clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Top Chef Recap: CJ's Fall From the Sky

You know, we weren't the only people who thought that spoiler was a damn good one. But we can admit when we're wrong. It's time to say goodbye (at least for now) to our friend Chris "CJ" Jacobson, who was booted from Top Chef last night. The combination of halibut + mint oil + burnt broccolini on a plane just wasn't a good one, and the judges had a field day. Rest assured, the Venice chef will never try that again. CJ talked to us from a New York coffeeshop and dishes on why he's sick of being 'cancer boy', who he thinks will win, and how snacks on a plane will never be the same. This isn't the last we've heard from CJ, though. He'll be back.

Why haven't you been to New York before?
I don't know why. I've been to Amman, Jordan, so it's weird that I've never been to New York.

Did you ever dream you'd make Padma breakfast in the morning?
Yes, I dreamt several times that I would cook her breakfast.

It seemed like you two had a special bond. She practically broke into tears when she told you to pack your knives, and she blurted it out instead dragging it on as she usually does.
Yes, I saw that same wanton look in her eyes.

No, um. Not wanton, sad. She looked sad.
Oh, that was sad? I guess the crying comes after the wanton. She looked way sad, like when someone has to make a tough decision. You do get to know each other well on the show. You bond with the judges as much as anyone else. You know, really, I don't think she liked being in Newark any more than I did.

Talk about this "all women love crepes" theory.
It's not just a theory. Don't you love crepes?

No. I mean they're Ok, but?
Then you're the only woman I've ever known that doesn't like crepes. All of my girlfriends texted me and said, "You're so right! I love crepes!"

Did you think the challenge was fair?
I thought it was a great challenge, especially for me. "Hey, let's put them in something even smaller!" It's kind of funny that I had to reach my demise on an airplane. Now I get to relive it every time I travel. Even on this flight I was sitting in the exit row, next to the galley, and I thought, "Oh, this is so fitting."

Hearing that your dish was the worst in all three season had to hurt.
That felt pretty bad. At least Sam held that title with his watermelon and blue cheese dish And Gail said she threw up a little bit in her mouth. At least I didn't cause anyone to puke.

Did you ever make that fish dish or sauce before, or the broccolini?
I never made a dish before that I made on the show. I made parts of each dish. Of course I made green goddess before, of course I made faro before. But I never put them all together. I didn't want to put the broccolini out but I was told I had to. It would've been an OK dish if it was cooked propertly. Those ovens are really fast. They get up to 400 degrees right away, and it's a convection oven, so it overcooked and burnt the broccolini. I don't know what would've happened if I didn't put it out.

The judges said the mint sauce on the fish wasn't good, too.
I wanted it to be like a minty green goddess sauce, and it was supposed to be cold. We were told we could do garnishes, but you had to add them later. But then they said I had to cook everything together. The mint sauce would've gone really well with the fish and the succotash. But then I had to cook the sauce, and it broke when it cooked. I had to call it "mint oil" because it got so oily. So there was that and the burnt broccoli.

Did you read what Bourdain said on his Bravo blog? He felt bad about smashing "the hopes and dreams of a cancer survivor."
I feel a little strange that the cancer thing has been talked about so much on the show. I don't want to be 'cancer boy'. As for his remarks, the judges get a little more nitpicky when it gets down in the competition. They'll blow how bad something is out of proportion. But it's understandable. It's a TV show.

Was it tough going in front of Bourdain?
He's a formidable judge because you know the power of his full operational battle station. You know he has ammunition. The one good thing about Bourdain is that he's often times so funny you can't help but laugh at yourself. Like when he said, "It was something found in the back of Bob Marley's closet." I really like him, his edginess with food. I hope to track him down some day and have a beer with him.

When you cook now, do you hear the judges table in the back of your mind?
I did this dinner party Anne Hathaway, and it was her birthday. I was getting ready, and I was looking for the clock. And I had to stop and think wait, there's no clock! I'm cooking for happy people!

Did they like the meal?
They loved it and gave me a standing ovation. They didn't know I was on the show.

This week, the moment we knew you were gone was when they showed all the other chefs asking you to help them. There's always that moment for the viewer. When did you know you were a goner?
I knew when I had to serve the broccolini that I was in bad shape. I was pretty sure I was going home. My sauce was broken and the broccolini was burnt. What else could they do?

How has being on the show most influenced you?
It was a huge confidence builder. I feel a lot stronger about how I cook and my skills. And my instinct, which isn't something you can really teach in food. It's easy to be intimidated in the food world, and I don't feel intimidated any more.

What or who do you miss most?
I miss Lia and Dale. It was great seeing her last night [for the online post-show], and it reminded me how much.

Did you two go out, or have you seen any of the other contestants?
She had to work early and we were done pretty late. But I went out with Joey and Sara N. the other night. It was fun. We went to Tao and then to The Other Room.

Who are you most surprised is still in the competition?
Sarah M. I like her a lot, and she's a great chef. She didn't, you know, blow me away with any of her dishes. Everyone else did.

Will we see you again on the show at some point? And we don't mean recaps.
I hope so.

Did you ever get the New York slice of pizza?
I got a slice back when I was there last time. And I've had many more since. I went to Café des Artistes and Joey made me a pizza.

Was it good?
It was OK.

Who do you think will win now?
I'm not sure. Casey's on a roll. It could be Brian, Casey or Dale. I don’t think Hung will win. But now that I say it, he probably will.

Where do you go from here?
Now it's time for things to happen. I can finally react and respond to offers. I'm still kind of focused on the show though, so we'll see.

More interviews with CJ here, and more Top Chef here. Grub Street's interview here.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Los Angeles newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world