Top Chef Hosea on Leah Kiss: "We Shouldn't Have"

Spoiler alert: The chef opens about the finale and his infamous smooch. Did it cause him and his girlfriend to break up?

By Marc Malkin Feb 26, 2009 6:33 PMTags
Top Chef, HoseaBravo Photo: Michael Lavine

Hosea certainly wasn't the favorite to win this season's Top Chef. If Internet and critics' chatter is the true barometer, we should have been congratulating Stefan or Fabio last night.

But it was Hosea who was crowned the winner, beating out runner-ups Stefan and Carla during the final elimination round in New Orleans.

I caught up with Hosea this morning from his home in Boulder, Colo., where he's executive chef at Jax Fish House.

We talked Stefan's big ego, what he hated about being on the Bravo show and, of course, his and Leah's infamous kiss.

What are you going to do with the $100,000?
I’ve got a few plans. I’m working on getting a restaurant opened. I’m also involved in a company now that does prepared foods, and they’ve got a line that’s in Whole Foods. They’re going to be expanding, so I’m going to be working with them now. I’m also going to be taking a little time off. I need to spend some time with my family. Having a chunk of change definitely helps when you need a little free time.

Have you quit your job at the restaurant?
No, but I’m kinda in and out and eventually something might have to change, because as the executive chef in a restaurant, if you’re only there two days a week you’re not really running your kitchen anymore. So things may change. But for the moment I’m still there. I’m still the chef at Jax.

Is Stefan as egotistical and self-confident as he appeared on the show?
Well, he is as self-confident as he appears on the show. And he has the right to be. He’s an amazing chef. He won the majority of the challenges, and he proved himself to be top seed out of the group. He’s a Northern European chef with a big attitude and a lot of skills. I have a lot of respect for the guy. We don’t work with the same attitude, but I will not deny that his food is amazing and that he is a very skilled chef.

Toward the end, he was really going after you. He got sort of vicious about it.
What people don’t see are all the times we’re getting along, and when we’re in the apartment together we’re totally joking around. To me it’s just a healthy competition. It’s like if you’re playing one-on-one basketball with a friend of yours, you’re talking smack and you’re knocking each other over. But it’s not hurtful, and what Stefan and I had, we don’t dislike each other. We have a mutual respect. If he didn’t consider me a threat, he wouldn’t have said anything about me, and vice versa.

How happy were you to hand him the alligator?
It was funny. We all got a good laugh out of that. But I threw him a curveball, and he knocked it out of the park. And I’m not surprised at all. All three of us did great with that first course, so it didn’t actually give me any advantage at all, but it just was more funny than anything else.

How hard was it being sequestered for so long? I've talked to other cheftestants about that—about how that really drove them crazy. If you had to go to the bathroom, you had to ask to go to the bathroom. And you couldn't do this, you couldn't do that. What did that feel like?
It was ridiculous. People asked me if I would do it again. I was like, “You know, you don’t see the restrictions that we have, and the fact that we can’t leave and we can’t use the phone without permission. We can’t go to the bathroom without permission. I mean that was ridiculous. Sleeping in a bunk bed! There’s so many things about it that I hated, and it was really tough, because in life, when you’re going through stress, you can call your friends or your family, and you can sit down with somebody and get advice.

We have to talk about the kiss. So are you and Leah still friends? Are you still with your girlfriend?
As soon as I got back from New York I told my girlfriend what happened, and she was pretty damn upset, but we kind of worked through it. But at that point our relationship was damaged, and over time things didn’t really work out. It wasn’t really because of Leah; it was just our relationship didn’t work out. Umm, in response to Leah, I consider her a friend. I think we’ll be friends for a long time. We care about each other; we like each other. We had a real connection in New York, and obviously we crossed a line that we shouldn’t have crossed. But that doesn’t change the fact that we like each other and we have a connection, and I think I’ll be friends with Leah for the rest of my life.