How tough was it for Orlando Santos to get the boot from Top Chef: Just Desserts one week shy of the finale? "Between Judges' Table and the stew room, I think I had completely lost every feeling that I had," he tells TVGuide.com. "When I got to the stew room, seeing everyone just brought back the emotions and all the effort and time it took to get me where I was. It was very, very difficult. When I left off-camera, it was even harder, just walking away knowing I was so close to the finale, and I just broke down."
Santos was shown the door for his dessert-in-disguise paella — the critique of which he found "a little disturbing." Find out why he disagreed with the judges, if he considers himself this season's villain and why he worships Cat Cora.
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Did you think you were going to get eliminated or did you think it was too close to tell?
Orlando: It was a close call. Altogether, just like Johnny [Iuzzini] said, it was going to come down to the point where we have to split hairs now. Realistically, between Matthew and me, we both had flaws in the presentation, but at the same time, we had really strong desserts. So I guess I had more flaws than Matt did.
It seemed like they liked your flavors, but not the execution, whereas it was the opposite for him.
Orlando: Which is a little bit disturbing. Within the competition, flavor played a lot later on. At the beginning, it was more the aesthetics of what we were doing. When you look at the pictures [of my paella] they showed, it's not like it was just thrown together. I physically placed all the elements, all the fish, all the compressed fruit. They were strategically placed on the plate so they were appealing to the judges. I disagree with them saying that the execution wasn't clean. My cuts were excellent, the plate was very clean, the presentation was clean — I think it was all there.
You were the only one who didn't create a solid object, so do you think that hurt you?
Orlando: I don't think so. All in all, I tried to replicate the elements as best as I could in the dish. The dark shell that was done in the tuile cookie was supposed to be the mussel. It had the sliced apples, the pieces of onion. There was compressed fruit that represented slices of red pepper. Another thing could've been that I didn't explain it well enough for the judges. Visually, it was appealing because they said it. When it was in front of them, they loved how it looked. Maybe they just didn't get the full idea from my explanation.
Hubert Keller also criticized you for cooking rice in a cooker.
Orlando: The reason I cooked it in the rice cooker versus making it in an individual pan was ... there was no possible way to produce that many plates in those individual sautee pans in time. I plated them individually in the pans, but I cooked the bulk of the rice in the rice cooker because it was faster. It was as very difficult challenge, and I had to streamline it somehow. During the entire competition, they kept saying, "You have to edit yourself. Edit yourself." When I finally edited myself, they tell me, "Don't edit yourself." So one part of it is, you're giving me criticism that I'm constructively utilizing and now you're taking it back and saying, "No, you shouldn't be using it." ... I did not defend myself [at Judges' Table about that]. I just let it go. I was too exhausted that day just to comment.