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Top Chef From the Mind of LA Cheftestant Antonia

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We'll never get her to tell us who won or if she made it far in the competition, but we like chatting with Top Chef cheftestant Antonia Lofaso anyway. One, she's the only LA contestant, and we will back her to the end for that reason alone. Two, we want to know what she really thinks of Spike and his sabotage. Or Richard and his gadgets. Or the chefbians Zoi and Jennifer. We've rounded week four of the season, and while she's been at the judges table on the top and bottom of the heap in every episode, Antonia hasn't had her break-out moment yet. Let's see what she thinks of things thus far.

Eater LA: What's it like seeing guest judges like Daniel Boulud?
Antonia Lofaso: Honestly completely and totally honored to cook for these chefs. On any level. Even Rick Bayless. When in our careers will we get to cook for these amazing chefs one after the other? Daniel Boulud is amazing, his technique, his integrity. Even just watching him in the Quickfire, you can tell this man has been in the kitchen all his life. There was something on the floor, and he didn't walk around it. He just picked it right up.

ELA: Boulud said Richard and Ryan worked for him. Did anything go through your mind when you heard that?
Antonia: No, not really. If you're thinking about that kind of stuff [during the competition], then you get sidetracked from what you're trying to do. It's all going to divert your focus.

ELA: You said in this ep that Richard was your biggest competition? We would think Stephanie.
Antonia: Both are great chefs. Richard just has the confidence; he goes into each challenge with a lot of confidence. And for the most part it doesn't affect his food.

ELA: Getting paired with Zoi, one-half of the couple on the show. Did you think they had an advantage?
Antonia: No, never. The two of them are such great people and are great together. I can see what Spike was saying about having that support there. Of course I'd like to talk to my mother or father, my daughter. It could be an advantage to have that support, but that's it.

ELA: How'd you come up with the movie? Why?
Antonia: My favorite movie of all time is The Godfather, and that's what I automatically jumped to. Then she asked me if I ever saw Talk to Her. And I did. We went with it. We picked a difficult movie. It would've been easier to choose a dish and come up with a movie, but we picked the movie first.

ELA: You stood behind your dish at the judges' table, but you both got called out for the explanation. Is that fair?
Antonia: I don't really look at it as explaining myself. If I really felt the dish was not spot-on as far as technique, I'd say he we screwed up. It would've been a different conversation. But a lot of technique went into that dish. The whole concept was having a really colorful dish. We could've added more saffron to get make it more colorful, but it would've tasted like garbage. When we got into the kitchen, we didn't want to compromise flavor. We didn't explain ourselves properly, but we took the responsibility. I said what I did because that's how I felt, and they come back with the color wasn't there, and I just say, that's absolutely right. If we had time to really conceptualize dishes, it would be different. Here it's hit or miss.

ELA: What about Zoi complaining so much in the stew room.
Antonia: Her frustration came from knowing that the flavor of our dish was really great. But to hear that we were the bottom, of course she took it personally.

ELA: What about Spike and his "sabotage" last week.
Antonia: I think there are certain people who really wanted to make it more about entertainment, rather than just take it for what it is. It's a challenge, do your best, we're chefs. If I wanted to entertain, I would've been an actress. There's a saying in the restaurant that we're throwing the party, we're not the party. I think the sabotage stuff is more for the entertainment value.

ELA: How did you react to hearing what the exited chefs said, like Valerie, who basically blamed you for the blinis.
Antonia: I haven't even read it. But truthfully, they're upset. I wish Valerie all the success in the future. We need to take responsibility for our own actions. Take responsibility for the things you do, don't blame it on other people or forces of nature. The only time you can take something and change it is when you take full responsibility for your actions.

ELA: On his blog, Ted Allen said that being on the losing team was actually a good thing, if you didn't get sent home, because you had dialog with the judges, got feedback at the judges table. You made it into that room in all four episodes so far. Was it beneficial?
Antonia: Being in the judges' presence is beneficial because it helps us better understand the way the game is set up and how important it is to really listen to the challenge. Last night we initially started with a great idea for a movie, but we didn't transpire that into our dish. But I learned a huge lesson at that table. When you sell a dish and explain a dish is very important. Not just the judges, but to clients, people coming into your restaurant. As odd as the challenges may seem, they really do relate to being a chef. You need to say what your dish is and it has to be what your dish says. There needs to be a concept and your dish needs to represent that concept. On TC it's challenge by challenge, but it's the same principal.

ELA: They show some serious drama coming from the next episode.
Antonia: I don't even remember. I'm trying to remember the sequence of events. It was so long ago, I don't really know.

ELA: Yeah, right. Are you getting recognized yet?
Antonia: People come into the restaurant (Foxtail) and point and say 'there she is'. It's very strange. But no one's coming up to me on the street or anything. Someone came in from Orange County to check the place out because they saw me on TV.

ELA: Would anyone recognize you without the ponytail?
Antonia: I always wear the ponytail! Old managers or people I worked for keep asking if I rocked the ponytail on the show. My family watches and says, "You actually attempted to do your hair in morning." And then I end up in the ponytail. It has to be on the top of my head.

More on Antonia Lofaso; more on Top Chef

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