Welcome to the eleventh 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, cheftestapants were asked to cook a meal for 500 college students. Cmar talks about cooking for Questlove, how sparring with a production driver over the radio affected her performance, and the chef vs. chef drama that is building as the number of remaining chefs dwindles.
Given you told us about your one-time plans to be a hip hop superstar last week, cooking drumsticks for Questlove in the quickfire must have been fun.
I know! I had my in, and I screwed it all up. They didn't show why I ended up with the turkey legs. That was a conscious decision. I hate nothing more than being charged at, or being in a big group having to rush one thing. If you watch the show, you actually see me running away from everyone and running around that little table to pick up the turkey legs. I had a plan.
You looked as if you were struggling to breathe when you described your dish to him.
Yeah, I looked so winded. I got kind of nervous because I've always been a big Roots fan. I watch Jimmy Fallon pretty consistently, and for Questlove to be there — he's a rock star — I was nervous.
For the elimination challenge, you had to cook for 500 kids at LSU. Have you ever cooked for a crowd that size before?
No. And I was in the foulest mood when we ended up at LSU. I was in the worst mood in the entire world.
Any particular reason for that?
One of the kids that was driving the van we were in going from point A to point B was messing with the radio. It's really the only time we had to relax, and all I wanted to do was listen to the radio and he just put it on seek. It made me so mad. I was fuming. Once we got to LSU, I was just angry. How bratty, right?
So you get to LSU and find out you're cooking for 500 kids. Smart idea making tomato soup and grilled cheese, but you ended up in trouble for serving the sandwich in the soup. When did you realize that was a mistake?
The whole day was kind of a mistake. LSU is beautiful and their kitchen is beautiful, but we were super-limited in the products available. And almost everything was already prepped. I was happy with everything except for the fact that I put it in the bowl. It was just one of those stupid decision with no backbone to it.
There was a lot of in-fighting over equipment in this episode. Carlos accused Nick of "stealing" his oven. Was that really uncomfortable as it happened, or were you even aware it was happening?
I knew it was going on, yeah. So, Nick and I are very good friends. We actually stayed in the same room. He's a really nice guy who wouldn't steal anything. Carlos just got a little weird. He's also a really nice person, but he played dumb a little bit when he said he didn't realize he was throwing Nick under the bus. It was uncomfortable. And next week you see it's going to be uncomfy again. They get into it again.
Hugh Acheson said "Stephanie has a little lunch lady in her and wants to let her out." It did seem like you had fun even if the dish didn't end up where you wanted it. Were you, or was that just a good face?
I had a lot of fun. I mean, you've got all these kids. It was such a social thing instead of being a stressful situation. I enjoyed myself. The dish was actually tasty, there were just a few stupid technical flaws. Real dumb.
We're down to eight chefs, so odds are any week you'll be in the top three or bottom three. And this week, you were in the bottom three. How concerned were you that you might be going home?
It might sound like I'm bragging — I never try to read anything about the show, because it can make you crazy a little bit. But I've seen a few people who were like "we love her," and then there are the people who say, "she is so insecure." — but in the case of LSU, I really didn't think I was going home. You're always nervous, but I thought my dish was solid enough.
But you didn't go home, so we get to talk again in the New Year. Any plans for the rest of the holidays?
Work. We are closed on Christmas Eve, so I'll be hanging out with my family and what not. Then for New Year's: work.
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