Talk about evil: On Wednesday's premiere of Top Chef: All-Stars, the cheftestants were asked to redo the dish that got them eliminated the first time around. And in the eyes of the judges, some chefs were unable to learn from their previous mistakes.
But according to Season 2's Elia Aboumrad, the first chef asked to pack her knives this season, it wasn't exactly an even playing field. Find out why the Los Angeles-based chef thinks the challenge was unfair and why she and the judges shared and intense back-and-forth we didn't see. Plus: Did she think Fabio's dish was as bad as Anthony Bourdain made it out to be?
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TVGuide.com: What was going through your head when you found out you had to remake the dish that got you eliminated during your season?
Elia Aboumrad: I didn't have a specific feeling. It was very interesting because everyone had a different theme. Everybody used different ingredients and were all in different areas. It was different for everyone, and it wasn't even. The main ingredient on my dish was a ti leaf with red snapper and I was given a palm tree leaf. Of course I fought [about] that with Tom, but they didn't put that on [the episode].
TVGuide.com: You chose to stay very close to your original dish. Why?
Elia: When Tom said the rules and we read them, it specifically said not to stray from your dish — don't change technique, don't add too much, and you're not allowed to take anything off. I remember going back and forth with those rules to be clear, and it was kind of surprising when most of the people changed the technique and ... a lot of the main ingredients where not in the dishes. I went back and forth with that a lot at judges' table, but unfortunately it's not shown.
TVGuide.com: So do you think it was unfair the others weren't penalized for changing techniques?
Elia: I think it was unfair. It got to the point where Gail Simmons turned around and said, "Well maybe you followed the rules too literally." And that really made me so angry. If the rules are not meant to be followed, then there shouldn't be any rules! I fought back for like 40 minutes. I was hoping they'd show some of it. I know I specifically cooked the fish in a Hawaiian style that is medium rare, and I explained that it wasn't supposed to be fully cooked. I definitely didn't agree with it, but I didn't know I was going to be in the bottom. I never imagined I was going to go home.
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TVGuide.com: Why didn't you watch the critiques during the service?
Elia: I think that it had motivation that I didn't like. It was all so we'd get on the nerves of our colleagues. I didn't want to participate in something I saw a very wrong motivation behind.
TVGuide.com: Anthony Bourdain made it clear he didn't like Fabio's dish. What did you think of it?
Elia: I did try Fabio's dish, and I didn't think it should have been in the bottom either. It was perfectly seasoned. It wasn't overpowering, and it's sad that a person like Tony Bourdain, who travels the world, has never seen the Italian style of serving pasta on a piece of parchment paper. I've seen it in Italy so many times. It blew me away.
TVGuide.com: What's next for you?
Elia: I'm in Los Angeles now and I'm opening my own restaurant with a colleague of mine. It's going to be a French restaurant ... and it should be open by summer. I'm very excited.