'Top Chef’s' Kevin Scharpf on Salty Cherries and Sizing Up the Competition

The chef hopes to let his personality out on 'Last Chance Kitchen.'

Photo: Michael Hickey/Bravo

By the time Kevin Scharpf tasted his cherries for his dessert dish on the latest episode ofTop Chef, he realized that he had made a crucial mistake: His cherries, instead of having a touch of salt to offset the sweetness of his moist ricotta cake, were over salted and barely edible. With time winding down and few options for fixing it, he decided to serve them to the judges anyway. That decision would lead to him being asked to pack his knives and go.

Below, we caught up with the chef and owner of Brazen Open Kitchen & Bar via email to ask about that dessert and what he wishes he had had a chance to cook before he got eliminated.

Food & Wine: What inspired you to compete on Top Chef?

Kevin Scharpf: I wanted to compete against some of the best chef’s in the country. I’ve watched the show since season one and have always dreamed of competing on Top Chef, but while living in a small midwest town, I never really thought it was possible.

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?

KS: I learned so much about myself on Top Chef! The first and most important thing you learn is to be confident in who you are as a person and a chef. You realize that you're there for a reason and you need to believe in that. I would say most contestants find something new about themselves after their experience on Top Chef, mine is learning to gauge stressful situations and react with a clear thought.

FW: What did you think when you first met your competitors and saw them in action?

KS: I knew in the first Quickfire the talent was much better than I expected. It's different when you are watching people on TV and actually being next to them in a kitchen. Super good lineup this year!

FW: Do you feel like one of your competitors should have gone home instead of you? Who?

KS: I would think that both Brian and Pablo are going to send me a nice gift for Christmas! You’re welcome!

FW: Who do you think is going to be Top Chef? And who are you rooting for?

KS: I think both Eddie and David are extremely talented. Either one of them could make a strong statement.

FW: What do you wish you had done differently in the elimination challenge?

KS: Removed the salty cherries! I’m certain if I would have just put fresh fruit as a last minute change that would have changed the outcome.

FW: Do you have any tricks up your sleeve that you wish you had gotten the opportunity to show the judges?

KS: I'm disappointed that I didn’t get at least one pasta dish in since pasta is definitely my go-to for my best dishes.

FW: What was your strategy going into Last Chance Kitchen?

KS: Letting my personality come out. I couldn’t seem to get comfortable on the show and it was frustrating. I feel like I will loosen up on LCK.

FW: Do you wish you had made a different dessert for the challenge?

KS: Not at all because I think the cake was solid. The judges didn’t seem to hate this dish, just the salt content in the sauce. A few minor adjustments and I think we are having a different conversation.

FW: What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the works?

KS: I’m really excited for what’s to come. I'm working on a few things that will be exciting for the Midwest.

Episode 4 of ‘Top Chef’ in Kentucky airs Thursday, December 27 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. ‘Last Chance Kitchen’ streams immediately following the show at BravoTV.com/Last-Chance-Kitchen. Find additional interviews, chef bios, and more at BravoTV.com/TopChef.

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