Beverly Kim's dish on Top Chef was fit for a queen — but not an evil queen. The Chicago-based chef — and target of Heather's, Sarah's and Lindsay's insults — was eliminated for her halibut that was not symbolic enough of the challenge's evil theme, in honor of guest judge and Snow White and the Huntsman's Evil Queen, Charlize Theron. Adding salt to the wound: She would have won the Quickfire and immunity along with it had she plated her Rice Krispies in time. Still, Beverly says she feels "really good" about leaving. Find out why. Plus: Did she feel bullied by Heather?
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I think some people were surprised you left since Sarah undercooked her risotto, and undercooking usually gets you booted. Were you surprised too?
Beverly: I definitely thought my dish was deserving of staying on for sure. Was I surprised? I don't know. It's so subjective. I guess a little surprised, but it was a really tight race and they had to nitpick. They nitpicked my sauce. I also think my dish could've been more conceptually wicked. [Laughs] I had such a bright story! Snow White overcomes the dark side and everyone else's dish was so dark, like, here's the wicked queen! That was part of it — I didn't embrace the challenge. But I felt really good leaving on a good note. Everyone did really well. We got a standing ovation from the judges. It is what it is.
Did you ever consider doing a darker theme or were you dead-set on the Snow White prevailing theme?
Beverly: You know, when you're caught in that situation where you have to make a decision in a few minutes, I wanted to do a dish that I felt comfortable with. I still feel it had a story line. Of course, in retrospect, you go, "Oh, I should've done..." But at the time, that was my intuition.
When you were eliminated, how irked were you about the Quickfire?
Beverly: Of course, you replay the whole thing in your head and you're so upset and are like, "What if I had just thrown [the Rice Krispies] in the air and they landed on the plate?" There's definitely a lot of that regret. At least I know I had a really delicious dish. That made me feel better. I always try to look at things half-full and learn from the past. I had done a second run the last minute to see if I could get more fennel and it didn't even make it onto the plate, so sometimes you just have to cut to the chase and plate the dish. There are a lot of things I could've done that would've saved myself, but that's why it's a game. It doesn't totally define you as a chef. It's circumstantial and also very subjective.
Did you just run out of time or did you forget about the Rice Krispies?
Beverly: I ran out time. I barely had time to get my fish on. From two minutes until zero, it goes so fast. I was thinking that I needed some fennel for some crunch, so I started panicking and tried to find fennel, and that's when I ran out of time. I should've skipped all that and put the Rice Krispies on. And won immunity!
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A lot of fans loved that you outlasted Heather and hoped for you to outlast Sarah and Lindsay too, based on how badly they treated you. What was going on between you guys? Did you not get along at all?
Beverly: I think it was just when you're put into this kind of situation with people you don't know, you're basing your feelings about that person on superficial things. Had we known each other, I think maybe some of those judgments wouldn't have been passed. And just in general, I'm not the typical chef personality. I'm not loud and abrasive and confrontational. I'm a little bit more of quiet type, but I'm definitely a quiet warrior. My whole career, I've been the keep-your-head-down-and-keep-working type. I just try to lead by example rather than by demanding respect. I definitely try to earn my respect and that can take awhile. I was also shy being in a big group with people I don't know. If you get to know me, I'm loud and very boisterous. There are times where I take myself seriously and times when I don't. I definitely can have a good time, but I was so serious when I came into the competition, knowing that I was spending so much time away from my family, being a mom of a very young baby.
Do you feel they ganged-up on you?
Beverly: Yeah, but when you're in a competition, people are going to group together with people like themselves. I think my personality, being shy, made me seem meek. I can't help that! [Laughs] That's who I am. That's something you find out about yourself when you're there. You don't know how you're going to be competing. Am I going to be loud? Am I going to be quiet? I became more quiet and that's definitely when people tend to gang up on you. But it's a competition. You're going to try to make yourself look good and make other people look bad. They're great; they're all wonderful chefs. I love them to death. We just didn't know each other personally at that point.
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Heather doesn't think she was bullying you, but fans and the other chefs did. Do you feel like she was?
Beverly: I think that term is so negative. I think I just stood out like a sore thumb in the beginning because of my personality. I don't think it was right to call me out on my work ethic and things like that. That being said, it's in the past. I don't have any [ill will] toward any of them. We all react differently under pressure. I think that has a lot to do with it. It's a competition. It was very apparent I was different from everyone. [Laughs] I've learned to embrace that. It's harder to be someone I'm not than to just to be me.
You definitely had some weird and funny moments, like crashing into the stand and apologizing for it.
Beverly: Yeah! [Laughs] It was funny. I think I provided some comic relief for people. I think it was how they cut and edited it. I'm for sure quirky, and I want it so bad that sometimes you have no control over your body movement! I didn't even realize how I looked. It's silly. I can laugh about it because that's who I am. I'm not a robot of a person. Competing on the show takes a lot of strength. When you have so many minutes left and you try to do certain things, you bump into inanimate objects!
Do you still have that sign that says you will win Top Chef Season 9 and a quarter of a million dollars?
Beverly: Hell, yeah! [Laughs] I know people thought it was cheesy, but I believe in visualizing your goals. It's like shooting for the moon and reaching over the fence at least. It gets you close and keeps you focused. It's about believing in yourself because it's all you have, especially in a competitive environment.
What are you up to now?
Beverly: I am working really hard at Aria. We just got a Michelin star recommendation. I'm excited to get back to real cooking! For me, this is the beginning of my career in a sense. I've been cooking since I was 16, but this is the first time people have heard of me, so it's a really great opportunity for me to grow. This is definitely beginning of what you'll see. This whole competition has given me a lot of insight into me as a person and I've proven a lot to myself. It's given me a lot more drive.