Hey, all you Top Chef fans out there! GalTime was lucky enough to sit down with Stefan Richter, Top Chef finalist and restaurateur at his namesake place In Santa Monica, Stefan’s at Lantana where he dished on everything from drama to dating.
LL: Would you do Top Chef again?
SR: Yes. I enjoy it. I like the BS, the drama, the game playing. I’m not done yet. I could be back for the finale.
LL: I think you’re the most entertaining contestant on the show this season. Was there a lot that they cut out?
SR: Yes. It will come back at some point.
LL: You and Tom Colicchio seem to rub each other the wrong way but then you have moments where you can tell he respects you. What’s your relationship with him?
SR: I don’t know. It’s kind of funny. When we’re not shooting Top Chef and we see each other at events like the Aspen Food & Wine event, we’re super friendly and super nice. I think there’s a lot of TV involved. We can’t talk to each other during Top Chef because he’s a judge and I’m a contestant, and I think Tom is hard to deal with because it’s not easy for him. He has done ten seasons. The guy has judged 170 chefs over ten seasons, he has tried so many dishes and then someone gets kicked off like Kristin or me and he gets crap for it, and then people hate on him on the blogs. I like Tom. He’s funny. But he’s in the same business as me, the restaurant business, and it’s hard to get criticized for every decision. I’ve been there. I know. I’ve done 68 dishes in the last two seasons.
LL: What about that Cordon Bleu moment?
SR: It was actually a very good dish. I’ve never cooked American fried chicken. If I had made an American version of fried chicken, they would have said, “Why didn’t you make chicken cordon bleu? That’s fried chicken in Europe.” So you can’t win.
LL: You have been a judge on Top Chef Finland. What do you like better, being a judge or contestant?
SR: They are equal. Being a judge is a bit more painful. That’s why I don’t blame Tom for kicking people off or making the last decision. You wait hours, and they wait hours while you talk and discuss. Over and over. It’s pretty painful. You have to stand your ground. Tom did 10 seasons of this.
LL: What’s next for you?
SR: We just pitched a show for a few networks. No spoilers yet. Sorry.
LL: What made you decide to open restaurants in your homeland of Finland?
SR: Top Chef Finland was a big hit. They look to America for famous people and musicians, sports, etc. There’s not much coming out of Finland except a few hockey players in Canada and Nokia phones, so I think the Finns were very happy to see a Finnish guy in America doing well. The restaurants have been a big hit. We’re opening three more this year.
LL: Most Americans don’t know much about Finland. What’s cool about Finland?
SR: Anthony Bourdain did a “No Reservations” special on Finland and it was really bad. It was all drinking and bad food. Finland is a very clean country. There is not a country more beautiful than Finland in the summer.... June, July, August. It’s super flat like Canada and it has over 10,000 lakes.
LL: Has Top Chef helped your dating life?
SR: (laughs) I don’t know. Yes, it has helped because people know you now. Some chick will come from Silver Lake for dinner because she watched me and now she wants to meet me….so it does help.
LL: Do you have groupies?
SR: Yeah, lots of groupies. There are some crazy people. I have a mailing address in Santa Monica and they will show up there. People will come by the restaurant and they are starstruck. It’s good for business.
LL: Would you date a vegetarian or someone with a restricted diet?
SR: I would date a vegetarian but not a vegan. I’m kind of turned off by meat these days. If I could choose a piece of fish or a beef tenderloin, I’d choose fish. I eat bacon and all that, but meat is not as sexy as it used to be for me.
LL: Do you play up your bad boy character for the show?
SR: No. Not a bit. I am who I am. I’m straightforward about what I think and will tell people what I think of them.
LL: Have you ever used cooking utensils in the bedroom?
SR: No. There’s much better utensils and tools around that you can buy for cheap online than to use a friggin’ whisk or wooden spoon.
LL: What secret talent do you have that people don’t know about?
SR: I’m pretty good with my mouth. (smirking)
LL: They probably already know that about you. I’m talking about a PG-rated talent.
SR: I can dance. My mom made me go to dance classes when I was a kid. Classic ballroom and that stuff. I can waltz. I’m pretty good. In Europe, all the kids did. … You go on a date and then go dancing, and you don’t want to be the awkward kid in the corner who can’t dance.