'Top Chef's' Justin Sutherland on the Ramen That Would Have Been
Chef Justin Sutherland is no stranger to cooking competitions. Having competed on Iron Chef America he was already familiar with the high stakes, quick thinking competitive cooking that he needed to do as a competitor on Top Chef in Kentucky this season. Sutherland hails from Minneapolis and runs two restaurants there, Handsome Hog and Pearl and the Thief, both focusing on modern American food. From the beginning, he managed to pull off the impossible task of being a competitor that could have a ton of fun and do well in the competition. From making a winning ‘hot brown’ sandwich to hosting a houseboat party complete with jello shots, Justin always managed to put a smile on his fellow competitors and the judge’s faces.
Last week the personable chef was tripped up by a challenge paying homage to his chef mentor and was sent home for making a hot and cold yellowtail duo that left Tom wishing Justin had focused on one dish. We caught up with Justin to ask about his favorite challenge and learn if he keeps up with any of his fellow cheftestants.
Food & Wine: What inspired you to compete on Top Chef?
Justin Sutherland: I was asked after I appeared and won on Iron Chef America, it was a natural next step. I have been a fan of Top Chef since it started and have watched every season. I was excited to show the nation our culinary scene in the Twin Cities.
FW: What was the biggest lesson during your time on Top Chef? Did you learn something new about yourself or your cooking that you'll take with you?
JS: I have learned more about my capabilities and what I can accomplish, certain things can get unblocked under extreme pressure.
FW: What did you think when you first met your competitors and saw them in action?
JS: First thing, all of them were good looking! As we met, everyone was also super nice and as I learned about their backgrounds, definitely were going to be tough competition. We have all become great friends and stay in touch every day on a group chat.
FW: Do you feel like someone else should have gone home instead of you? Who?
JS: Of course! No one wants to go home, I would rather it have been anyone else.
FW: Who do you think is going to be Top Chef? And who are you rooting for?
JS: I don't know, but I would be happy with any of finalists, everyone is very talented.
FW: What was your favorite challenge?
JS: If you watched the show you could guess — the boat challenge. It was the most fun and we served jello shots! Next would be the Rupp Arena challenge, I am a basketball fan, so that was really a great experience.
FW: Do you have any specific dishes or techniques that you wish you had gotten the opportunity to show the judges?
JS: Yes, ramen. I had always planned to make it and would have as a dish if I made it to the finals. It just didn't fit any of the challenges while I was on the show.
FW: What was your least favorite challenge?
JS: The dessert challenge. But meeting Eric Ripert was truly amazing!
FW: If you had to do the mentor challenge again would you pick a different dish? If not, how would you alter the dish you did?
JS: No, I would have done the same dish, but I would have combined the best components of each into one dish, but I wouldn't have picked a different dish.
FW: If you could give a future Top Chef competitor any advice, what would it be?
JS: Stay true to yourself and don't worry about what other people are doing. Sometimes all it takes is soup beans.