Top Chef, Jen Top Chef, Jen

It was down to the final four in Part 1 of the Top Chef finale, and a salty goat cheese dish for the farm-fresh challenge stood in the way of cheftestant Jennifer Carroll's dream to win it all. So did the 33-year-old Philadelphia native agree with the judges' critiques? Find out why she was "disappointed" by what was said about her duck and why she didn't agree with a comment made by Tom Colicchio. Plus, see why she found the experience to be so emotional.

Top Chef's Eli on emotional exit: I was "tired, beat-up and exhausted" You seemed pretty indecisive choosing your protein, so how did you finally settle on duck?
Jen Carroll: The guys came over and picked exactly what they wanted right away. I had so many ideas going on, but after a while, I realized that if I take the duck, I could use the entire thing. And I wanted to embody the challenge and cook for the duck, not with it. I was making it truly the star of the plate, which is my mantra and what I try to follow every day in my cooking. So what did you think of the judges' critique?
Jen: I absolutely trust their palates. They have been true the entire season to the strengths and weaknesses to each of our dishes. Each one of us had something that was great about our dishes and something that was wrong. I think the judges thought there was a little too much salt in my goat cheese, and I think maybe I put a touch too much on at the end when I was garnishing and probably should have left that out. But I was proud of my dishes and liked how they tasted. It's all interpretive. They seemed to use the fact that you didn't stick to your original plan of grilling the duck against you. Did you think that was fair?
Jen: I was a little disappointed they kept bringing that up. When you're in the kitchen and you're cooking, if something doesn't go your way, you have to change it at the last minute to make the dish beautiful and work. I think my plan of cooking the duck in its own fat ended up making the flavor so much better [than grilling it] and kept all the moistness in. And I was thrown when Tom said I was scattered in the kitchen because I was actually pretty calm. Why do you think you got so emotional at the end?
Jen: Throughout the whole season, I've been pretty hard on myself. When I do one thing wrong, it's a monster mistake to me because I like to things to be perfect. But I got emotional because I was disappointed in myself and wanted to go further. I wanted to represent Philadelphia, myself, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Eric Ripert in the final episode. I wanted to win, so it was a disappointment. I never thought the experience was going to be as emotional as it was, and I cried the whole season. [Laughs] When people left, I was so upset because I became so close to them. I had seen other people crying on the show [in past seasons] and was like, "They've only known each other two weeks, how are they that good of friends?" But it's truly a bonding experience. Do you have any regrets?
Jen: I regret the little mistakes, but I don't regret being on the show. It's been great for the restaurant and the hotel and Philly as a whole. I'm still Chef de Cuisine 10 Arts by Eric Ripert, which is in the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia. Right now we're just living in the afterlife of Top Chef. [Laughs] I have no plans on moving anywhere or doing anything different. I'm extremely happy where I am. Eric is so proud of me and all of my bosses have been such an amazing support throughout the season.