Top Chef's Heather: I'm Not a Bully
Was it karma that sent Heather Terhune packing from Top Chef? After weeks of verbally assaulting Beverly, she was booted for her disastrous Beef Stroganoff the same day that her frenemy placed in the top three in both the Quickfire and Elimination challenges. "I think it was all me, nothing else," Heather tells TVGuide.com. "I didn't cook the meat properly and I have no one and nothing to blame but myself." But the Chicago-based chef knows the story line couldn't have been scripted any better. "[Beverly] does well and the villain leaves!" So what exactly was the deal between the two of them? Find out below.
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Did you think it was going to be you getting the boot?
Heather: Yeah, you always know. If you talk to other chefs, when you make a crucial mistake and you don't have a walk-in full of other steaks you can use like you do in your normal restaurant, you know. At least I knew. It felt like that was going to be me unless some miracle happened.
It seemed to be between you and Grayson.
Heather: Yeah, and we both bought the exact same cut of meat. We both bought the rib-eye from the same store. I was going to do something braised and I didn't. The original plan was to sear that steak and make it rare, but once I tasted a piece, it was spongy. And she had the same issue. I tried to salvage mine, [thinking] "OK, maybe I can braise it." But at that point, I was in rescue mode. You have two hours. There's no rescue then. The only other option is to leave the protein off.
So it's Whole Foods' fault? They gave you guys bad meat.
Heather: [Laughs] Yes, but it's ultimately my fault. I didn't pick the right meat and I didn't cook it well. As a chef, you make choices and I couldn't fix it. ... I had no back-up plan because I had no other protein. I liked the rest of my dish. I had a great sauce. I had roasted mushrooms. Some of them thought it was greasy. I disagree, but that's OK. It just could not be saved. ... Conceptually, I knew what I wanted to do from the beginning — a spin on Beef Stroganoff. I didn't take it as literally as Grayson did with hers. I knew it was supposed to be a play on that. It just didn't pan out for me. That's why I was OK with it. You saw me leave and I didn't cry. I was very proud of myself and I still am to this day. I have no regrets and I was so happy with how I had done throughout the competition.
When did you realize you were screwed?
Heather: During the cook pretty much. Once I tasted the meat and it was a spongy mess and I knew the quality of meat was bad, I second-guessed myself. And that's one thing you cannot do on Top Chef. I said it last night: I should've used the pressure cooker. It probably wouldn't have made a whole lot of difference because you can't braise rib-eye. And that wasn't the intention of the dish. Yes, the original Stroganoff is usually a braised meat you cook for a long period of time. But it wouldn't have mattered if I had used it. ... Tom said I could've cooked it for four days, but it wouldn't have mattered. It doesn't work like that with rib-eye. Once I knew I couldn't do the preparation I wanted, I knew someone else would have to screw up big time in order to save myself. Somebody would have had to have not plated something.
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What did you think about Tom's comment about how Beverly used the pressure cooker and she wasn't in the bottom three?
Heather: She had short ribs and you can't cook short ribs in two hours without a pressure cooker. I think some people think that's a dig on me, but when Tom Colicchio talks to you, all he is is honest. I never take anything he says as hurtful because he's right! He doesn't say it to be malicious; he says it because he's right. She did use a pressure cooker and she wasn't in the bottom three. There's nothing to take offense to because he's absolutely, 100 percent right. And I appreciate it.
I'm sure you've seen the fan reaction about how you were bullying Beverly, and even Padma called you the "Queen of Mean" in a voiceover. What was going on between you two? Was it just a case of personality clashes?
Heather: Yeah, and I think people made it seem worse than what it really was. I have a very direct personality and she does not. That's not bullying. I have no ill will toward Beverly. She wasn't a so-called target or anything. I am very blunt and to the point. I'm very honest and I say anything to your face. I never, ever said anything off-camera that I didn't say to you on-camera. And some people did! Other contestants said some very hurtful things I saw unfold while watching the show and some people have said some very hurtful things to the press about me during this whole process.
They called you a bitch.
Heather: Yeah! And honestly, it's very childish. It just goes to show you that some people are too cowardly to say something to someone's face, which I am not. I don't feel bad about the things I've said. I never swore at anybody. They never had to bleep me. I never called anyone any derogatory names. All I did was I spoke what I felt was right. If people thought I was abrasive, it would've been nice if someone said at the time, "Hey, I think you're being mean" or "You're not being fair to Beverly" or whatever. But people didn't. It's easier to talk behind someone's back to the camera than it is to their face. I made some great friends throughout this process. And it's a tough environment. It's hot! Everyone's under pressure. We're all after the same goal, but I do not regret one thing that I said on- or off-camera.
Everyone's on your case for bringing up the shrimp at Judges' Table last week.
Heather: Well, it wasn't my choice to talk about that! [Laughs]
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Who brought it up?
Heather: The judges asked us about it. They asked us, so I answered. I mean, I'm not stupid. Why would I bring up something that happened the week before? It doesn't make any sense. It had nothing to do with the competition that we were in and it was a double elimination, so I would've gone home with Beverly. Beverly and I actually got along during that whole cook. Do I think it was a coincidence that they put us together? Probably not. I mean, let's be honest! [Laughs] It sure does make for great TV. People have said some very nasty things about me this past week. Very nasty! I would be lying if I said that it wasn't hurtful. But at the end of the day, my friends, my family, the people who know, the people who come into my restaurant — they don't care about these things because they know me. And I know I'm not a bully. I know I'm not what all the names people are calling me. ... [The show] needed a villain and that's OK. I welcome it! I've been outspoken since I was 4 years old, so I wasn't shocked I was the villain.
What are you up to now?
Heather: I'm still at Sable. That's the beauty of this whole thing. I had an amazing job before the show and I have an even better and more fulfilling job now that I'm back. My company has been incredibly supportive. I've been with my company for almost 14 years. They've watched me grow and who knows what's on the horizon? As of right now, my restaurant is really blowing up. We were successful before I was on Top Chef, but even more so now. You would think that, with all this negativity, it would drive business away, but it's done the exact opposite. People want to eat my food and they're curious! They want to meet me at the end of the day. Regardless of how I was portrayed, it doesn't matter because people still come want to eat my food. And I was on Top Chef! I made the top 10! I could not be more proud.