Top Chef, Kevin Top Chef, Kevin

Though Kevin Gillespie was the fan favorite to win the Top Chef title (with 60 percent of the votes in our poll), he was unable to win over the judges. Find out what the 27-year-old chef thought of Preeti, why he stands by his pork dish and get the real story behind his beard. Plus, Gillespie explains the show's role in the recent separation from his wife of six years.

Top Chef's Michael on winning: I thought it was a joke Do you think Preeti's performance as your sous chef hurt your chances of winning?
Kevin: She only hurt my chances of winning because I let it. That's the most unfortunate part. I want to make it clear that she didn't deserve the things I said about her. I was frustrated at myself and projected it on her. It's very unprofessional and not like me to do that. I woke up the next day regretting that I squandered a day of prep over being frustrated. On the other hand, she wasn't the ideal person for me to get because I don't know anything about her or her skill set. I would have loved to have a sous chef I'm more familiar with because there's less talk and things just get done. The judges were pretty critical of your pork dish. Would you have changed anything in retrospect?
Kevin: No, I wouldn't. I have a lot of feelings about that dish and get a little fired up about it. I could have served it with a piece of roasted pork. But that would have detracted from what I was trying to do, which was to give you multiple textures of something in a single package. For me, the flaw of that dish was not in execution. It came from the fact that I chose to deal with something in a way that was foreign to [the judges]. Let me tell you, there's plenty of people who line up at [our restaurant] to eat that pork belly every single night. I didn't think there was anything wrong with that dish.

A new Top Chef winner is crowned So, what's the story behind your beard?
Kevin: [In previous jobs before he had his own restaurant] I had to be clean-shaven. So, when I had the opportunity not to, I said, "I'm not shaving." I always kept it trimmed down, though. But when I knew I was going to go on Top Chef, I thought it would be funny to grow this mountain man beard because then people would meet me and be like, "Who the hell is this guy?" and count me out from the first day, which would give me an edge. And it totally worked! But it also spurred this fascination with my beard. It's become an entity that is larger than the sum of its parts. [Laughs] People were like, "We're pulling for Kevin's beard. We like Kevin, he's great, but we would like his beard to win." It has more than 5,000 fans on Facebook! And what do you think of your fans' comparing you to Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph?
Kevin: It's uncanny! I had forgotten about Yukon Cornelius, and when someone posted the first time, I was like, "You are kidding me. That looks exactly the same." I didn't realize I was my own sort of claymation figure. I want someone to send me a big, giant Yukon Cornelius doll so I can put it here at the restaurant because it's just too funny. How have things changed for you since Top Chef?
Kevin: Now I'm a "celebrity." I still don't think I am one, but it's funny. I've been thrust into the public eye and feel I have to live up to a lot of expectations. Thankfully I'm not someone who's intimidated by that so I think it should be fine. What I like about the celebrity is not the attention, but that it's given me the opportunity to unapologetically share the way I feel about things to many people.

Top Chef's Jen: "I was thrown" by Tom Colicchio's comment You recently revealed that you and your wife are separating. Was the show to blame?
Kevin: No, the show, if anything, was maybe the straw that broke the camel's back. But only in the sense that the show gave Callie an opportunity, because of my time away, to have a little bit of clarity. It's a terrible situation because she and I love each other very much, but we've decided it's not fair to continue to be married because it's just not right. I didn't want people to think it was the celebrity. The show is only a coincidental speed bump along the way. So what's next for you?
Kevin: We've talked about another restaurant in Atlanta. But our [current] restaurant, to me, is not quite where it needs to be. So, I can't walk away from it yet. What I want to pursue is something a little more low key because I love barbecue and am a huge fanatic. I think what I can say is that people are going to see more of me ... And the beard. We travel in tandem more often than not. The guy sort of gets on my nerves sometimes, but unfortunately we're joined at the face. [Laughs]