On “Top Chef: All-Stars,” Angelo Sosa broke free of the season 7 villain label and emerged as a compassionate and professional, if not a little kooky (never forget “crocadile”) chef. And now that he’s out of the game, who stands a chance at defeating Richard Blais?! Angelo called from his apartment in New York to discuss his surprising elimination and prove that he actually knows how to spell.
In the Stew Room you seemed confident you were going home. Were you really sure?
I’m trying to remember. It’s all sort of a cloud now. You know, I have the highest amount of respect for the judges’ panel. I know how difficult judging is. I’m not going to be the one to second guess them. I respect what they do for a living and I respect their opinion. It was an amazing dream for me and I’m just proud that I had the opportunity to experience it.
Do you feel like Mike Isabella owed you more input? Like, for instance, telling you that that soup was too salty?
Mike is an amazing chef and an amazing guy. He’s a great friend of mine. At the end of the day it’s my responsibility to taste my food, make sure it’s perfect, and make sure it meets my standards and the judges’ standards. Mikey had nothing to do with my dish.
Why did you decide to come back so soon after your season ended?
I actually remember the day and the time. It was literally four days after [I came home from season 7], and I got a call from one of the executive producers. She said, “We have good news and bad news.” She was like, “The good news is we want you cooking on ‘Top Chef: All-Stars,'” and literally as she was saying it the hairs on my arms were standing up straight. I was like, [hesitates] “Okay, what’s the bad news?” She said, “The bad news is they want you to start in two weeks.” And I was like, “Wow. That is bad.” I got all choked up and said, “I’m completely honored but I just need some time. I’m still sick, I still need to recoup. I’ll give you a call in a few days.” So I locked myself in my room for a few days and just relaxed. Obviously I came back. It was hands down the greatest experience of my life, just to cook at that level. If you’re open to learning and pushing yourself, you can learn from the other chefs, and I think that’s the biggest thing I learned from this show.
Do you think you had an advantage over some of the other chefs by still having your head in the game? Or were you at a disadvantage since you didn’t have any time to rest?
I think it’s a combination of both. Some chefs had more time to execute more dishes in between seasons. In season 7 I created almost 33 dishes. The key to success on the show is having a repertoire of dishes and understanding flavors.
The Target challenge felt like this season’s most grueling. Was it?
I think it was one of the coolest ones. I have my other favorites, like the U.S. Open challenge, and Montauk…but I think this was my favorite, regardless of going home. I thought it was awesome that they locked down the store and I was able to run around like a child. From an exhaustion viewpoint, you’re just seeing double of everything. You have to dig deep. I think that’s what’s so great about the show – you’re not only pushed by the other competitors, but you have to do some soul searching.
So you fed the employees at 3 AM. What time were you actually back in the Stew Room?
What time did I hear the trumpets, you mean? [Laughs] I know it was early in the morning, maybe 6 AM.
Take me behind the curtain for a second: Did the “Sesame Street” actors take their puppets off to eat the cookies, then went back around to judge in character?
What, you’re trying to tell me the puppets weren’t real? [Laughs] They found a way to eat the cookies.
Did you realize you misspelled crocodile [in the Isaac Mizrahi Quickfire]?
Yeah, that was an artistic viewpoint. The “A” stood for Angelo. I know how to spell crocodile. Thank God it wasn’t a spelling bee, though, right?
Did you get emotional watching your elimination?
I didn’t think I was going to be emotional, but I could definitely feel my heart pounding. That’s all I heard. What was emotional was kind of seeing my reaction. It’s very different when you’re in it versus when you observe it on TV. I think I was just moved by everyone writing on my Facebook and Twitter after. I never knew that many people supported my journey. I was so appreciative.
Looking back at the season as a whole, how do you feel about how you were portrayed and how you did?
It was an investment. If I were an investor, I’d have made my money back and more. It was the greatest experience of my life, hands down. It’s helped me with my successes today. It gives me a different perspective on how I view things. How I did? I think I pushed myself to my limits. I’m very daring at times. What was amazing for me in “All-Stars” is that I think people haven’t really understood me. I’m extremely professional. It was just great.
Last season you were the resident villain. We didn’t see any of that Angelo in “All-Stars.” Is that because you changed your behavior, or is that what you mean by saying people haven’t understood you?
First of all, being a villain is not in my DNA – it’s not in my existence. I’m not a saboteur. I’m somebody who cares about other people. I was solely put on this Earth to cook, and I want to cook with the greatest chefs in the world, and I did.
What’s going on with you now?
I’m opening a new place in March called Social Eatz. It’s on 52nd and 3rd. It’s American comfort food mingling with Asian flavors. It’s downright yummy, simple, and sexy.