Top Chef's Jen: 'One Grain of Salt' Sent Me Home
It seemed like the judges had a hard time determining whom to send home this week. What sealed your fate?
When we were in Judges' Table, we were also there for so long and it seemed like it was taking the judges such a long time to figure it out. I honestly had no idea. Each of us seemed like we had one mistake but we all seem like we did really well on something else. So it was hard to see which way they were leaning. When they talked about my goat cheese being salty, I trust their palates but I thought it tasted okay. So I was a little surprised to go home. It came down to one grain of salt sending me home.
Everyone was saying what high caliber of chefs competed this season. Who did you consider to be your biggest threat?
This season was crazy with all the competitors on the show. I knew the Voltaggio brothers; I also knew who people worked for and their background. But Kevin was just consistent throughout the entire competition. He was funny. He would always be like, "I make such simple food." But his food was not simple. It may look simple but it was so complex and so flavorful. I thought he was really my biggest competition. Michael and Bryan seem to go up and down a little bit – and Michael was definitely the one who was taking the most risks.
Can you explain more what you mean about Kevin's food not being as simple as like Michael Voltaggio claimed?
Kevin's food has soul to it. It has passion to it. When you taste it, or when you look at it on the plate, it may look as if there's only one or two elements there but he has so much going into it. There are so many more complex flavors that you don't really know until he comes and explains everything to you – and then you realize there was so much work put into his dish.
At certain points you seemed to get pretty rattled. How did your nerves affect you in the competition?
Once I started to slip and I made a mistake, I just started to really beat myself up. I was a lot harder on myself than I should have been. I was always nervous because I really wanted to impress the judges and be the best that I could. It wasn't that I was not confident about my cooking or my skills at all. I have always been confident about my technique and flavors. But when I can't get things done absolutely perfectly I get mad at myself and then I get nervous that somebody's going to see that one little imperfection.
In your final challenge you seemed really calm actually despite having problems with your grill.
In the final challenge, I was really calm. I was having fun. The grill going out really didn't bother me at all because I think what I ended up doing – cooking the duck in its own fat – ended up giving it more flavor. That didn't really bother me one bit.
What did you learn from being on the show – and was it hard for you to watch yourself?
I found that I can actually be really creative under a time constraint. I learned from watching everything that maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. It was hard seeing myself being nervous. The show made me look like I had a lack of confidence, which I definitely never did. If I did something wrong, I knew what I did and I always admitted it.