Wednesday's Top Chef was a bittersweet one for Josh Valentine. Hours after his wife gave birth to their first child, daughter Georgia, the Dallas-based chef was eliminated one round shy of the final. "I wanted to win and [have] the happy ending, but it didn't work out that way," he tells TVGuide.com. "But I got a better happy ending. [Georgia's] an absolute doll." Josh got the boot for his ill-conceived foie gras torchon, a dish that normally takes days to do that he tried to make in a few hours. Why did he shoot so high?
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Do you find Bravo's scheduling suspect? Your last name's Valentine and you got eliminated the day before Valentine's Day. No love at all.
Josh Valentine: I actually hadn't even thought about that until now. Wow. That kind of sucks all around. [Laughs] Did they plan it this way? Or did it just work out that way? Who knows. It is what it is at this point. ... I was fine watching it. My wife was a little emotional. It was a big episode all around for me. I was obviously a little distracted with things on my mind during the Elimination Challenge, but [the birth] was always in the back of my mind throughout the entire competition. I just didn't realize that it would actually happen during the taping of the finale. I thought [after the regular season taping] I'd go home, the baby will be born, and I'd go back for the finale. But that wasn't the case.
Did you and your wife ever consider you withdrawing?
Josh: No. As much as it was difficult to not be there for my wife, the entire idea of me competing on Top Chef was from my wife. She was very supportive and she even said, "I want you to win." Even when she was in the process of having the baby, she said, "If you're in it, I want you to win." She was completely supportive. The thought me coming home and leaving the show hadn't crossed either of our minds.
You were thinking about the birth, obviously, so how much did it take your mind off the challenge?
Josh: I don't know if it took my mind off the challenge. I may have been a little too ambitious in what I was trying to accomplish. It definitely distracted me some, but I don't think it took my mind off of it where it actually affected my dish.
Were you feeling awesome and invincible becoming a dad, and that's why you aimed so high?
Josh: Yeah. I just wanted to see if I could prove myself wrong. [Laughs] I've always had the mindset where if I had an idea, I was going to try to see it through the end. I wasn't going to change my mind and change it. I was just going to take that idea and run with it. I died by that thought last night, but at least I was always pushing myself. I didn't want to be somebody that played it safe. If I was going to go out, I wanted to go out pushing myself. I can feel proud about that.
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Is it at all possible to make torchon in a few hours?
Josh: No. [Laughs] It's completely impossible. That was looming in the back of my head: "You're not gonna be able to do this." But at the same time, I just didn't want to tell Tom [Colicchio] that I was making something and then when I present the dish, it's not there and then get nailed for that. I don't know. In hindsight, I wouldn't have done it. I would've concentrated on one or two elements, but that's in hindsight. When you're in the moment, it's such a great idea and you have to go with it. If I had succeeded, we may be having a different conversation. You have to walk that fine line of pushing it and really doing something that you can manage in that time. I skewed in the wrong direction.
When did you realize that this probably was not going to end well for you? When you put it in the freezer to harden it?
Josh: It wasn't really until I was plating. I absolutely knew when I was plating that the torchon was not set and it was going to be an issue. But I was also hoping that maybe Sheldon and Brooke had stumbled more than I did. Once it's on the plate, there's nothing you can do about it at that point. You just gotta hope that someone made a bigger mistake than you did.
Sheldon over-seasoned, and in most cases, a seasoning issue gets you eliminated. Did you think it would be him going?
Josh: I think it was a toss-up. I mean, Sheldon's broth was over-seasoned and over-reduced, but he cooked the fish perfectly. All of my seasoning and flavors were spot-on, but I didn't execute something properly, so my technique is off. When you have to balance those two things, I think it was a tough decision for the judges. I think it could've gone either way. But I have no regrets. I did what I had to do and pushed myself as a chef. I can live with that.
Where was your head at going into Last Chance Kitchen?
Josh: I wanted to get back in the competition. I was just shy of making the finale and then I so close again [in Last Chance Kitchen]. I did the same thing — a simple, straightforward dish with flavors. I gave it a valiant effort is all I can say.
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What are you up to now?
Josh: I'm a pastry chef in Dallas at FT33. It's something a little different, but it's really exciting. It challenges me in a different way. As a chef, you can taste and season and adjust as you go along, but as a pastry chef, I gotta weigh and measure and make sure everything is calculated to a certain formula. It's pressure in another direction, but at the end of the day, I think it's making me a more well-rounded chef.
Could we see you on Top Chef: Just Desserts next?
Josh: Probably not. If it was just knocking out desserts, I might be alright with that, but when they start doing sugarwork and chocolate sculptures, I have no idea how to do any of that!
So in few years?
Josh: Yeah, maybe then! [Laughs]
Top Chef airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on Bravo.