For Top Chef 5 contestant Richard Sweeney, the third time was the charm for getting on the show in the first place, but the third episode proved to be his downfall. Due to a banana-based s’mores dessert that failed to impress the Foo Fighters or the Top Chef judges, the second member of Team Rainbow was sent packing.
He spoke with us today about his time on the show, what he thinks about the judges and his competitors, and what he would do differently if he could do it all again.
Richard said that there were actually more dishes made and judged than we saw on the episode. Due to the number of diners expected, each team created a lot of different dishes, and the overall judging time was quite long – seven to eight hours – as the judges needed to learn about and give feedback on each dish.
The dishes Richard created but not shown were a mayo-based caprese salad (the rider for the Foos indicated they likes mayo-based salads) and a spiced sweet potato dish. The caprese salad didn’t go over well, but the potato dish seemed solid.
He said he knew he was a candidate for the bottom three because of the failure of two of his dishes, but since at least one was successful, he didn’t expect to go home. He pointed out that Jeff McInnis’s three dishes all received criticism, as did Danny Gagnon’s two. He also said that the potatoes weren’t just undercooked, they were underseasoned as well. Therefore, Richard said, he still stood by his comment that he thought it should have been Danny sent home, not him. He noted that while his concept might not have worked, his s’mores were all at least executed properly, all being individually bruleed.
Although his banana s’mores got him sent home – and he admits he wouldn’t attempt that dessert if he could do it over again – he’s actually been playing around with the concept back at his restaurant. “Play” is a word that Richard uses often, appearing to be in person as light-hearted as he generally was in his interviews. His playful approach to food that we saw on Top Chef is similar to what he might do in his restaurant. His customer base is young and curious about food, but might be more apt to take a risk if the new is combined with the familiar, like using lamb in a slider.
But even fun can get boring after a while, and Richard gave us some insight into the occasionally-tedious world that is the extended boozy vacation in the sequester house, post-elimination. He was in the house for about three weeks, and said he and his fellow eliminated chefs created about 30 new recipes for sangria, just trying to come up with a new and interesting way to drink all the wine they had access to. While it was relaxing to have nothing to do but sit by a pool and drink, Richard says they could help but be antsy.
They were allowed cable television, but still no phone or internet without production supervision. Outside trips were also permitted, and while they managed to lie low out in Jersey City, Richard said, folks at the gyms and restaurants they visited eventually noticed how their group continually increased by one new person as more chefs were eliminated.
As to the chefs who are currently still in the competition, Richard says that Stefan Richter seems strong, especially due to his global experience. Fabio has been a little erratic, but Richard thinks he has talent. Fabio Viviani’s spherical olives from the “Show Your Craft” episode actually inspired Richard to order some molecular gastronomy equipment, as this application showed Richard a practical and approachable way to include those techniques into his own style. Richard also expressed admiration for Ariane Duarte’s performance, especially as her team was rather nervously second-guessing her throughout the cooking time.
Richard also thought that Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi were “pretty cool.” The competition itself didn’t give the judges and chefs a lot of opportunity to interact. He noted that he thinks Tom is more reserved during the competition, but was more open afterwards, and Richard thinks that distance is Tom’s way of making sure he’s voting only on food, not personality. Padma might deliver the rough news at Judges’ Table, but Richard notes that after the harsh criticism of the lemon meringue martini, Padma took care to follow up with Ariane to make sure she was doing all right.
While Richard was clearly disappointed to leave so early, he seems to be carrying on with a jovial spirit. You can check out his cooking in person at Confidential in San Diego.
– Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist. See what I’m cooking this week on Three-Bowls.com!
(Image courtesy of Bravo)