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Is Portland’s Gourdet Unstoppable on Top Chef Boston?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

 

Gregory Gourdet

Gregory Gourdet at Phame Gala. Photo by Byron Beck

Gregory Gourdet is a winner.

At least he is so far on the 12th season of Bravo’s hit reality-tv series “Top Chef."

Hosted by Padma Lakshmi—with judges including previous “Top Chef-All Stars” winner Richard Blais and "Top Chef" faves Gail Simmons, Hugh Acheson, Tom Colicchio—filming for "Top Chef: Boston" ended earlier this summer. The show, which has already broadcast about half of its season includes another popular Portland chef: Imperial’s Doug Adams.

The one thing that is for sure so far this season on "Top Chef": Gregory Gourdet is the one to beat. 

Those who know this dedicated outdoor lover and long-distance runner know that Gregory loves a good challenge: Gourdet secured a coveted internship at the prestigious Jean-Georges Restaurant Empire, eventually working his way up to Sous Chef at Jean-Georges before eventually arriving in Portland a few years back to work at the sky-high Departure Restaurant and Lounge.
 
The seemingly unstoppable Chef Gregory is one of the breakout stars this season on “Top Chef.” It’s not becaue he bickers or belittles his fellow contestants (fights are a reality show mainstay), but because he works hard. Really hard. And it shows. In the episodes that have been broadcast Gourdet has won or placed high in every one of the Quickfire competitions that has taken place on the show.  

Despite tallying up so many victories, it hasn’t been an easy ride for Gourdet and it wasn’t that easy for him to get on the show.

GoLocalPDX talked exclusively to Gourdet regarding his time on “Top Chef.” Even though Gourdet has returned to Portland, Bravo publicists insisted that the interview was via the phone as to monitor what Gregory might say. That said, Gourdet was still honest about his experience on the show and what his was secret recipe for staying out in front. 

GoLocalPDX: What was it like to be on "Top Chef: Boston"?
Gregory Gourdet: It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It has taken six months of my life but it was an amazing and very rewarding experience. It was also a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. That was probably the biggest surprise for me.

Were you a big fan of “Top Chef” before you were on it?
Yes, I have been watching “Top Chef” since season one. I’ve had friends on each of the seasons and I’ve audition twice before. I’ve not watched much television since moving to Portland (Gourdet is originally from Queens, New York) but I always try to keep up with “Top Chef.”

How did you end up on this particular season?
Friends and casting agents. I was on a Food Network show called “Cutthroat Kitchen” (Gourdet came out on top on that one too) and once you are one of those shows your name gets thrown into the mix for other shows. But “Cutthroat Kitchen” was a silly show. I wouldn’t compare it to “Top Chef.”

Have you always wanted to be a chef? 
No, I went through a few majors: wildlife biology, French and pre-med. I was cooking for myself in college in Missoula, Montana. The chef at the restaurant where I was washing dishes at suggested I go to culinary school. 

If you weren’t a chef what would be doing?
I can’t really say because I’ve been cooking for 17 years, but I would probably be a fashion designer.

You seem to steer clear of the fighting and bickering that seems to always be a major part of any reality show. How did you keep your temper in check around so many temperamental chefs?
I am not a dramatic person and a lot of that noise is really distracting. To get me through all of that I would go home and write notes and recipes. I did yoga every morning in my room but mainly I just studied.

You studied? 
Yes. You don’t have any access to information: no cell phones, no Internet, no cook books. Everything you do on the show is based on memory. So every chance I could get I would write up notes and study my notes for the next day. That’s pretty much all I did when I wasn’t working on the show: study. I would say a good percentage of my fellow cast members did the same thing. 

This is a different Gregory Gourdet than I am used to seeing in Portland. Are you playing it cool on purpose? Is that part of your strategy?
I didn't go on "Top Chef" to be in the spotlight. I wanted to challenge myself and learn from this experience. I was really focused on the task at hand. It’s extremely uncomfortable and everyday you are fighting for your life. There is so much to focus on and it is important to cut outside distractions like being comfortable or making friends. The people who can push through these things are the ones who go forward.

You’ve talked about your previous substance abuse issues and your path to recovery on the show. Why is that?

At first it was scary, but I don’t have any shame about my past. It’s liberating and if my story of recovery resonates with people then I think it’s a good thing.

I watched you go for big bucks at a charity auction: do you hope to parlay your celebrity into raising monies for other charities?
Absolutely! The most fun I’ve had is to align with charities and raise thousands of dollars for groups like Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Basic Rights Oregon and Phame. I want to do more of that.

Have you had any fanboy moments with any of the chefs or celebs on the show?
Guest judge (Boston-based chef and James Beard Award winner) Jamie Bissonnette. He is soulful and honest. I am a big fan of his and I am happy he liked my food.

How do you respond to the rumors that you will be leaving Portland for bigger cities like Denver or New York. 
None of them come from me. Truth is, I feel, in my heart, I will live in Portland forever.

Win or lose: what will it mean to have been on "Top Chef"? 
I thought I knew what I was getting into when I was cast for this show but I didn’t. I’ve gained everything I could from the experience but, most of all it makes me want to travel more, learn more about food and more about cooking. 

Answer the following question: too many chefs in the "Top Chef" kitchen means…..

Lots of bullshit smack talk and not enough good cooking!

The next episode is a Thanksgiving show, correct? You rocked it, of course? 

We will see. 

Top Chef's episode 6, "The First Thanksgiving" airs Wednesday, November 19 at 10pm ET/PT. “Top Chef” alum Tiffani Faison surprises the chefs with a trip to the countryside as well as a test of endurance. The chefs must trek through a cranberry bog in a race to gather this classic New England ingredient to use as the base for their Quickfire Challenge: creating a unique dish highlighting the cranberry. For their Elimination Challenge, the chefs head to historic Plimouth Plantation and must work together to cook a traditional family-style Thanksgiving feast using only cooking tools, methods and ingredients found in Massachusetts during the 1600s. Descendants of the Mayflower colonists and the native Wampanoag tribe as well as James Beard Award Winner Ken Oringer join the judges at the table for this non-traditional Thanksgiving feast.

Banner photo: Tia Vanich and Gregory Gourdet, Electric Summer 2014. Photo by Byron Beck.

 

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