After Top Chef's highly anticipated "Restaurant Wars" episode, Laurine Wickett was sent packing. TVGuide.com caught up with the culinary cast-off to find out why she ended up managing the floor, whether she felt she deserved to go home and if she really did hide from the judges.
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TVGuide.com: Why did you decide to take on the role in front as house manager?
Laurine Wickett: It wasn't so much choice as it was as a default process. I have my own catering company, and I've often had to take on the floor due to a turnover in staff or if someone is sick. So I have floor experience, but it's not necessarily my forte.
TVGuide.com: What was it like managing all those patrons at the same time?
Laurine: I've never had to control the flow of the diners. But, more importantly, I met the floor staff an hour before we opened the doors and could barely remember their names. So the challenge not only to [manage the floor], but to work with a staff I just met. I didn't know what their skill-sets and abilities were.
TVGuide.com: The judges thought you hid when things started going south. Is that true?
Laurine: I think that because I'm a chef, instinctually I wanted to be in the kitchen helping them get out of the weeds because that's what I do. In retrospect, the right thing for me to do would have been to be on the floor pacifying the guests, keeping people informed and communicating. It wasn't so much as a conscious decision where I thought, "Things are going bad, and I better go hide." It was more of, "If I'm going down, then what I do know what to do is how to bail a kitchen out."
TVGuide.com: Did you know the judges weren't too keen on your team's restaurant?
Laurine: It was clear to me from the moment they sat down. They had a lot of questions for me like why we named the restaurant what we did (Mission) and why the menu was printed the way it was. Having gone through the first seating, I knew there was some flaws with the dishes as well, and I was hoping by the time we served the judges we would have caught those errors in the food. But by then, our kitchen was too rattled and the food wasn't executed to perfection.
TVGuide.com: Do you think you deserved to go as opposed to Jen who botched the fish course?
Laurine: I look back on that and wonder, "Was this Top Floor Manager Competition"? [Laughs] The reason my job ended up being so difficult is because the kitchen didn't end up where it should have been. I've always worked behind the scenes. Calming customers down is not something I do or comes naturally to me. I was trying to do the best I could given the situation, but I wasn't necessarily the instrumental part of the failure for the evening.
TVGuide.com: What's next for you?
Laurine: I have couple of exciting projects coming up. I have weekly dinner coming up at a place called Coffee Bar in San Francisco. There are some guest chefs that come in on a weekly basis and do dinners. I'm going to take over in January with a series of dinners. And in addition, I developed a private venue above our commercial kitchen that's available for people to have custom dinner parties for up to 14 people.