Top Chef's Richie: I Wasn't Thinking Clearly
After teams pulled an all-nighter to make chili on Top Chef, the judges added insult to injury when they made the losing team repurpose their chili mole in a cook-off, ending in Richie Farina's elimination. "It was just another twist that none of us expected," he tells TVGuide.com. "When they told us, we were like, 'What the f---?!' But I get it. It was a good way to differentiate who would go." Not that saying goodbye was any easier on Farina: He openly wept in the arms of fellow cheftestant Chris Jones, with whom he works at Chicago's Moto. Find out why he was so emotional, how he knew he would get eliminated and more.
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Did you think it was going to be you?
Richie: I kind of had an idea just [because of] the fact that they didn't really say anything good about my dish. They liked the way Nyesha cooked her shrimp and she had one good element on her dish, whereas I didn't have anything positive that was said about mine. So I was like 75 percent sure I was going home. When they showed us up there and my head's down and you see me talking, that was me telling myself, "It's me. I know it's me." ... It was very gut-wrenching. I had been a fan of the show for so long. Finally being able to do the show and having the opportunity to do it with Chris was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so to have the rug pulled out from underneath us so quickly was really hard and obviously really sad.
They kept saying your dish was underseasoned? Did you taste it beforehand?
Richie: I did taste it. I knew that the potatoes were good. I was a little pissed-off at that point too at being in the bottom again. My emotions kind of got in the way of me thinking clearly. I was kind of moving through the motions without doing stuff I would normally do. I did taste it before I plated everything, but I knew that it wasn't my best thing or something that tasted that good. But at that point, I didn't have time to add anything or change anything, so I was hoping for the best that it might be enough to get me through.
Do you think you should've been given more time?
Richie: No, I think half an hour is a good amount. It was just the fact that I was so tunnel-visioned with what I wanted to do that even when problems came up, I just tried to make them work anyway. I think half an hour is plenty of time. Our chili was made already. All we had to do was change it a little bit and add some elements.
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Do you like the elimination cook-off twist?
Richie: I understand why they did it. At the end of a long day of cooking, it might not be the best thing to do, but I understand why. The chili was three people making one thing, even though I did make the cornbread on the side by myself and all the judges loved it. Tom said, "It's too bad it's not a cornbread cook-off." But you really can't judge by, like, "OK, you chopped up onions. And you chopped up tomatoes. So what made the chili not successful?" ... It was a good way to differentiate who would go. The reason why I did just the cornbread was that I knew I would have one thing I could put my name on that if we ended up at Judges' Table, I could say, "I made this. I know it was good. This was my contribution." It's still early in the competition and we're still getting adjusted, and to have a twist like that was tough to deal with ... but it makes good TV.
Your goodbye to Chris was really sad. Was that harder than actually getting eliminated?
Richie: Yeah. As much as I say we're like brothers, we really are. I've been working with him for almost four years now. He's the one who hired me. I look at him like a mentor. I came to Moto with the base skills and he's the first chef I've worked with who's trained me to be a chef, how to manage people, how to teach. He's the best. So to fail in front of my mentor and my best friend was very hard to deal with.
You said you felt like you failed Moto too.
Richie: Yeah, what I meant was that, since I've been here, in my opinion, a lot of people see us as gimmicky. But we put out great food and have an awesome atmosphere, and we recently got a Michelin star, which is awesome. The technique that we came up with years ago is still stuff no one else is doing. I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase those techniques on a national stage. I do take a lot of pride in where I work. I wanted to show everybody that what we do is legitimate stuff and I just felt like I let the restaurant down that I didn't showcase what they taught me to do.
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I don't think you really had ample chance to. The first two challenges were so specific.
Richie: Absolutely. I wish I at least had the opportunity to get an individual dish in there. The first two ones were really specific in what we had to do and what our task was. In all honesty, I wasn't familiar with either. The Quinceañera — Chuy was the leader. He's obviously the Mexican expert on our team. And the only chili I've ever made is some ground beef, some spices, some pasta and cheese. I've never made a real Texas chili. So being given tasks that specific, it was hard for me to show what I do.
What are you up to now? Still at Moto?
Richie: Yeah, we're super busy. We just filmed some stuff for CNN and we're going out to the James Beard House tomorrow. When Chris and I came back, we had a bunch of new dish ideas and changed our menu ... We're just constantly pushing the envelope forward to create really kick-ass food.