Throughout this season of Bravo's Top Chef Masters, LA Chef Mary Sue Milliken proved you could be a sweetheart in the kitchen and still get things done. Fans watching the final episode can't be blamed for thinking Milliken had it in the bag (then again, the judges' rhapsodic and effusive praise of her lemon souffles did seem a little over-the-top), but don't feel robbed. Anyone looking for consolation only has to visit Border Grill in Downtown LA or Santa Monica for some of the best Mexican food in the city.
While she didn't take home the top prize in last night's episode ($100,000 to the chef's charity of choice), Milliken did manage to raise $40,000 for Share Our Strength by winning challenges along the way, and says, "one of the big motivations for me is to be able to shine a spotlight on Share Our Strength" and the problem of childhood hunger in the United States.
In a short interview with HuffPost, Milliken takes us through the good (lemon souffle), the bad (LA traffic), and the pretty (Chef Curtis Stone) about the final episode and the season as a whole.
On the best thing about Top Chef Masters:
For this competition I just told myself, "I'm not going to do anything else, I'm not going to think about anything else." I moved out of my house in LA so I could just live in the same hotel as the other contestants, and I just didn't think about anything except for what was right in front of me in the challenges. I loved that. It reminded me of how far from that I've gotten, and it made me think, "I kind of need to bring a balance and that kind of focus back into my life."
On the worst thing:
The worst part for me was just seeing people get kicked off. I mean, it was heartbreaking. I hated it. I didn't even enjoy winning when I had to see people like Naomi, you know, John Currence had to leave twice. In my spare time, when I'd be falling asleep I'd be thinking about how to create a show where people didn't have to pack their knives.
On the LA chefs that should be on Top Chef Masters:
Neal Fraser. I think he'd be phenomenal on Top Chef Masters. He's really quick on his feet... he's entertaining and he's super talented. Suzanne Goin would be fabulous, and Nancy Silverton would be incredible if we could ever get her to do it.
On being married to Susan Feniger's ex-husband:
She kept saying to me for those five years -- that's when I met Susan, right after she was divorced from her husband -- she had said to me every time I had boyfriend troubles, "God I wish you could meet my ex-husband. He's perfect for you!" So after hearing that for five years, and then when we were opening our second restaurant together here in LA, she said, "Let's call Josh and hire him to be our architect." And I said, "Fine, that sounds great!" And he moved here, and we just fell in love. In like, three weeks, he moved in. And that was in 1984. Susan's been in the delivery room when both of our kids were born, and she's part of our family. We're very close.
On Chef Curtis Stone:
First of all, he's very easy on the eyes, but beyond that he's really a solid, nice guy. He knows a lot about food -- I was very impressed with the knowledge that he has. He's not superficial, he's not just a TV guy.
On keeping the Top Chef Masters winner a secret:
I just had to kind of keep smiling. That's kind of my default. It was very difficult. But I did it! I don't like secrets, actually. I'm not good at them. I'm pretty straight-up and straightforward. I like to keep things very clear and current.
On her final competitors, Chef Traci Des Jardins and Chef Floyd Cardoz:
I think one of the reasons I made it to the end was that I felt so great about the other competitors. I was enjoying being with them and I felt that I was learning a lot. I think every time anybody seems to leave the show, it's, from my perspective, there was a little self-destruction happening. And it could have happened to me, I could have self-destructed. I didn't, I think, because I was with people that I have so much respect for and so much love for.