Despite having led a life with more than its fair share of low points, and despite watching his old hire Anthony Bourdain become a food and television celebrity (how about lunch with Bill Murray?), John Tesar says he’s in a good place. On Top Chef, he was brutally honest and sometimes just brutal: “I’m not a prick,” he told fellow contestant Josh Valentine. “I’m truthful.” After winning a quickfire challenge with a teammate, he said he would’ve preferred to win it alone (most chefs on the show no doubt feel the same way). On the phone, he was candid and he even dispensed great advice.
Tesar is amazed at the editing job for the series:
I would have thought like in last night’s episode there was a lot more to the knife-sharpening episode and the breaking down of the rabbits. The editing is really masterful, and I’m just surprised a lot of the segments are a lot longer than you get to see on TV, like a 19-hour set. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m just saying I’m sure when you get down to five or six people in the stew rooms, the reality at home will get a little deeper. That’s what I haven’t seen enough of, like what happened in the apartment and stuff like that.
When an AOL food reporter asked him to share cooking advice, he replied,
Put your head down and cook and experiment. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You just have to learn from it every time you do it and then build a repertoire of things that you feel comfortable with and that people like. You can’t be selfish in your cooking because you’re cooking for others. They have to relate to it. So you can do all of these foods and all of these things that young people want to do, but if people relate to your food, it doesn’t matter whether you make a bowl of oatmeal or you’re making something like in the style of El Bulli. If people are getting it and people are understanding it, you’ve achieved your goal that day. And it’s only that day because you’re only as good as your last dish. It sounds cliché but that’s what Top Chef’s all about. It’s not cumulative. If it was, I’d still be there today.
As for his thoughts on the current crop of aspiring chefs:
You have to remember history, too. This generation is getting away from history. They’re all enveloped in television and wanting to be movie stars and famous chefs and they went to cooking school for three years. There’s natural talent. That will always be out there. But on the whole, you have to work and build a body of work if you really want to be considered a chef. That’s my only gripe with some of the younger generation.
And life after Top Chef?
There’s not one person that comes up to me on the street and says they hate me. They all go like, “We love you on the show, we find you to be the most interesting guy this season, we like your honesty, we love your food, congratulations,” all very positive things. I’m not really a hated person but unfortunately I’ve been pigeonholed into this Most Hated Guy. If people are taking note of me because of it and then really getting to know me, à la the Brooke [Williamson] scenario, which is not a staged thing, it was like two people who just really get along, have something in common, work well together, that’s who I am. All the other stuff is just the energy and the swirl of stuff that I have to do to get the creative process moving. And I’m glad that people find it interesting. And it’s not going to stop. It’s how I live my life. I’m happy to be alive every single day. You found out from the show, when you’re adopted and you have other misfortunes in your life, and you work your way through it, you have an obligation to live your life with passion and share honesty with people, and I can’t be any other way. But maybe that’s 55 as opposed to 35 or 25.