Top Chef's affable Belgian knight this season has been DC's own Bart Vandaele. If you're not caught up with the season so far, you should probably stop reading here.
But if you are, you know that Vandaele was sent home Wednesday for a dish the judges deemed as underseasoned. He prepared the teriyaki steak with chef Josie Smith-Malave, a chef brought back this year from an earlier Top Chef season, but Smith-Malave squeaked by to cook another day.
The theme of Season 10 seems to be "Bravo Can't Let Go." First, there was the return of contestants from previous seasons. Then, just because you get kicked off doesn't mean it's over. First, Vandaele had a shot at a comeback through the "Last Chance Kitchen" web series. Now, Bravo is encouraging audience members to vote to bring back another chef through its new Save A Chef feature. Watch Vandaele's video plea to return to the show, and hear about his experiences on the program in Eater's interview.
How did you feel about your final dish?
I've been thinking about it. It was ok. It was a team thing, where one person did one part and another did another part. If you don't have teammates who are team players, it is kind of a problem. But the judges said it was underseasoned. They are the judges and they can say what they want to.
It seemed like Josie craziness was a big part of the episode. Did that affect your cooking or was that played up for the cameras?
If you saw the episode before, it was The Josie Show, and that episode was the Josie Show too. It definitely affects you. I'm the kind of guy who likes it to be nice and quiet in the kitchen, and she likes to be loud and bold.
You seemed pretty relaxed throughout the process. Were you?
Oh yeah, absolutely. Like I've said before, I came on just to have fun. With cooking, with everything I do in life, I try to have fun with it. If I can't have fun, I probably shouldn't do it.
"Underseasoned" seemed to be a frequent criticism from the judges. Have you heard that before?
I don't have that problem in my restaurant. Their taste buds are little more salty than mine. If you've seen the reviews, I've never had that said about my restaurant.
Was there any feedback from the experience, whether it be from the judges or the contestants, you can take back to Belga?
I don't think very much will be changing at Belga. I do my thing. I got to show people what I do. Well, I still haven't had the chance to really show what I can do, but hey. But change Belga? I don't think so. My first rule is to be true to myself.
So, how does it work with the Last Chance Kitchen thing? Do you go straight there?
When I was done, yeah, the day after I went to Last Chance Kitchen and met CJ. I think he was kind of surprised to see me there, and I was surprised that he was still cooking because he had gotten thrown off a few episodes before that. It was a good feeling to cook against someone I liked.
Were you kind of worn out and discouraged so soon after being kicked off, or were you reenergized?
Oh, I was definitely reenergized. I felt like this was a chance to cook mano a mano and show off the things I can do and the way I look at food. I think Tom definitely noticed it.
How does it feel to be off the show, at least for now?
I'm still in the running. There's always something. But it's sad not to be able to see me on TV anymore. I thought I got in some good faces, some good food, and some good action.
Did you guys know about the Save the Chef campaign while you were filming?
Nope, not at all. We only really figured it out a couple weeks ago. It's a whole new thing. So now, even if we're off the show, we're still on the show, watching it every week and Tweeting and commenting with everybody else. I'm definitely very happy about it. Maybe with Tweeting and Facebook-ing I can keep moving forward. I want another chance to be back on the show and cook again.
Were there other contestants you particularly connected with, or didn't, during the filming?
I'm normally the easygoing person. If someone wants to be a jackass, that's their problem. They're the ones who have to go through life like that. But I didn't really have a problem with anybody. I liked hanging around Stefan. Kristen was fun to hang out with. Lizzie is a very nice girl. John, one-on-one, he is kind of cool. I just think some people change when they are surrounded by other people.
When you watched the show, did it feel like you or feel like something edited?
I just saw myself.
How are things going over at B Too?
It just looks like a really messed up construction site. But in a good way. So many little details are now popping up. But it's really fun to be working through all the final details, designing the plates, selecting the beers and wines. But the money flies out of the window like crazy?
What are you looking at now for an opening date?
March. When the finale is done, we can get open.
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