The first part of Bravo’s Top Chef finale airs tonight, and the final 3 contestants are all so wonderful that this season has basically turned into an impossible choice. I chatted with Chef Melissa King today about her Top Chef experience and life as a chef. I also taught her about snapbacks, so it was a good time all around.
AfterEllen: Hey, Melissa, how’s it going?
Melissa King: What’s up, Jenna? It’s good to officially meet you.
AE: I know, same! First of all, congratulations on your Top Chef run so far. It’s been very exciting to watch.
MK: Thank you.
AE: I want to go back to the beginning a little bit. Why did you decide to audition? Can you tell me a little bit about that process?
MK: Sure. You know, I applied a few years ago. Some friends of mine were just like, “You gotta go, you’re talented enough.” But I was kind of shy at the time, and my head was in restaurants, and I was like, “I don’t want to be on TV, this isn’t for me.” But I think as the years went on… Now I’m looking to open a restaurant, and just kind of go bigger, and do things that challenge me more. This year, Bravo approached me on a phone call and were like, “Hey, we want you to give this a shot again.” So it just kind of fit. It all kind of fell together, in terms of the timing of where I was in my career, and where I want to be next. So, I was like, “Sure, why not?” I went through a bunch of interviews [laughs] and, next thing you know, I had my knives and was on my way to Boston.
AE: Awesome. I know reality shows can be pretty heavily edited, so I was wondering how did actually competing on the show compare to what we got to see on TV?
MK: I think what you see on TV is a very accurate representation of my personality and who I am. None of that, at all, was fake. But, I think, when you see things edited in a creative way, it does seem a little more dramatic than what might have really happened. But overall, it is me, and it’s very true to my character. And the situations like the time clock starts at 30 minutes and that’s really 30 minutes for cook time. So all that, the intensity, that you see on TV is very real.
AE: Was there anything, specifically, that you wish had made it on air that got cut? Or anything you saw on the show that you wanted them to cut?
MK: No, no, I’m pretty happy with the way things came out. Initially, going on the show, it was something I was worried about. How are they going to portray me, and how will things be edited? But, overall, I’m very happy with the show and the quality of what I put out. I think they’ve done a great job.
AE: So, I read that you are Court of Master Sommelier Certified, which sounds super impressive by the way.
MK: [Laughs] Thank you.
AE: Did you ever get to pair wine with your food on the show?
MK: No. On the show, we were just mainly focused on the food. There was no wine situation, other than Restaurant Wars. We had some wine involved there, but I was on the back end. So I let Adam handle the front, with the wine. There was no pairing. I think we were too busy cooking to worry about the wine.
AE: Did it ever drive you crazy to see somebody drinking, like, a chardonnay that you thought would pair horribly with your food? Or were you just so in the zone that you didn’t notice?
MK: I didn’t even notice, to be honest. And, hey, if that’s what they want, that’s what they want!
AE: Right on. So, the family episode was a big fan favorite. Your mom is so cute and she was hilarious, and supportive, and she really seemed to take to the cameras like a pro, so I think what you should do is pitch a Bravo spinoff show for our readers today. Are you into that? I really think it could be a hit!
MK: [Laughs] You know, I think my mom would definitely be into it. She was so nervous initially, with all the cameras, and then afterwards she was like, “When are we gonna do it again? That was fun!” She absolutely loved it, and I think that would be a really cool pitch.
AE: [Laughs] So she’s ready to go, whenever.
MK: Oh yeah, she’s ready. She’s on board.
AE: The first part of the finale airs tonight, and I just want to say, this is probably the only time in my whole history of watching Top Chef that I can remember genuinely liking all of the finalists, which is so crazy. And you guys are kind of killing me, because I like you all so much. (I mean that in the best way.) I’m wondering if there’s anything you can tell me about the finale?
MK: I think you’re going to just have to watch and see for that one. You know, we’re in Mexico. The three of us are really good friends, in real life, and I think that’s the challenging part of it all. It’s like after a while you stop competing against each other. At least for me, I felt like it was more a competition against myself, and how far I could push and challenge myself, so it wasn’t really even about the two friends that I’m competing against anymore. I think that was the difficult thing, that we’re all such good friends at the end of the day. So we’ll see what happens.