'Top Chef DC' -- Kelly Liken answered your questions

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Kelly Liken
Thursday, September 9, 2010; 1:00 PM

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Kelly Liken: Hi everyone! Welcome to the live chat! I'm happy to take any of your questions.

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Sorry to see you eliminated: You were my favorite and I really thought you would go to the finals. The competition this years seems more level with chefs being eliminated for seemingly minor errors. What are you doing now? Who do you think will win?Who were you closest to on the show?

Kelly Liken: The chefs this season were definitely equally matched. The competition was really steep. I'm proud to have competed against such great chefs. They really challenged me along the way.Right this minute I'm sitting in my living room in Colordao looking at the beautiful Rocky Mountains. It's a gorgeous sunny day. But I'm back to work in my restaurant "Restaurant Kelly Liken" in Vale and getting excited about my new fall menu. in a similar style. But I would not discount Angelo's training and technique.I'm close to a lot of the chefs. Closest absoltuely to Andrea. She and I forged a lifelong friendship on the show. Tiffany and I will be close for a long time as well. Being in that final four, you forge pretty serious relationships making it to the end.

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Creative stress: How difficult is it to be creative under the time pressures of the show? Is there a similar effect of "writer's block" in cooking new dishes under a time pressure? How do you deal with it?

Kelly Liken: The time constraints are definitely stressful. They can definitely affect your creativity much like writer's block would. It's something you're honing as you go on in the competition and it does get easier every time you do. I never found myself playing it safe with dishes, but I do feel you have to learn how to edit yourself because you didn't always have time to do everything you wanted to.

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Wooden Stick: Is Padma ever personable or friendly? After all these years, I still can't figure out why she's the host except for her looks.

Kelly Liken: We weren't allowed to spend a lot of time with the judges out of fairness, but I have to say that Padma is a tough judge and there were many times when we felt like she was a little catty.

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Another show?: Having done this show, would you be willing to appear on another reality show, if you had the chance?

Kelly Liken: Top Chef was a great experience. I learned so much. But I think at this point I probably would say no, I would not be on another reality competition TV show, but you never know. The opportunity hasn't come up. I feel very lucky to be back at home with my husband, my dogs and my restaurant for now.

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Do you have signature dishes?: If I were to order a meal from you, what would you most wish to me to order, and why?

Kelly Liken: I definitely have signature dishes. Two of them that are almost always on my menu are an elk carpaccio dish -- the elk comes from this beautiful ranch in the mountains of Utah, served with mustard cream and tabbouleh salad; and my second signature dish is potato-crusted Rocky Mountain trout fillets. In the summertime I serve those with heirloom tomatoes and haricot verts. It's hard for me to take them off the menu. My signatures revolve around Rocky Mountain food and what is produced and grown here. My menu is always changing according to what my farmers can source and grow for me.

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Emmy Award- : What are your thoughts on Top Chef winning an Emmy Award? I think it's well deserved.Congrats on your success this season; that looked like the closest semi-final competition, ever, last night!

Kelly Liken: I am very excited and proud that Top Chef won the Emmy. I know it was a long time waiting. The show was a runner up for many years. I'm proud to be a part of it and think it's well-deserved.Last night's elimination was really close. The judges expressed that it was probably the closest semifinal round yet. It was pretty nervewracking.

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Did Alex take the pea puree?: Kelly, Do you think Alex took the pea puree?

Kelly Liken: I have always said that I refuse to believe that anyone would steal someone else's ingredients. It may be my altruistic nature, but I just refuse to believe it. I also tasted Alex's peas the day before. The only reason I remember is because they weren't good peas. I said to him Alex don't use these, throw them away or turn them into something else. I didn't see him make pea puree, but I didn't see him steal pea puree either, so I say no.

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Were the emu eggs open when you got them?: Kelly,Were the emu eggs open when you got them?

Kelly Liken: The emu eggs were not open when Amanda got them, but 12 minutes into the quickfire we had to switch proteins. Amanda had opened the emu eggs when I was then reassigned to it. With 15 minutes left I turned that open emu egg into the winning omelette.

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Higher Hill?: Do you think that women on Top Chef have a harder time with the guest judges?

Kelly Liken: I'm not sure. Top Chef doesn't have a great track record for having women go all the way, but I think might just be a coincidence. I think generally the judges judge us pretty fairly. I never felt like sex or gender came into it.

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angelo: Loved your reaction to Angelo's sobbing after you were eliminated at judges table. He seemed so strong and confident at the beginning of the season and now he's a blubbering mess.Is the decline for real or just crafty editing?

Kelly Liken: Angelo's emotions were definitely for real. He feels things very deeply I think and that's part of why he seems to intense. As the competition got harder we all got more nervous and stressed out and I think that's when your emotions start to show even more.

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Question for Kelly: Hi Kelly! Sorry you got eliminated--- my daughters and I watch the show together, and you were definitely our favorite. At Judges' Panel last night, no one had anything negative to say about any of the four dishes; I don't remember that ever happening. Was it just a matter of your dish being an A+, and the other three being A++ ? Good luck in your career!

Kelly Liken: First of all thank you very much! Please say hello to your daughters for me. All I can take is from what the judges told us, and they really reflected on our dishes much in that same way -- we all had creative winning dishes and now they had to split hairs and unfortunately someone had to go home and it was my turn. I'm very proud of the dishes I cooked. I think all four of us should be. We put up really great food and I would be proud to serve to anyone.

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Last Season: It seems that a lot of TC fans have compared last season to this and thought that last season the level of talent was higher or more sophisicated. It is hard to judge that sense you didn't taste the food from last season, but it did seem that some of this season's chef were not as creative. What is your take?

Kelly Liken: I think that's ridiculous. Last seasons and this season's chefs were amazing. At this level, we are all privileged to be a part of this. We're competing against the top up and coming chefs in the country. I think a lot of it has to do with how the challenges are designed. We're bound by the rules of the challenges. These challenges were designed for DC and not Las Vegas and I think people saw them as a little less exciting.

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DC: Kelly, you were one of my faves on the show, so sorry to see you go. What did you think of DC and which was your favorite challenge. Also, can you share the recipe for the Kung Pao Shrimp Soup you made for the CIA Challenge, that looked awesome!

Kelly Liken: Thank you for being a fan! I loved being in DC. I lived outside of DC out of culinary school. I worked at the Inn at Little Washington under Patrick O'Connell. I was thrilled when I found out we'd be taping Top Chef in DC. It's an amazing city amd a beautiful backdrop for the show.My favorite challenge was the farm challenge, because that's what I do -- I cook food from my local farmers. I felt in my comfort zone there. And the guest judge was Patrick O'Connell that day so I had my mentor giving me feedback. I also loved the NASA challenge because I am a space nerd. It was really exciting for me to be at NASA.

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Backstabbing?: In the earlier episodes, it seemed like there was some backstabbing going on. It reminded me of "Survivor" with contestants forming alliances to get rid of some of the stronger competition. Was that really happening, or are the episodes edited to make it seem like there was more feuding?

Kelly Liken: that people were trying to sabotage each other or backstabbing.

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Singapore: Was jet lag and the heat and humidity a factor in the QF or EC? Did you feel at a disadvantage because the finale was in Singapore?

Kelly Liken: I did not feel at a disadvantage. I thought Singapore was amazing. The culture was so rich. It was a great experience. I do feel like the heat, humidity and jet lag affected all of us. You're halfway around the world. The time zone is crazy and it was hot. But we were all feeling it so it was a level playing field.

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Blind Judging: Do you think the show would benefit from blind judging, where the judges only know the number of the chef who prepared the dish, rather than your name?

Kelly Liken: I think that the judges do a really good job at staying true to the rules they've set for themselves which is to judge on the plate in front of them as a single and solitary plate, without taking into account what had happened in past episodes. Although everyone is human. I've never thought about it, but that may bring more fairness to an already fair process.

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Others' dishes: When you're in the competition, do you always get to taste the other chef's dishes? I see you all doing this sometimes on the show.

Kelly Liken: You don't always get to taste everyone's dishes. It comes down to time and logistics. We as a group try to taste each other's food. We were interested in each other's food as well as learning about new techniques and styles. Unfortunately though, no you don't always get to try everyone's food.

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contestants: Kelly--How is Kevin still there and you're not?? How did Amanda outlast Kenny?

Kelly Liken: I'm not sure how Amanda outlasted Kenny, except that the judges are only responsible for judging on that individual plate and unfortunately Kenny's plate that day wasn't up to par and I think he would agree with that.I am a huge fan of Kevin's food and it doesn't surprise me for a minute that he's still in it.

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Whiny chefs: Were all the chefs as whiny as they seemed depicted on the show? Kenny really put me off with all of his alpha male stuff and his seeming inability to understand that his food was not perfect. Kevin also seemed to be more worried about what everybody else was doing rather than learning from the critiques of his own food. I noted that you thanked the judges at the finale after you lost, saying that their critiques helped you be a better chef. I think the most successful chefs have that attitude-- so kudo's for that. What did you do after your loss? Did you have to go right back to the States or were you able to hang around a while? Did your Singapore experience have any influence on your menu? What do you think viewers don't get or understand about the show?

Kelly Liken: Thank you for the kudos. I appreciate it. The chefs absolutely are not as whiny as depicted. I truly believe that's creative editing. Sitting at home on my couch, that's one part that's very frustratin to me. I felt like we were a group of people that had a lot of fun and competed well with each other. Kenny is definitely a self-described alpha male. He is confident and a giant personality. He's a ton of fun to be around, but he likes to talk about his food -- A LOT. I think early on Kevin was checking everybody else out and I think that was smart. He wanted to see what he was up against and learn from that. I do think he took the judges feedback into account because we saw him really grow and start to succeed towards the second half of the season.My Singapore experience was amazing. I got to experience so many different amazing things. I think it definitely has an affect on my menu. I find myself using a lot more spices in my food and getting excited about exploring those different spice mixtures.I think the one thing people don't get about the show is that there's so many hours of tape. We're cooking over the course of a day or two, but it's edited down into 45 minutes. There's a lot of things that go on that viewers don't get to see in terms of preparation or relationships. They just see one tiny piece of your personality or cuisine. Sometimes that can be a little frustrating.

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Kelly Liken: Thank you everyone for chatting with me. I really appreciate your support throughout Top Chef DC. It means a lot to have you all rooting for me. Stay tuned to find out who wins next week.


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