Thursday, May 28, 2009

Interview with Hubert Keller, Tim Love, Christopher Lee, and Michael Schlow - Part One

All Top Chef was invited to sit in on the first Top Chef Masters phone conference with premiere episode combatants Chefs Hubert Keller, Tim Love, Christopher Lee, and Michael Schlow. Several interesting topics were covered during the conversation; here are some of the highlights.

On Why They Participated

Michael Schlow: For me, the charity part was first and foremost. All the chefs involved in the show will say that. Plus, it’s an honor to be on a show titled Top Chef Masters. The regular Top Chef is the top rated food program in the country, so I think everyone was flattered to be asked. We wanted to represent our cities and our towns. The idea of doing this for charity and to get to do something fun with our friends, it was a great opportunity.

Tim Love: I’m heavily involved in March of Dimes, my daughter benefited. I think we were all a little anxious to see how it would be edited but I think it turned out to be really great and as I’m sure you can tell from the episode, we all had a lot of fun hanging out with each other.

Hubert Keller: We did it for our foundations, of course – Make a Wish is a great foundation. Is a risk involved? All of us, having our own restaurants and everything, we’re running into risks everyday. It’s part of our lifestyle. For me, also, I was participating as a judge for 3 seasons in the past and the first Top Chef was filmed at Fleur de Lys. I couldn’t turn it down. I wanted to get a feel for what it’s like in their shoes and competing.

On the Relevance of Critics

Michael: We discussed this on the set a couple of times. What we said was that everybody’s a critic – just because you don’t have a pen doesn’t mean you’re not a critic. The reality is that with the Internet and all the blogs and Chowhound and Yelp and Grub Street, there are a lot of critics out there who aren’t professional but have their opinions. You have to listen to everybody. Luckily for us, 99% are good. It’s important for us that the press stay relevant also. They’re there for us as we’re there for them.

Tim: I'd say even though there are a million blog critics and individual critics and of course the individual diners that come to our restaurants everyday, I would veer away from the fact that the professional critics don't matter anymore. I think they're still held pretty high in standards. 

Shoot, my kids criticize me every damn day. 
Hubert: I think it’s important that we have a standard. Someone to put the guidelines out there. You could never get exposure like through a major critic if you’re trying to open a restaurant. We all have to take criticism and learn to take it the right way. Take the good part and forget the other part. 

On the Competition

Michael: I'll say that they all have incredible resumes. We heard rumors to who was our competition. While we were out there in Los Angeles, they really did a great job of keeping us segregated and within our own group. Because this is a new format for them compared to regular Top Chef where they're all living in a house and killing each other at times. We're all friends, and I know for me, I respect each one of my colleagues on the show with me. They each bring something different to the party and any one of them could have won.

I mean it's so much fun, the styles are so different. And the thing that sort of keeps us all together is I think there's a bond between all of us, not just the four of us but everybody that's on the show. We're all friends and we see each other at food events, but to do it like this where we spend literally 4 straight days together, it was great.

And I wouldn't say any one of them, as they walked in, made me think, "Oh no, that's the winner for sure." I thought that everybody had an equal chance.

Chris: I'll be quite honest, the first press release that came out, a week and a half ago, with the full list, that was the first time I’d seen the whole list. I missed some of them, too. But you know who scared me was the silver fox, Hubert Keller. 

Tim: I would say that, like Michael said...I think that they did a good job picking everybody. I think everybody had an equal opportunity. But I'll say this, once I saw the list, and just like you said, Chris, I didn't really see the list until not too long ago, the people who had been judges I think may have had a better opportunity understanding the show. But, other than that, I think everybody was on an equal playing field except with desserts. Hubert--he's stinking pastry chef already.

On Being Fans of Top Chef

Michael:  I am a fan of the show. And we’re all friends with some people who have been on the show in the past and Hubert obviously was a judge. One of the things they do--we’re chefs and have crazy hours and work hard so you don’t always get to watch it--but they sent us DVDs of the quickfire challenges. I think it’s nerve-wracking enough to watch it once a week. But I sat down and watched all 25 quickfires in one night then I had a massive panic attack. You can understand what those contestants go through. That time goes VERY quickly.

Part two can be found here.


Kit Pollard said...

I just watched the Bizarre Foods episode where Zimmern visits Texas. One of his stops is Tim Love's Lonesome Dove. Love comes off as totally charming and very smart - but also fun and cowboyish.

And, of course, he did a shot on camera.

Cliff O'Neill said...

Really liked the show. (How could I not?) Only complaints (niggling, really) is that since they're all Masters there isn't any real comedy to be had at seeing people out of their depth/too awful to compete.

Oh, and the edit focused _so_ much on the charities, I was left thinking there were 10 charities for four chefs.

But loved it! ... And you, doll!