Top Chef has had some chaotic elimination challenges, but this week's jumbled dim sum service resulted in a whole lot of angry — and hungry — patrons reduced to stealing food off the carts. During the madness, front-of-the-house volunteer Casey Thompson was forced to leave her dish in her fellow cheftestants' hands, and the judges' described the final product as "inedible."
Find out what the Texas native says about what went wrong during the disastrous service, why she went on a limb and opted to use chicken feet, and if she blames her colleagues for what went wrong with her dish. Plus: Why was she convinced Jamie was going home over her?
What did you think about being in teams again for the dim-sum challenge?
Casey Thompson: What I've come to realize about team challenges is they drum up a lot of drama and it makes it really difficult for us to work together and work alone at the same time. You see the train wreck coming, you just don't know how to prevent it.
Why did you opt for chicken feet as the center of your dish?
Casey: I use chicken feet at the restaurant that I'm at, and the way we use them is to flavor our food. ... Have I ever cooked them for people in Chinatown? No, never. I was actually hoping for a dish where they would think, "These are damn good chicken feet." I really thought it was going to work out. I really did.
What do you think went wrong to result in such chaotic service?
Casey: In that kitchen, some of the equipment worked, some of it didn't and we had to use the dumbwaiter. Also a hundred some-odd people came in at once. No restaurant in the world has 100 people come in at once. These were huge factors we were up against.
Do you think your dish went wrong because you turned it over to the other chefs?
Casey: [Long pause] You know, when I was watching the show, there was a picture of my dish that came up first and another that came up later. And they were totally different. The few chicken feet I tried, I did not think they were inedible. I was deep-frying them, and then they went straight into the wok and then got tossed into the sauce and plated. Later, I came down and tried one and asked how was it being prepared. No one really knew and there was confusion. I thought the sauce was over-reduced and that was product of "I'm busy doing something over here, and I can't get to that over there." But there were a lot of things happening and [I] don't blame anybody cooking or plating my dish. And I guess the judges felt they weren't cooked long enough and that would be on me.
You said you thought Jamie was going to get sent home. Why did you think that?
Casey: I was talking to Mike while we were waiting about people's dishes that we weren't seeing much of. One of dishes we weren't seeing was Jamie's dumplings. Later, I found out she wasn't happy with them, so I'm assuming she stopped serving them. So she started concentrating mainly on the vegetables. And I kind of figured if [the judges] weren't happy with the vegetables and she wasn't happy with the dumplings, that surely two dishes would get sent home over one. But as soon as Tom said the word "inedible" referring to my chicken feet, I knew it was going to be me.