Well, that was quick. Before you can say, "And now, a word from our sponsors," Sacramento's Tyler Stone was given the boot within minutes of "Top Chef: Texas'" season debut Wednesday night. Stone, a local private chef, joined 28 other "Top Chef" contestants vying for 16 slots, wielding their knife skills and usual array of funky headbands and tattoos.
Stone, however, was immediately put on the chopping block by host Tom Colicchio after Sacramento's own botched a butchering job on a slab of pork. The decision must've gone down like a big hunk of humble pie, with the 23-year-old Stone shown earlier in the show bragging about cooking for celebrities and creating his own cookbooks in three and-a-half weeks.
"I think you should just leave now," said Colicchio, after looking at the remnants of Stone's butchering job.
So, are Stone's 15 minutes up, or can we expect to see more of him? Here's what Stone had to say in a phone call:
The Bee: Well, all I can say is, "Ouch."
Stone: It's hurting you more than it hurts me. It doesn't bother me that much at all from all the comments I've received. I know my abilities and the truth behind my skills.
The Bee: You came off as a cocky young whipper-snapper, but do you think that's really you or something that was just played up for TV?
Stone: A lot of people mistake my confidence for arrogance. I'm a young guy, and like a lot of young guys I don't take it so seriously. Some chefs want to kill themselves after being downgraded a (Michelin) star. It's not about that for me. It's about making sure guests are having good food and wine and are enjoying themselves.
The Bee: How was the experience of being on the show and standing in from of Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse and Padma (Lakshmi)?
Stone: I've had the chance to cook with ("Iron Chef") Morimoto and Daniel Boulud, so I've had a chance to work around highly respected chefs. I'm not knocking his cooking, but I think of Emeril first and foremost as a great showman. So when I was first in the kitchen, I thought this is cool but it doesn't faze me because I'm used to it.
Me going on as a personal chef, I think it was a disadvantage. Tom has said publicly that all chefs should pay rent. If you're not in a brick and mortar, you're at a disadvantage in his eyes. He comes from an old-school mentality and I get that. You go through the ranks and pay your dues. But other great chefs haven't gone that route and are getting better reviews than he's getting.
The Bee: Are you going to work on your butchering?
Stone: My philosophy has always been that you don't need to know everything in the world, but you need to know where to get that information. If I need to know something, I have the drive to find it out for myself. But I definitely would love to know more about butchering.
I tried to explain this over Twitter - and my uncle sells (high-end) butchering equipment - but most chefs are buying their meat pre-fabricated. They don't have the space in the kitchen to butcher whole animals most of the time. When I had that hacksaw on the show, I was smiling because I thought it would be easy. But I think they got it at an auto parts store. I started cutting chops and noticed this thing wasn't going through and it wasn't a pretty sight, but the cleaver wasn't going through either. With fine-tooth bonesaw it might've gone (differently).
The Bee: How are you looking back on this experience, and where do you go from here?
Stone: They didn't show me expertly slicing an apple like "Iron Chef" Sakai. They only focused on me with a hacksaw cutting through a large piece of pork. You didn't see the whole spectrum.
I've got all kinds of stuff in the works. I'm looking at my product line, other books and have lots of events lined up. I'm just a busy guy and this does not slow me down one bit. You always run across people, and some might try and bring you down, but I'm just doing what I love to do.