A lot of people seemed to think this season’s Top Chef finale was a little anti-climactic, and from a reality show drama standpoint, I get that. The closest thing this season had to a “villain” was top-knotted LA chef Phillip Lee (did you know his wife is a model? don’t worry, he’ll tell you), who was eliminated four or five shows before the end. The finale wound up being a contest between Orange County restaurateur Amar Santana and chef de cuisine of The Matador Room in Miami, Jeremy Ford — far and away the two most laidback dudes ever to compete in a Top Chef finale.
Competitions are always more compelling if there’s a villain, if you’re really invested in the outcome, and with Jeremy and Amar, it was hard to be too upset about the idea of either of them winning. There was almost some drama, with Amar trash talking Jeremy’s molecular techniques, which the judges didn’t seem to love either, but when Jeremy ended up winning, it didn’t feel like an upset. He’d won the very first challenge, and the most challenges during the season, and with the exception of the “fast casual concept” episode, when Tom Colicchio ridiculed Jeremy’s “Taco Dudes” concept, he felt like the favorite for most of the run.
I got the chance to talk to Jeremy over the phone the morning after the finale aired, to find out what he thought about the finale’s “technique vs. flavor” billing, his loves of jiu-jitsu and Metallica, and whether he really agreed with the statement “Dudes wouldn’t be caught dead at a gastropub” (because somehow I felt like Jeremy and I would know more about places dudes hang out than Tom Colicchio). I soon discovered that he’s been reading our weekly power rankings, and that he uses the word “dude” at least as much as you’d expect, if not more. In fact, if you don’t taste salt water and get a contact high just from reading this, I will have failed at my job.
UPROXX: At the end there, I think you said you thanked your mom for putting up … I think you said your various schemes. What were you talking about on that one?
JEREMY FORD: More or less, just giving her credit for always being super supportive of all the different routes and journeys I’ve taken in my career and life. I think it’s hard to support something like, “Oh. I’m going to be a rock star in Los Angeles.” Any mom in their right mind would never be supporting that kind of idea. No matter what it was, she was always so amazing.
Did you start pursuing being a chef pretty young?
Yeah. When I was 15, I had some interest in cooking. I started at a really young age at a really nice restaurant in Jacksonville actually. Matthew’s. I learned really quick, that discipline. It was a four star restaurant. I was very fortunate.
Do you think you have to start when you’re really young to be a Top Chef?
Dude, there’s a lot of guys I’ve met throughout my career that had a moment in their life and wanted to change careers and followed their dreams and passion and get out of a desk job and go be a chef. You can be successful no matter what.
For me, I never went to school. I went to hard knocks, man, and just worked my ass off, dude, and put my heart and soul into it every day. I was on the job. Luckily enough I was able to work for some really good chefs.