Top Chef Chicago gave us some memorable personalities, including one everyone loved to hate - Lisa Fernandes. But she landed in the Final Three, and, it seems, deservedly so. Many of the dishes she prepared on the show looked, well, good enough to eat, and I'm a sucker for Asian-influenced anything. I thought it might be interesting to get her side of the story, and she was nice enough to take a few moments to answer some questions for me.
M: How has being on Top Chef changed your life?
LF: people stop me on the street, in restaurants and on the train so they can take a picture with me and just talk. its so much fun! they ask me for advice about cooking or culinary school and they are really excited that im willing to take the time to talk to them.
M: Where are you working now, and did you get the position in part based on your performance on Top Chef?
LF: am now working at Mai House in tribeca. I found out about this job through Spike. He brought me in to meet the owner. Drew, the owner really liked my personality, passion and food.
M: Speaking of which - how much of your personality was editing and how much was Lisa? You inspired a lot of passionate dislike from viewers.
LF: come down to Mai House and meet me. You will see that im always smiling, funny and pretty goofy. Lots of "passionate" viewers have met me and immediately seen the real Lisa. Im a great chef with an amazing personality!
M: What is your favorite food, and why?
LF: i dont really have a specific favorite food. But in terms of cuisines, I love Thai, Vietnamese, Cuban and Puerto Rican. My favorite restaurants to visit in NYC right now are Nobu, Tailor, Sripraphai and Stanton Social.
M: What is your favorite thing to cook, and why?
LF: I love cooking Asian cuisines and Latin cuisines. Everything from Indian to Malaysian, Cuban to Puerto Rican. But really I love cooking, so anything I get to cook is great!
M: I made your apple caramel steak with peanut butter mashed potatoes last week - it was delicious. While the caramel is clearly a riff on a classic Vietnamese sauce, what inspired the combination with apple and peanut butter?
LF: I love to combine flavors that usually go well together in new and different ways. I love to eat caramel apples with peanuts. So that was my goal. When you eat that dish, your taste buds get a mix of dessert with a salty, delicious piece of beef. I have a few dishes on the menu at Mai House that cross these lines of fun combinations. You should come check them out!
M: How did you and Padma get along?
LF: Padma is really cool. She is funny and pretty down to earth. We got along great.
M: Would you ever consider being on another reality series? How about a cooking show, or as a combatant on Iron Chef?
LF: I dont think i would ever go on another reality show just because its so stressful. I had a great time on top chef but thats it for reality TV for me. As for a cooking show...Of course i would. and on Iron Chef, thats a huge yes! i watch iron chef every week!