This week's Top Chefpicked right up with more talk of the mysterious pea puree debacle. But the cheftestants were forced to let it go and move on with a new challenge: preparing international cuisines for a slew of Washington dignitaries, ambassadors and diplomats. Unfortunately, for this season's class clown Stephen Hopcraft, his Brazilian-inspired steak and rice dish — well, mostly the rice — didn't work for the judges.
Find out what the Las Vegas-based chef had to say about Alex's tongue creation, why he thinks he was the one who won the "horrible competition," and why he's the only one sticking up for Alex in Pea-gate. (We aren't letting this one go until we have an answer.)
TVGuide.com: What did you think of the judges' critique of your Brazilian-inspired dish?
Stephen Hopcraft: I thought the steak was really good. I thought it had a lot of flavor. I truly agree with the judges that the rice dish was a debacle. I even considered not serving it, but I went ahead with it, and it got me eliminated. The flavor was nice, but the rice didn't cook right because I cooked it once and tried to finish it on the Sterno. Not a very good plan. Alex's dish and my dish were pretty much hand-in-hand horrible. And I won the horrible competition at that point, sadly.
TVGuide.com: How did you feel about Gail's Chimichurri comment?
Stephen: She really didn't like the Chimichurri stuff I put on it, but hey, it's a fair comment. I went in there saying I've never been to Brazil, I don't know Brazilian cuisine. I'm not a well-traveled chef. I left the country maybe two or three times. I think I've eaten in a Brazilian steakhouse once, and, let's face it, it wasn't a very authentic place. For her to call me out and say that's not Brazilian food? Hey, you know better than I. I'm sure you've toured the world, lady! [Laughs] I have been behind the stove in Vegas.
TVGuide.com: OK, back to the pea puree scandal. What's your take?
Stephen: With all the drama with Alex, I was still close with him. I know he didn't steal Ed's pea puree. Ed either didn't bring it, or it got lost. I even told Ed I blame myself for it because me, Ed and Angelo shared a cooler that day, and I was the first one in the cooler and pulled some of my ingredients out and maybe I didn't put his pea puree back in. I thought I did. I honestly know Alex, and I know he didn't steal it. And I'm probably the only one who's going to say that, so make sure you write that in big, bold letters. [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: So you saw him make it?
Stephen: No, I did not see him make it. But we're in a battle there. You have to be laser-focused on what you do. You're thinking about what you're doing next and what you're plating. There's no room to be like, "Oh look, Alex is making pea puree. Hey, what else you doing, Alex? Maybe you should put some salt in it." You really don't have time.
TVGuide.com: Fair enough. So, what's next for you?
Stephen: I'm here in Vegas and I hope I can cook for every single person that saw the show. ... I'd also like to get my own show, and I have a couple ideas for that. And I'd like to create a new family-style restaurant. I have a lot of things planned.