Top Chef's Nyesha: I Don't Know How Our Dish Ended Up Undercooked
Top Chef's first double elimination claimed Nyesha Arrington and Dakota Weiss after they undercooked their venison — or more specifically, Dakota undercooked the venison. "It sucks to go home for something I didn't do myself," Nyesha tells TVGuide.com. "When it's something you did, it's a little easier to swallow." Still, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based chef says she's not bitter that she had to go down for Dakota's mistake.
Top Chef's Whitney: My thought process was off
Did you think you guys would get eliminated? That's usually the fate if you don't cook a dish properly.
Nyesha: Yeah, I mean, we had the biggest error. There was no question about it. It wasn't cooked. It was really difficult to do a team challenge where you're both trying to take responsibility and you're both working on one dish and one person is in charge of the main piece, and it doesn't go well.
How did the venison end up undercooked? Was it the oven?
Nyesha: No. I don't really know. You'd have to ask her. Dakota and I cooked a trial loin and I thought we had the times dialed in. I don't know what happened. I started to plate and turn around and she's standing there, looking at me. And she goes, "It's raw!" And I just told her to keep cooking it more. I was like, "Cook it! Clearly, it's raw!" [Laughs] You know? It's like, do you want me to re-confirm this?
How much time was left at that point? Was there any chance you could've salvaged it?
Nyesha: That's the thing. Where we were each positioned, she walked around the entire kitchen to the other side to tell me that. I'm already plating plates and basically they're like 80 percent ready to go and just needed the venison to come out of the oven sliced. If I were doing the venison and it was undercooked, I would've sliced it and seared it right away. But she came over and asked what to do and I said to slice it and baste it and shoot them in there quickly. So that took up some time because every second counts. But I'm really not sure how it ended up raw in the first place.
Top Chef's Chuy: I knew I was screwed
You said that you tried to support her decisions, but do you regret not being more assertive?
Nyesha: Well, she was kind of down on herself and feeling like she was not doing very well, so when she said she wanted to cook the venison and said she's cooked it 100 times, I didn't think it would be an issue. I wasn't going to be like, "No, I don't trust you to cook it." I did trust her and I wasn't worried about it.
Do you think it would've been fine if you had cooked it?
Nyesha: Totally! I would still be in it. It would've been perfect! [Laughs]
How hard was it to go home when you weren't the one who made the mistake? Would you rather have had the double elimination be two people from different teams?
Nyesha: It was tough. But to be perfectly honest, the challenge was for us to work as a team and create a successful dish and there would be one team going home. We didn't do that. So I'm not going to say it's unfair for me to go home or only Dakota should've gone home. Where she didn't follow through on her part, I'm definitely responsible for the dish as well. It was a failed team effort. I can be upset about being eliminated, but I can't be upset about why. I totally understand why we went home.
Did you think Heather and Beverly could've gotten the boot when Heather started attacking Beverly?
Nyesha: Yeah, totally! Dakota was saying that when we were walking back. I thought we were totally going home, but once that debacle started unfolding, I was like, "Maybe not!" [Laughs] It was totally uncomfortable just standing there while she did that.
Top Chef's Richie: I wasn't thinking clearly
It was uncomfortable to watch.
Nyesha: Yeah. Heather likes to play antagonist, you know? That's the way she is. Even during downtime, she would be the only talking the most. She'd literally be two feet away from you, but yelling. The conversation could be like, "The sky is blue," and she'd be yelling all the time! [Laughs] Everyone was like, "What are you doing?" She was very abrasive and aggressive, so I think she picked on Beverly because she's kind of quiet. The shrimp thing kept coming up and honestly, I've never seen Beverly not working hard. I'd have to have Beverly's task to know how long it would take or not, but she was never slacking off.
What are you up to now?
Nyesha: I'm trying to wake up! [Laughs] We've been crazy busy with holiday parties [at Wilshire Restaurant]. We're doing like 300 covers a night. People are coming in after watching the show and it's been very interesting.