a competition. It’s not a matter of me wanting to go after people, or wanting to instigate things with people. I go into every relationship with a closed way, and trying to be neutral with everybody, and trying to be positive with everybody. It’s not a nice guy competition, because God knows I would never win, I wouldn’t even be in the running.
I would like to see a quality chef that’s not a force to be reckoned with. Because if you can’t command that type of respect, carry yourself with a certain amount of swagger, why would a crew of men follow you? And listen to everything you say, and basically bust their humps for you? And live in fear of you coming over, finding something not right on the station, and that’s what makes a great chef.
Is there anything exciting coming up in your future? What are your goals now?
Right now, I’ve been in New York the past couple weeks, looking at restaurant spaces to launch my first New York project and putting a partnership together. I hope to be acquiring space in the next 2-3 months.
Well, that’s great. We’ll have to keep up on what you’re doing. I wish you good luck with that and I thank you for your time today, Howie.
Thank you so much.
– Gina Scarpa, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of Bravo)