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Top Chef: Reunion Show Tonight, But We Still Have CJ Right Here

Tonight Bravo airs a special reunion show for Top Chef season 1 and 2 contestants, and to us, that's just one more week without local chef Chris "CJ" Jacobson getting camera time. Watching the last few weeks we can't help but notice the private chef is stuck in seriouos middledom, so we're anxiously waiting his big breakout moment. We know you need your fix too, so we talked with CJ last week about dealing with the judges, his steak fixation, and Hung being all hot air.

Where have you been? They didn't show you at all the last few weeks.
I don't know what's going on. I was in the middle the last two episodes. When you're in the middle, they just throw you in the middle. I'm frustrated too. My east coast friends call and tell me what happens before I can watch, which pisses me off.

Talk about the judges. In last week's episode, most of you probably never heard of Maria Frumkin. Hung said she was "a loser."
I knew she had a pastry background. Miami isn't really a mecca of pastrydom, so I was wondering who she was, what her credentials were. The week before, the cocktail guy had very good comments. But she didn't have a lot to say except for maybe two people. Someone like Hung has to learn take the criticism. Hung is a fantastic chef, and that kind of behavior is only going to limit him.

Yeah, Hung shakes his head every time he got criticism. He's a maniac.
When we were on the show, I took his personality with a grain of salt. He put that arrogant vibe out there, but I still hung out with him. People always talk to me about it, and I say that he wasn't always in your face trying to be a dick. He wasn't really that much of an ass. But here's an example, pretty much a culmination of all his assness: He really does raise his nose when he talks, which I think is fantastic. I don't think the person he was on the show is entirely him, but imagine how great a chef he would be if he could keep it in check.

How do you think being on the show will affect you and the other chefs in the real world?
You know, that's a good question. The show's only been great for me so far, I'm working a ton, I can charge more for my services, that sort of thing. I heard Howie got fired. Is that true?

Hmmm. Dunno. Friends of Eater have seen you out and about recently. Are you getting stopped in public a lot more now?
Randomly, wherever I go. I ride my bike going to coffee and people just say "Hey!" I'm too huge not to notice. And they make me look really huge on the show. I mean, I get it, I'm a tall guy. But I'm always standing next to Hung or Howie, the shortist people in the room. It made me completely reassess how I see myself.

We watched some outtakes on the TC website, including one where you're getting your hair cut Was it that boring in the apartment?
Well when you're sequestered, there's no phone, no TV, no iPod which was a huge problem for me. They want you to be raw in all possible aspects. But when you're with these people for 24 hours a day you really get to know them inside and out. That's why it so sad to see every person leave.

Steak with some sort of slaw seems to be a favorite of yours. Haven't we seen this like three times already? What else can you cook?
I made skirt steak the last episode, steak tartare another. Ok, I did grill steak for that barbecue challenge. I tried to vary my dishes. Brian threw out seafood again. Howie did pork. I did do beef again, but not back to back to back. Wait, am I starting to sound defensive?

Have you been to Craft, the restaurant Colicchio just opened here in LA?
I haven't been yet, but I know the sous chef, and I know a few other people in the kitchen who came from Campanile. I'm trying to get there soon.

When will we get CJ's breakout moment?
I can't say, but I wouldn't worry too much about that. They can't capture it all. I'm glad they captured Joey and Howie getting back together. You'll definitely see more of me soon.
· Top Chef's Top 10 Sizzling Secrets Revealed! [TV Guide]
· Inside Top Chef: Hanging With Hung [~ELA~]
· Top Chef: LA Contestant CJ Safely Moves Into Week 3 [~ELA~]