Keith Rhodes became the first to pack his knives and go on Top Chef: Texas after he used flour tortillas in his enchilada instead of corn tortillas and, most unforgivably, bought pre-cooked shrimp for teammate Lindsay. The North Carolina-based chef admits the purchase was "not the best decision," but thinks things could've turned out differently had Lindsay and Sarah not thrown him under the bus and "kept rolling over me" by harping about the shrimp at Judges' Table. But why did he buy the shrimp in the first place? Read on.
Is bigger better? 5 things to know about Top Chef: Texas
Why did you buy the pre-cooked shrimp? Was it really a money issue?
Keith: Well, one thing that I'm really adamant about stressing is thinking under pressure. When I first viewed those shrimp in that case, all I thought about was the timing issue of cooking the shrimp, peeling the shrimp, working with others. [Lindsay] had mentioned [doing] a cocktail, so I thought these would be fine. Evidently they weren't fine for her. I thought even if they didn't work, us being "top chefs," we would be able to overcome that. I had no inkling that they would not work until we got back and I looked at the shrimp. They were all frozen and the ones on the display case weren't frozen. It was a little bit of a jam there. I don't use pre-cooked shrimp like that in my restaurant, but it was just something I was thinking about on the fly being under a time constraint.
We saw Chris say, "Whatever, get it," when you asked. Did nobody suggest that they might be a bad idea?
Keith: When we were in the market, there were multiple conversations. We were trying to talk [to the group] in Whole Foods. It was almost pandemonium trying to get a consensus, so that's why Chris was like, "Go for it. Let's just get what we need to get." I don't know how that got to be a recurring thorn because I ended up at Judges' Table for the flour tortilla. But the seed kept getting watered throughout the whole ordeal and it was ultimately something Sarah and Lindsay had to fall back on.
They're supposed to judge you on the dishes that were made too, and no one made a shrimp dish.
Keith: Exactly. It was thrown out there as an excuse. Again, we're chefs and we're supposed to be able to overcome anything during service.
You had to have known that pre-cooked food most likely was not going to fly with the judges though.
Keith: Well, Dakota used boxed cake mix. She had immunity, but that was never an issue. I think it was the fact that it kept getting repeated. If it was just mentioned and left alone, maybe things would've been different. Sarah and Lindsay made it into an issue every time they had a chance. I can understand where they're coming from. We could've done something else with them. Like I said, I don't use them, but they sell those shrimp for a reason. It ended up not being the best decision.
Your team had terrible communication throughout. What happened there?
Keith: No one took a leadership role when they had experience in Mexican food, like what Chuy did for his team. We spent a lot of time going back and forth. There was not a lot of positive, creative planning. One of the things I said was that I don't do well with a lot of B.S. I've been doing this for a long time and my kitchen is not filled with drama and negative energy. To be surrounded by negativity, I felt alone. It was dark. I normally don't feel that way. I was like a turtle; I pulled my head back in and waited for the coast to be clear. That was probably the toughest moment with the shrimp deal. Nyesha and Ty-Lor were the only ones not to make an issue out of it. They were like, "You OK over there?" They knew it was bothering me because of the way Lindsay was making a huge deal.