Welcome to the eighth of hopefully 18 installments of a weekly series in which Eater catches up with Top Chef cheftestapant and No. 9 Park sous chef Stephanie Cmar. Check out Eater National's recap of the episode here. DVR users, major spoilers will be kept out of this paragraph, but anything after that point is free game. You've been warned. This week, she discusses making hot sauce for Dr. John, nearly catching herself and a camerawoman on fire, and — again — her nerves.
In the quickfire, you had to make hot sauce for the legendary musician, Dr. John. Were you familiar with his work? More importantly, were you able to understand a word he said?.
I learned a lot about his musical history. He's really well-known and super talented. But, no, I couldn't understand him. He doesn't speak ... in English. He has his own language or something.
Are you a spicy food person?
I love spicy food. I put spices in just about everything I cook. I had never made hot sauce, but that wasn't such a big deal as it's self-explanatory. In my hot sauce I put literally everything I could find. I just dumped it all in the blender.
For the elimination challenge, you were asked to cook a boucherie, which is a traditional New Orleans dinner using an entire pig. Do you do a lot of whole animal butchery?
We get in quarter animals at work, usually. I personally don't break them down. We have one of the most talented butchers in the entire world, and his name is Nadeen. He or my chef are typically the ones to break down the animals. So I've never broken down a big hog.
This seemed to be the most difficult challenge for you so far. You were in the bottom three, and to the home viewer, it seemed there was a chance you could go home. Were you surprised when you weren't picked?
I was incredibly surprised that I wasn't sent home. That's how it looked. Louis's mistake was putting popcorn on the dish, whereas mine was technically flawed. It was a terrible feeling when Louis was sent home, and I was left questioning if it should have been me. I don't want to go back to that. I don't want to get kicked off.
The judges liked the flavors of your dish overall, just had real problems with the pork belly that was in it. Were you able to figure out what went wrong or what you'd have done differently?
Everything had flavor, it just was a weird dish. It just didn't make sense or come together. I would have scratched it and done something completely different, in all honesty. It just didn't work out.
Heading to commercial at one point, they showed a cute vignette of other cheftestapants talking about your nervousness. Did you know they had filmed that?
I saw it for the first time when I watched it. I love Nina. She's so blunt, and she's so right. [anxiously] I am always pretty nervous. This is a cooking competition, but it feels sort of do or die. I don't want to be sent home, because that just seems stupid. That's why I'm always so nervous, just putting a lot of pressure on myself. But the video was sweet.
In that vignette, you mentioned that you lit yourself on fire, but they hadn't shown it to us. What happened?
They had these things called King Cookers. They're basically a deathtrap. Mine had a faulty gas valve, so when you lit the left side burner, it would explode. I didn't realize that, so when I went to light it, it literally burned my chef's coat. There was a camerawoman walking by who was trying to film Nick — who was working next to me — and I nearly set her on fire.
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