Radhika Naren Desai made the mistake of becoming her team's leader during Wednesday's "Restaurant Wars" challenge on Top Chef; trying to "make people happy" may have been what landed her on the chopping block. Naren Desai, an executive chef from Chicago, tells TVGuide.com why she decided to take on the front-of-house duty, what was behind her defeated appearance at the Judges' Table and why she was so good at "Quickfires."
TVGuide.com: Why did you let Jeff stay in the kitchen if you initially wanted him on front-of-the-house?
Radhika: He was just a little reluctant and really wanted to be in the kitchen. I just wanted to make people happy and didn't want to force him to do anything he didn't want to do, which, in hindsight, I should have. I had very little experience with front-of-house work but thought that because it was my concept, I'd be able to explain it and pull it off. It definitely wasn't easy and really was exhausting. I did the best I could under the circumstances.
TVGuide.com: What was going through your head during Judges' Table?
Radhika: I was just really exhausted. I just talked to my mom and she was like, "You looked really tired — almost relieved." I was really tired because it had been a long couple of days. At that point, I just couldn't fight anymore. I was the leader and was responsible. Even though I didn't cook anything, with "Restaurant Wars," you have to be able to do everything. The other teams' dessert and Fabio's personality saved them. If the judges would rather have a good jokester personality and eat raw fish, then I don't know.
TVGuide.com: You often did well with Quickfires, but not the Elimination Challenge dishes that followed. Why was that?
Radhika: I don't know. I did what I thought was good. I guess I'm better under pressure with the quick, right-away dishes. I mean, when you have immunity, of course you want to do really good food, but a lot of the pressure is taken off when you're not going home. But that didn't mean I put any less effort than into it.
TVGuide.com: Initially, you said you didn't want to be pigeonholed as the Indian chef, but often used those flavors. What changed?
Radhika: Nothing changed. I didn't want to be the chef who makes Indian food, and I didn't do that. I made food influenced by my culture in different ways, and that's what I wanted to express. I wanted to take what I learned in life and transform it into something modern, original and my own idea.
TVGuide.com: What was the hardest part of the experience?
Radhika: The not knowing. The first few minutes before going into a challenge were the hardest part. All I'd think is "I hope I don't throw up" or "I hope I don't look like an a--hole on TV." [Laughs]