Top Chef's Phillip Frankland Lee explains why the judging wasn't fair
Fans may have been excited to see this season's villain, Phillip Frankland Lee, leave Top Chef last night — finally — and now that he's gone, Lee isn't holding back from sharing his true feelings about the show.
SheKnows: Who is your favorite Top Chef contestant of all time and why?
Phillip Frankland Lee: Probably Stefan, he's super entertaining and he's one of the best chefs I've ever had the pleasure of working for. I actually lost $50 to my sous chef at the time when Stefan got second to Hosea.
SK: Were you surprised by your elimination?
PFL: I was very surprised. Fun side note, I actually quit drinking three months before the show taped so that I could be in tip-top shape for the competition. I was so happy with my performance that day, and after reading all the comment cards that the guests had filled out (rating the dishes for lunch and dinner as well as service) I realized that if my team was on top, I was probably going to take the win but even if we were on the bottom there was no way I was going home.
I was so happy that I actually cracked a bottle of champagne after dinner service of Restaurant Wars to celebrate my best performance of the season of Top Chef. Amar and Kwame both pulled me aside separately to congratulate me on for-sure winning Restaurant Wars (if our team was on top).
Then the judges basically did what they always did, tell me I suck but this time they told me to go home too.
So yeah I was pretty surprised.
SK: What was it like working with all of the judges on the show?
PFL: I was surprised to see that the judges really didn't speak to or interact with us until the cameras were rolling. It was cool to see a lot of chefs I know in real life, 'cause when you're shooting and don't get to see a familiar face for months, it's kind of nice to see someone you recognize. So that was kind of cool. But otherwise, yeah they barely make eye contact unless we're filming.
SK: Which contestant do you think deserves to win? Or who are you rooting for?
PFL: I got my money on my roommate, Amar. He's a great cook and they seem to like him.
SK: Who did you consider your biggest competition?
PFL: I always have viewed myself as my biggest competition in these types of situations. More often than not, your demise doesn't stem from being beat, it stems from screwing up and losing, but this time, my biggest competition were the judges, or whoever it is that decides who wins and loses. Because in all my years doing food competitions, this is the first time where I was bewildered by the reaction I would get from the judges. I'd feed 200 people who would rave about the dish and I'd feel super good and proud then the judges would just tell me I sucked. It was really bizarre.
SK: Was there anyone on the show you really clashed with? Who was it and why?
PFL: I didn't really think so. The rest of the chefs say Tom and Padma hate(d) me, I guess I can see that. But otherwise I got along with everyone. I still talk to and see the rest of the chefs often. I've already done dinners with Jeremy and Kwame at Scratch|Bar & Kitchen, and Kwame and I just cooked with Chad in Spokane last week. I love all of the chefs.
SK: Who is your favorite out of the judges and why?
PFL: Richard Blais, maybe it's because he's been in our shoes, but he actually seems to respect what it is we do and what we go through. I never found him to speak down his nose at any of us and he seems to appreciate outside-of-the-box thought.
SK: Who do you think deserved to go home on last night's episode?
PFL: I thought our team did fantastic, so I thought someone from Palate deserved to go ;)
But... If it had to be someone from our team and this is based purely on performance and on customer feedback (all the guests filled out comment cards rating our dishes that specific day), it was pretty clear that it should have been Jeremy. Sorry dude. I love you, but lunch didn't finish because he refused to let us cook for anyone aside from the judges, his steaks were repeatedly sent back for being under and the judges said his risotto was the worst risotto in the history of Top Chef.
SK: What was the best experience you had on the show?
PFL: Having Jose Andreas tell me that my dish was "Surf and Turf at its absolute finest, bravo."
SK: What was the biggest challenge for you on the show?
PFL: Knowing that no matter how hard I would try or how good I would cook, I was not going to win.