Out Top Chef All-Stars contestant Tiffani Faison was sent packing her knives last week, but not before revealing she had a girlfriend and showing viewers at home her softer side. The second-place finisher in the inaugural season of Top Chef returned to the competition with a more relaxed and grown-up attitude. She went home after a double elimination with fellow out chef Jamie Lauren when they both stumbled on separate fish dishes. But the Boston resident succeeded in showing off not only her skills but a playfulness people never got to see her first season. She spoke with AfterEllen.com about her experience the second time around.
Credit: All photos courtesy NBC Universal
AfterEllen.com: Hey Tiffani, congrats on making it as far as you did on Top Chef All-Stars. Were you disappointed/surprised to be sent packing when you were?
Tiffani Faison: Not at all. I had a great time, but also found myself not feeling as invested this time, so I knew it was time for me.
AE: You seemed to, and also said, that you made a concerted effort to have a different Top Chef experience this time around. How was it different for you on All-Stars and do you think viewers got to see another side of you this time?
TF: I think they got to see the real me, the grown-up me and also the more relaxed side of me. I was happy to open up much more this time. I felt like I had punched my time card on Top Chef over the years, so wasn’t worried that I would come across poorly. This time, I really wanted to be able to relax a little more and take the competition in stride.
AE: Since you were on the inaugural season, how do you think the show has changed, grown since then? What were some of the biggest changes you noticed, besides Padma, from the first season?
TF: The show has really changed in every possible way. It’s slick, it has a bigger budget, it’s well-oiled – the first time around, it felt like sometimes we were all figuring it out as we went along …
AE: For whatever reason, it seemed that women got teamed up a lot together for various challenges. This was probably coincidental, but how do you think the female chefs worked together? There seemed to be, at least off-time, camaraderie between the women.
TF: There was great camaraderie among all of us, we really enjoyed each other. I have to say, I was only disappointed by not being able to spend more time with Jen and Elia.
AE: How about between fellow GLBT chefs. Past seasons have bonded as Team Rainbow. Did you feel any super gay special feelings toward Jamie or Dale L.? You mentioned in your last challenge you felt Jamie was your team’s weak link.
TF: The bonds and connections that I form with people are more about what I like and see in them as people. Dale is hilarious, supportive, giving and kind, so it’s very easy to gravitate towards him. I adore him.
AE: Jamie was sort of portrayed as a bit of the season “villain,” leaving because of her injured finger and complaining. Do you think that was a fair portrayal? You were kind of one of the “villains” of season one so do you feel you were fairly portrayed/edited this season?
TF: I don’t think Jamie being seen as a villain had anything to do with cutting her finger. Besides being gay, I don’t see a ton of similarity between me and Jamie.
AE: Short of winning, what did you hope to accomplish on season this season of Top Chef and do you feel you were able to do that?
TF: I felt really good about everything this time around.
AE: You mention your girlfriend, Kelly, in your exit interview. What does she do and how long have you been together? How did she feel about you joining All-Stars?
TF: She’s my fiancée now. She is in school and working full-time. We’ve been together for three years.
AE: What’s next for you? Any projects coming up?
TF: I’m working on opening my own restaurant in Boston. We’re aiming to be open by the end of the year. I couldn’t be more excited!!!