She started out at the bottom, but Top Chef's Ariane Duarte quickly rose to the top, impressing the judges week after week. Unfortunately for this cheftestant, string became the enemy and ultimately the reason for her elimination. The New Jersey restaurant owner explains how the cliquiness in her team was a huge roadblock and shares who she thought should have gone home after the farm challenge.
TVGuide.com: Why did you end up working on the lamb dish if you weren't familiar with tying roasts?
Ariane Duarte: I've cooked lots of lamb, but I don't tie. I've done a whole leg of lamb, whole baby lamb — my grandmother's from Italy so that's what we eat every Easter! Hosea and Leah were supposed to help me. When we decided, I said, "Alright guys, that's what I'll do, but this is what I need from you." It was something they knew and we discussed. And there never was an issue. I think we all thought everything was great, tasted great and looked great. But you get to the table and different stories come out.
TVGuide.com: Who do you think should have went home?
Duarte: The first thing I thought was Radhika should have left because when we were [at Judges' Table], having to stick up and fight for ourselves, she had nothing to say. Basically, she didn't do that much, and that's why she had nothing to say. And I think I said Leah [should go] because I was mad. I thought there would have been a little more team player talk [with the judges], but it got to the point where [Leah] just didn't care. It was like, "Yeah I tied it, but didn't do a really good job." Alright, so then you wonder — did you purposely do that? You say you can do it, then you don't.
TVGuide.com: Hosea and Leah seemed pretty cliquey. Did that affect your performance?
Duarte: Definitely. She'd say something, he'd agree. He'd say something, she'd agree. It definitely played against me. I feel when you're in a team, you've got to listen to your teammates. You've got to have faith in them, trust in them. But when two of your teammates just keep saying 'no,' 'that won't work,' 'we don't want to do that,' you get to the point where you can only say and do so much. They already had a connection that I wasn't apart of.
TVGuide.com: What was your most memorable moment of your experience?
Duarte: Getting through the Today show challenge and winning. That's something I've fought with all my career. I don't like to get in front of people and do demos. I get nervous and flustered. So to do that two-and-a-half minute presentation, I was just so proud of myself. It was like a stepping stone for me. One of the main reasons I did the show was to get over the fear of speaking in front of people and presenting cooking in front of people. For me it was definitely growth experience.
TVGuide.com: What's next for you?
Duarte: My husband [who's also a chef] and I own a restaurant in Montclair, NJ called CulinAriane — and we've quickly outgrown it! Since the show, we're full from the minute we open to the minute we close. It's been awesome. We're looking to expand, and I'm toying with the idea of doing a cookbook. I'd love to do some consulting too. But right now, we're dedicated to the restaurant, and I have two girls, 13 and 11, so that takes up a lot of time. [Laughs]