Kristen Kish Survives Again in Last Chance Kitchen, Gets New Tattoos

Kish discusses her flirtation with Stefan, and the upside to doing interviews from the bathroom.

Kish shows her winning Last Chance Kitchen dish to Tom Colicchio. Photo courtesy of Bravo.

With the field of competition dwindled to five chefs, Bravo decided to throw the remaining contestants onto a mammoth cruise ship bound for Alaska. Stefan Richter was this week’s victim due to his tooth-shattering pork belly and he joined Kristen Kish in the beatific setting of an outdoor kitchen. Their not-so-subtle flirtation finally came to an impasse though, when a zen-like Kish channeled her inner badass to stay in the competition.

So I saw on Twitter this week that you were getting some new ink.
Yes, it’s two days old! It was the most I’ve gotten done in one sitting. It’s all on my forearm building around the five that I already had. I got a chive blossom, parsley, chervil, and tarragon. It’s floral and feminine and hopefully it won’t make my mom too mad.

Kish sent us a photo of her new tattoo. (Read about it at above.)

What other tattoos do you have?
I have a butter knife. I have a music note because I play piano. I have a spoon and my dad’s sailboat number. I have my mom’s handwriting that says “I love you.” And I have my Korean name.

Where do you go here in Boston?
I go to Good Faith Tattoos and I normally see Ian [Dana Camp]. That’s on Comm Ave. over by B.U.

Tattoos seem like such a big part of the kitchen culture nowadays.
Yeah, my mom is not happy! She tries to ignore it. When I told her I got another one she immediately changed the subject.

The Quickfire Challenge last night was another stripped down concept, similar to last week’s sushi motif. But this week the judges focused on one of the most reviled ingredients among foodies and chefs: iceberg lettuce. As you were watching from home, did you have any ideas of what you would have done with it to make a standout dish?
It doesn’t have a lot of flavor so I probably would have charred it and then juiced it and made some type of sauce or consomme or something like that. That was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw it last night. Then again, I probably had twenty more minutes to think about it than they did.

The Elimination Challenge also had to do with sort of an ’80s passe trend with surf and turf. Do you ever tinker with the concept at Stir?
Oh yeah, I love putting those two things together. Never typical surf and turf, but definitely things from the sea and from the land that go well together. My intention is never just to do surf and turf. One of the best I’ve had is at one of our other restaurants, No. 9 Park. It’s sweetbreads and lobster and it is fantastic! If it’s on the menu you have to try it.

Is it on their menu often?
They change their tasting menu up quite a bit, but they always have some fun stuff. When I was in the kitchen there a couple days ago they were doing beef poached in whey, which is pretty cool.

Sheldon Simeon won the Quickfire last night, which didn’t give him immunity, but did allow him to choose his ingredients in the Elimination Challenge. But he seemed like he froze and just settled for steak and lobster, the most damning combination of surf and turf.
I don’t know if “froze” is the right word. He kind of just went in took what he could. I don’t know exactly how much time he had to choose. He definitely tried to put his own spin on it. But he was just coming off the fried chicken challenge from last week where the judges simply wanted fried chicken. Maybe that got in his head.

Stefan’s (Richter) dish brought up some interesting cultural differences. He cooked his pork belly to what he considered crispy. Tom Colicchio and Hugh Acheson said it was way too hard; to the point of breaking teeth. But the other guest judge, Curtis Stone who is from Australia, admitted that he liked it a touch overcooked. Was it unfair for him to be judged on the standards of just the American palate?
Well, you could hear how hard it was. I thought it was an innovative idea to pair pork belly with eel ravioli. It was very interesting. But I think there’s a fine line of having beautiful, crispy skin and skin that’s going to break your tooth. It’s all about cooking it prior to cooking it. You have to soften it up by braising it and then reheat the top. Maybe he didn’t do that.

This is obviously Stefan’s second time competing on Top Chef. In Season 5 he was the runner-up to Hosea Rosenberg, and yet this season it seemed like he was near the bottom in almost every challenge. How do you explain that? Is the competition just that much harder in Season 10?
I can see where going on a second time has its disadvantages. I think you overthink everything because you’ve already been through it once before. I don’t remember who the other chefs were his first time around, but I do think chefs evolve and new ideas are always coming out. So yeah, the competition stiffens.

Was Stefan your hardest competition up to this point?
I think CJ [Jacobsen] was actually my hardest competition. I was way more comfortable [this time] because we were in a different location. We didn’t have everyone watching or cheering. It was outside. Your pantry was behind you. Everything you were cooking with was in front of you. There was no time wasted racing around the kitchen trying to find stuff. There was a limited kitchen, so you could just look at what you had to work with and make a really quick decision. You didn’t have this bounty of ingredients at your disposal.

Where were you in Alaska? It looked like Narnia or something.
We were in Juneau. It was amazing! It was really cold that morning, but it was very peaceful. It was very calming. We were almost thrown out into the wilderness. All the distractions were completely removed. It was awesome.

Were you excited when you saw that offal was the primary ingredient in Last Chance Kitchen?
Yes, I love it. I think chicken livers are a pretty generic ingredient to use. But I use them often. Here at Stir, well, I’m actually in the bathroom right now, but I have beef tongue going for tonight.

Please tell me you’re in the bathroom because it’s noisy in the kitchen.
Outside was a little windy and inside they’re making phone calls and doing work. So the bathroom is kind of our office.

In all the weeks we’ve been talking I haven’t brought this up, but even the judges are now in on Stefan’s “wifey” comments to you and your tongue-in-cheek love affair.
Well, when you’re in the Top Chef house you have to entertain yourself. Hey, a little flirting never hurt anybody. Once it started, I just went with it.

We’ll continue to chat with Kristen Kish about Top Chef: Seattle in the coming weeks.

*Correction: In an earlier version of the post, we stated that Kish had a tattoo of a “chai” blossom. It’s been changed to “chive” blossom per an update from Kish.