After re-entering the competition following her Last Chance Kitchen victory and earning a spot in the final four, Beverly Kim's second Top Chef stint came to a quick end when she lost all three rounds in the Olympics-inspired tasks. "I was eliminated twice! How many people can say that? I think it was easier to watch this time, but it was still very heartbreaking for me," she tells TVGuide.com. "I really did want to win and I definitely wanted to go all the way. I wasn't ready to go so early the first time. I think this time was OK. I hoped for more, but given the circumstances, I gave my best. I'm really glad that I made it far enough to show my cooking, so now people can see who I am." But the Chicago-based chef couldn't show off her culinary style completely in the challenges that were more Top Athlete than Top Chef. Does she think the challenges were unfair? And does she hold any grudges toward Sarah, Lindsay and Heather? Find out below.
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Did you think standing up there that it was going to be you going home?
Beverly: I was definitely thinking to myself, "There's a good chance it's going to be me because the flavors were good, but they weren't my usual flavors that make my food punch." I didn't have ingredients that I wanted. However, as a great chef, you have to work with what you have. Tom mentioned it was a little overcooked and I knew that was going to be a really big reason to send me home, so I was really nervous at that point. The first time I checked the arctic char, it was undercooked and the second time, it was overcooked, so at that point, I couldn't do anything about it. Sarah did a great job. Her flavors really worked and I'm very happy for her.
I think most fans were rooting for you, particularly to take down Lindsay and Sarah. Even Padma seemed sad eliminating you. Did you feel that support, especially coming back to film the finale after a break?
Beverly: I definitely felt the fan support. I think there was a lot that even Padma could relate to with me, being a working mom and also being an Asian-American woman. Sometimes you get misunderstood, coming from another culture. Even though I was born here, growing up, people just totally didn't understand certain things. My lunch was always a little bit different than everyone else's lunch or my mom wasn't involved in PTA. Why was I going to church on the weekends instead of partying with everyone? It was all these cultural things that were hard to explain and the pressure — you bring home an A, and [the response is] "Why isn't it an A+?" [Laughs] Then going home and trying to explain to my parents what happened at school, they wouldn't understand it either. I think that stuck-in-between-two-cultures thing pushes you to prove to your parents and the world around you who you really are, and that's why I feel like Padma had some connection to me. That being said, it's a cooking competition and it comes down to the last dish.
You got along with mostly everyone, except for Sarah, Lindsay and of course Heather. Having come back, could you pinpoint why they had such a problem with you? Was it really just your personality?
Beverly: I just think girls definitely work differently than men. I grew up with three older sisters, so I know what it's like being misunderstood and being underestimated. There's definitely a lot of competition. I think it's a sociological study about women together and how we compete. We're very competitive toward each other, but I think we always want to stand out, not as the best woman chef, but as the best chef. In my personal experience, working with men in the kitchen, they have an easier time letting go of things. You get in a fight with them and the next day they're fine. I don't know if that's part of their DNA to not think that deeply [Laughs], whereas women overanalyze everything. Maybe that has something to do with it.
I was cringing watching how they treated you. I can't imagine what it was like going through it.
Beverly: It definitely wasn't fun. [Laughs] But I was never mad at them. I always tried to focus on myself and my food. For me, it's all water under the bridge. I don't hold any grudges or anything against them. It's over.
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Did you feel any more or less animosity coming back for the finale? Sarah vowed to be a nicer person and then she cuts you off in the car.
Beverly: [Laughs] It was a lot better. We had come back from time away from the competition and time heals. And we were coming back from having seen the episodes, so I think there was a lot of reflection for sure. For me at that point, I wasn't there for them; I was there for my family. Watching what they did on their end, I totally respect them. I hope they feel the same way about me.
What did you think of the challenges? I love the Olympics, but I'd much rather see you cook than almost kill yourself trying to compete in a biathlon.
Beverly: [Laughs] Obviously it makes for great TV. I can't get into the producers' heads, but it was definitely more extreme than I had seen before. Is it fair? I mean, I signed up for everything. I signed up for anything! The part that you have to accept is that there are things that are out of your control and you have to overcome them. It was hard. The ice-pick challenge — I think they did research and tested how long it would take to get the ice broken. I think that day was colder than they had expected and it was just really hard to get through it. Psychologically it plays a number on you. But I had fun at the same time. I wish I had gone further and worked with ingredients that showcased my style.
Obviously you are a fan of Last Chance Kitchen, but some people don't think it's fair because you guys don't compete in the same challenges as the chefs who are still on the show do. What's your take on it, if you can be impartial?
Beverly: If I could be impartial, the only thing I would say is that Ed should've also had a second chance. He's the only one who didn't get to do it. I was actually thinking about that before the finale, like maybe there might be another twist and he was going to be part of this too. It was a surprise to all of us, but I think that's when I thrive — when I'm open and just get down to it. For me, it was awesome. It was a different kind of test. It tested your psychology after you were eliminated. Are you going to crumble after you totally thought you were out of it or are you going to rise to the occasion? I definitely understand them thinking they went through more physically with the challenges, like the Pee Wee Herman one. It was a great concept, I think. Nyesha went home for something that wasn't her fault. It gave people an opportunity to see what else a chef had to offer. Coming back last week, I definitely had to fight again to earn my spot in the final. I think the concept needs a little tweaking, but I think it works.
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Do you still have that piece of paper saying you're going to win Top Chef?
Beverly: I do actually. I really do feel like it's going to come back to me in a different way. I think you have dreams and you can map it, but it doesn't always work out that way. ... Maybe it wasn't meant to be for me that way. But that ambition and drive to win Top Chef, I still have that in me. I'm going to show the world what I've got. Maybe it's a good thing. It makes me want to work harder and prove and earn it. I think that it's going to go a huge way in my career.
And maybe you'll come back for All-Stars.
Beverly: [Laughs] Maybe! I'm open to everything. Every opportunity, I would take it and seize it.