Top Chef's Stefan Richter: Chef Chat pt. 2

Categories: Interview
Thumbnail image for Stefan_Richter_JSummers500.jpg
Joy Summers
Stefan Richter posing with what he noted was an albino pigeon in Loring Park

Yesterday we brought you the first half of our discussion with Top Chef star Stefan Richter. We talked wood-fired jacuzzis and party pants (catch up here.) Today we hear more about his experience with Bravo's star-making reality show, the Catch 22 of chefdom, and whether he and bromantic partner Fabio Viviani will live happily ever after.

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The Hot Dish: How did the Top Chef opportunity come to you?
Stefan Richter: Season 5? My friends were always saying to me, eh, "Top Chef! You should do that." I was with my friend Jennifer. She's from Wisconsin. We went to the season 5 open casting call. I was the ninth in line and all the other guys ahead of me were guys that I had fired.

They called us in in batches of three and they all talked about this asshole Stefan. By the time I got there they were like, "Who is this asshole?" [He grins.]

The Hot Dish: Do you think when they had you back for Season 10 that they were looking for you to fulfill the asshole role?
Stefan Richter: I was the same. I didn't change at all, but the editing was different. Top Chef was great. Very hard, but it was really, really worth it. Without Top Chef I wouldn't have had my restaurant in Santa Monica. If I didn't have Santa Monica, I wouldn't have the delis. If it wasn't for that I wouldn't have my restaurants in Finland and I wouldn't have had the chance to work with Sea Cuisine® and get to travel and come to Minnesota.

The Hot Dish: It all comes full circle! When did the moment come where you made the transition from "chef" to "personality"?
Stefan Richter: People don't go to a restaurant for great food. Think of it. If you have two restaurants, both have great food, but one has a chef with personality who comes out of the kitchen and says hello. Where do you go? A chef has to be able to talk about the food -- tell a story.

You have to have a lot of energy. If they had ADD/OCD when I was growing up, I'd be that kid. You have to be able to jump from one table to the next. I don't mind telling the same story again and again.

There is also a lot of party pants. You know, a lot of drinking and drugs; things like that. I don't go out Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. I don't drink a drop those days. Nothing.

The Hot Dish: Are there any questions that you're tired of answering?
Stefan Richter: I never get tired of answering questions. I don't mind the questions. It is a Catch 22, though. If you're in the kitchen cooking, then you're an asshole for not coming out to say hello. If you're not in the kitchen and they get a burned steak or the food is not right, then it's your fault for not being in the kitchen.

At this moment, our interview is interrupted by a fan. Richter stops everything to talk with her and get a picture of her energetic labrador retriever. He offers to take a picture with her. She thanks him for making her day and leaves.

The Hot Dish: Is the celebrity thing ever weird?
Stefan Richter: It opens a lot of doors -- a lot of doors. Fuck. I was on fucking Entourage. I was in a movie with Sylvester Stallone. You know, there are a lot of celebrities in my building. I remember Pierce Brosnan came in and he was like, "Stefan! Can I get a picture with you?" What? You're Pierce Brosnan. Crazy.

It's different here. Everyone is so friendly. Last night, I wanted to go to a Twins game, but I was too late, but I got my own pedicab guy! His name was Tim O. Super nice guy. He took me everywhere.

You have to sign up for things you believe in. You can sell your soul. Then you're not credible anymore. I won't sell my soul for that. You have to pick the product. That's why I'm doing this with Sea Cuisine®.

The Hot Dish: What's next for you? What is the endgame?
Stefan Richter: [long pause] Take a break. I need a break. I need a cabin -- maybe in Minnesota. Something cool.

The Hot Dish: The fish would fear you.
Stefan Richter: The fish would fear me! Start a family... maybe. Maybe? Maybe not married. Do the things I want to do. I love to cook. Maybe help open a restaurant. I could come to Minnesota and open a restaurant and then go to Michigan and open a restaurant. The daily run is rough sometimes. I have a beautiful home in Santa Monica and I haven't seen my housekeeper in a month! Living out of a suitcase. That's the thing about this life. I like having a place to call home. I can see one day where I walk away. 

The Hot Dish: Before we go, fans of Top Chef will want to know about your great bromance of the ages from Team Europe. Do you and Fabio ever get to ride off into the sunset together?
Stefan Richter: We have ridden off into some sunsets once in awhile! 
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