SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen the outcome of last night’s Top Chef finale, avert your eyes, click to a different part of EW.com, and save the surprise for later. If you watched, read on to see what the winner had to say.
On last night’s season-ender in Singapore, Kevin Sbraga, the 31-year-old chef from Hamilton, N.J., was named the 7th Top Chef, beating two New York-based contestants — Asian-leaning Angelo Sosa and “French housewife” Ed Cotton. Sbraga talked to EW about his lack of challenge wins, his worst dish, and what it felt like to get scolded by host Padma Lakshmi.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations! Where did you watch last night?
KEVIN SBRAGA: At a restaurant in Philadelphia. It was a private party for friends and family.
What did you think of the finale?
It felt great. The whole room erupted.
How hard was it to keep your win a secret since the finale taped in late July?
It’s very hard. You start to have a regular conversation, you almost bring up something that you’re not supposed to. It’s very difficult.
What was the experience like—different or exactly like what you’d imagined it would be?
It was completely different and a lot harder. I thought I would’ve performed better and won more challenges, but I didn’t. The bottom line is I won the big one, the important one. I made it through the end. It was very, very challenging. I learned a lot through the competition.
What stopped you from winning challenges throughout the season?
I was over-thinking a lot of things, and I really wasn’t cooking from my heart. I was trying to cook from my head, and that doesn’t really work. You have to cook with emotion and passion.
Which dish were you most proud of?
Probably the dessert from last night.
Were you familiar enough with Singapore cuisine to do the Sling?
I researched it before I went out there. I was experimenting with some stuff before I left. I think it was light, refreshing, and really embraced the culture of Singapore.
How about the dish you were least proud of?
The duck from the baby food challenge. Everything went wrong. The dish never got finished, the duck never rested, it looked like a pool of blood, it was disgusting. It was definitely a timing thing, it was over-thinking it, it was just a bad day, period.
Padma wasn’t too happy that you didn’t know how to use a wok.
She gave me a hard time about it, but I didn’t go there to cook in a wok. I went there to cook the food I cook with the ingredients from there. So my focus wasn’t on the wok. I don’t normally cook with a wok, I don’t have one at home, I don’t have one at work.
If you could go back, would you have practiced with a wok?
No. It didn’t make sense for me to do it, especially for a Quickfire. I don’t want to say I didn’t care, but that wasn’t my focus.
Which fellow contestant were you closest to?
Were you surprised to see him go when he did?
Yeah, I was surprised and sad and disappointed.
Anybody in the house that you had trouble getting along with?
I got along with everyone. There was a difference in cooking styles and talent, but that was it. At the end of the day, I respect everyone, and everyone did a good job.
Some of the other chefs didn’t love your temper.
I definitely have a temper. Anyone who’s worked with me will admit that. I think passionate people react in passionate ways. There’s a lot of emotion. I could stand there and act like nothing, but I care about what I do. I just reacted.
What about the allegedly stolen pea puree? Were you around to witness any of that?
I did not. I wasn’t in the area at the time.
What do you have going on now?
Nothing as of yet, but I’m trying to open my own restaurant, most likely in Philadelphia. That’s the biggest goal.
Are you still working at Rat’s?
I am. I’ll be there until September 26.
And did your wife have her baby yet?
She did. A boy. It’ll be three weeks on Saturday.
Photo: Joan Leong/Bravo