Back in the day, when a cook lost on Top Chef, cohost Padma Lakshmi would tell the loser to "pack your knives" and go home. (At least she said it in her soft, sensual voice.) But for the last two seasons, eliminated contestants were given a chance at redemption on Last Chance Kitchen (viewable on the web). Now it seems fans can save the losing cook on Last Chance Kitchen by texting or tweeting each week. Old chefs never die, they just end up on a webisode...
So fans of Carla Pellegrino, Chrissy Camba, or Jeffrey Jew shouldn't necessarily despair—redemption is only a tweet away. Earlier this afternoon I spoke on the phone with Chrissy and Carla, both of whom remained positive about the experience. All the contestants were tasked with replicating parts of a 1950s menu from Canlis in Seattle (liver, crab salad, clams bordelaise, sherbet). Chrissy's job was to make the signature salad, which is still on the menu. She claims the Canlis brothers' description of the dressing did her in—the judges found it overdressed. Also on the chopping block was Joshua Valentine whose onion soup was not hot and perhaps oversalted. But Josh cleverly blamed cold soup on the expediter, John Tesar, this season's archvillain. Chrissy recognized the strategy, saying, "I think that's part of the game and as you can tell, I'm not really good at that."
For Carla Pellegrino, her downfall was the squab. The outspoken Brazilian-Italian chef was dealing simultaneously with customers complaining the bird was undercooked and the judges who said it was overcooked. "I had to fire it up eight times even though they didn't show it," says Carla, who was once married to Frank Pellegrino Jr. of Rao's fame. "But apparently Tom Colicchio likes those birds raw."
Without question Carla was the most vocal contestant, and she happily admits it. "I'm loud all the time," she laughs. "It's too easy to get emotion out of me. I'm being myself. I don't really get mad. Two minutes later I forget about it. There's screaming and then it's over." During a heated exchange with fellow chef Stefan Richter, Carla shot back, "You guys decide to call me 'sweetie' and 'honey' and tell [me] what the f— to do ... There is no 'sweetie' anymore." (She says she and Stefan are actually friendly.)
During Last Chance Kitchen, Carla was challenged with redoing her squab, which Colicchio still did not like. "I hate small birds," she says. "They creep me out."