During the finale of Top Chef Masters 3 last night, Floyd Cardoz beat Traci Des Jardins and Mary Sue Milliken to claim the $100,000 prize for his charity, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund. But he told one of the show’s new judges, Ruth Reichl, that early in the competition, he wanted to leave because it wasn’t fun thanks to the fighting between the chefs.
In other words, the show’s winner felt very much the same way many of us did about this season, with its not-so-great changes and interpersonal conflict replacing the joyous fun of watching extremely talented, well-known chefs challenge themselves.
Floyd was encouraged to sign on for the show by his friend Johnathan Waxman, who was on the second season, but in an interview with Reichl published on Gilt Taste, said, “I was not having fun” at the start of the competition. “I thought there’d be a lot of camaraderie, a lot of helping each other out. I thought we’d all be in this together,” he said. Floyd called his business partner, Danny Meyer, and “said, ‘I don’t know if I should be here. I can’t be a person who’s putting everybody else down, and that seems to be what it takes to win.” Meyer told him “Just relax and be yourself” and Floyd now says “That was when my attitude changed.” He stopped caring about the clock or about screw-ups.
Reichl adds that Floyd lost 25 pounds while filming the show, which she calls a “grueling exercise,” and says, “I was constantly amazed by the difficulty of the challenges.” Floyd told her that he’d do it again because “I learned a lot about myself. Doing Top Chef Masters you understand your limitations. You can forget very often why you’re a chef and why you cook–It took me back to who I really am.”
In her interview/essay, Reichel talks about judging, saying that when she signed on, “I was sure that the producers would be watching over our shoulders, trying to nudge us into certain outcomes, and I kind of looked forward to fighting them off. I was positive that they would be willing to sacrifice the truth for the sake of a good story. But I was wrong. The Magical Elves never interfered, never questioned a decision, never even indicated a preference.”