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'Top Chef' Star Joe Sasto Says 'Immediate Action Is Needed' To Save The Restaurant Industry

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Joe Sasto
Smallz & Raskind/Bravo

After getting the boot from ‘Top Chef,’ Joe Sasto took to Instagram to share an important message about the restaurant industry

Fifteen of your favorite Top Chef competitors — along with host Padma Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio, and judge Gail Simmons — have triumphantly returned to the hit Bravo show’s 17th season(!) to compete for the title of, well, Top Chef. And based on the premiere, we’re in for quite the ride.

Tonight, familiar faces graced our TV screens for this all-star season, from Season 3’s Brian Malarkey and Season 16’s Eric Adjepong to Season 12’s Melissa King and Season 6’s Bryan Voltaggio. As avid Top Chef viewers might’ve figured out, of the 15 competitors, 10 were finalists and five were front-runners.

To appropriately kick off the premiere, the chefs competed in none other than the classic mise en place race quickfire challenge, during which they had to turn three artichokes, prepare five California oranges, and crack 20 California almonds. The five fastest chefs in each round formed a team, and they each cooked meals using those three ingredients.

The red team, comprised of Season 15’s Joe Sasto, King, Season 14’s Jamie Lynch, Season 6’s Kevin Gillespie, and Voltaggio, won; and those five chefs then created their own teams of three to create the ultimate — and cohesive — seafood feast.

In the end, the first chef asked by Lakshmi to pack their knives and go? Sasto.

Nicole Weingart/Bravo

Nicole Weingart/Bravo

Following Sasto’s exit from the show, he took to Instagram to share a very important message with his followers.

Sasto stressed that those in the hospitality industry, including chefs, need help right now and that immediate action must be taken in order to save the industry.

“My friends’ restaurants are closing or have closed, not knowing when or if they will be able to reopen. Some people no longer have businesses or jobs. People are losing everything. People have lost everything. My heart is broken. This is not a game; this is real,” he wrote.

“This time in our history is about humanity. This is about the entire world. This is a time to fight for someone that you do not know. To stand together in unity, to support one another. It is a time to come together. To be kind to one another. To hold each other from afar. To give all you can give to someone else in need. To inspire one another. To create together. To lead one another. So that we all may get through this, together. I want everyone to know that I am here, with you,” Sasto said.

Sasto also had a message specifically for fellow chefs: “If you are reading this and you are in the hospitality industry, know that your life, your path, your talent, your voice, and your career can never be measured by nor will ever be measured by one moment,” he told Scary Mommy in an exclusive interview. “Know that this time in history will never erase the amount of time you’ve dedicated to your craft, and everything you had sacrificed in the past for your love of cooking. If you are unable to do so right now, know that you will cook again for others. When you cook, you give someone a part of yourself. You will be able to share that with others — bring others joy, and happiness, and love — again.”

Take a look at the rest of our interview with Sasto below.

Scary Mommy: Were you surprised by your elimination?

Joe Sasto: I was a bit surprised. Considering what the judges had to say about the other two dishes, I do not think I deserved to be eliminated. I just may have described too much and made it sound like there was a lot going on, when, in fact, everything married beautifully and made for a perfect bite.

SM: How would you compare this season to your previous season on the show?

Sasto: The stakes are so much higher this time around. Everyone here is in the same position. We all were so close to winning, and we all know what it takes to do well and win in this competition. The first time taught me not to undervalue myself, to have confidence in what I was cooking, that I was as good or better than successful chefs with a list of restaurants and accolades. My voice matters, and I have a story to tell.

SM: Who did you consider your biggest competition this season?

Sasto: Everyone.

SM: What’s one thing that happened behind the scenes viewers didn’t get to see on the show?

Sasto: The amount of growing and learning that came from being on the show. It was like a culinary chef bootcamp. All of the questions the judges would ask and drill into you — “Why this? Why that? Are you sure?” — all really made you evaluate what was really important to you as a chef. How did you best want to represent your voice on one plate, when it was all stripped down, with only an hour on the clock: You had to make choices on what truly and wholeheartedly represented you.

All of the connections, the new friends and family I made. One of the benefits that no one ever talks about is now I am part of a family of all the previous chef-testants. Everyone is all so friendly and helpful, and a few I look to for life and business advice. We all have this unspoken bond after having gone through the craziness that is Top Chef.

SM: What was the biggest challenge for you this season?

Sasto: Not overthinking what I was doing. It is harder than you think to cook as you would under normal circumstances when you’re doing in front of a bunch of cameras with a clock ticking down.

SM: Overall, what was it like returning to Top Chef?

Sasto: It was too short. I wish I had more time to showcase my food, style, and creativity — my love of vegetables and my creative use of utilizing all of an ingredient in multiple ways; not having waste, all while making it beautiful and delicious.

One of my favorite things was being able to share my story and connect with strangers through it. Countless number of people reached out after each episode in which I shared a personal story about my mom or family. It made them feel stronger about their loss or struggle. I had no idea that I would be able to positively impact so many people’s lives.

SM: Would you do this a third time if you were invited back? Why or why not?

Sasto: Absolutely! I am a sucker for cooking competitions. Besides, I don’t think I should have been eliminated first.

SM: What’s next for you?

Sasto: Right now we are in an unprecedented crisis. COVID-19 has brought the hospitality industry to its knees, and without government intervention, the independent restaurant community as we once knew it will never be the same. I want everyone who is reading this to not take for granted your current situation and the severity of this crisis for those in the hospitality industry. Everyone is out of work, with no income for the foreseeable future.

Take a moment and imagine that for yourself. Now pick up the phone and call the capital switchboard (202-224-3121) and leave a message for your state representative. Ask how they are going to help independent business owners and hospitality workers; demand they be included in the federal stimulus package.

SM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Sasto: If you are reading this and you are in the hospitality industry, know that your life, your path, your talent, your voice, and your career can never be measured by nor will ever be measured by one moment. Know that this time in history will never erase the amount of time you’ve dedicated to your craft, and everything you had sacrificed in the past for your love of cooking. If you are unable to do so right now, know that you will cook again for others. When you cook, you give someone a part of yourself. You will be able to share that with others — bring others joy, and happiness, and love — again.

Top Chef airs Thursdays at 10/9c on Bravo.

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