Chris Jones (second from left) and Richie Farina (third from right) (Virginia Sherwood/Bravo )
Demi and Ashton. Kim and Kris. Celebrity breakups are hard, but nothing was harder to watch on last week's episode of "Top Chef: Texas" than the separation of Chris Jones and Richie Farina, the two fun-loving chefs from Homaro Cantu's wacky fine-dining restaurant Moto who cracked "Star Wars" references, sported short-sleeve work shirts instead of chef's whites and hoped to take first and second place in the show.
They goof around like brothers, but have an obvious mutual respect and fierce loyalty for each other. Sous chef Farina calls chef de cuisine Jones his mentor, while Jones says he's just lucky to work with Farina. After a cook-all-night-and-then-cook-some-more challenge, Farina was sent home in a tearful goodbye that seemed too soon to both of them.
"He's going to go so much farther than any other chef who's been on the show," Jones said. "Voltaggio brothers, Richard Blais, whoever you want to say that's ever been on 'Top Chef,' Richie's going to surpass the whole of them."
We talked to both chefs by phone about their quirky hair accessories, handshakes named after kiddie cereals and why, no matter how many times it is pitched in a meeting, you won't see a dish resembling lines of cocaine at Moto.
Richie, my heart broke when you were sent home last week. The judges looked pained to send you home and it certainly was an emotional farewell. What was that like?
Richie Farina: For me, it was kind of a culmination of, in my mind, just failure. I hold this show on a high pedestal, so just being asked to be on it was awesome … having a chance to be on it with Chris obviously added to the excitement, and then not being able to go forth and show everyone how actually badass you are, kind of really affected me. ... The thing that’s really helped is the amount of positive support has been unbelievable, throughout Facebook and Twitter, people coming into the restaurant. My fear, as I said in my exit interview [in episode 4] was being seen as the hack of the show, and just having all the positive reinforcement and positive energy from everyone has been very helpful and really awesome with everything.
Chris Jones: Well, when I first heard that they were actually going to be cooking after the chili cookoff, I thought it was just a big pile of s---, pardon my French. After having us work the hours that they had us work … I don’t care how good of a chef you are, going into that kind of situation’s tough for anybody. My heart went out to all of them that had to do it, especially for Richie. He’s by far the best chef I’ve ever worked with.
Richie, what did you make of the Last Chance Kitchen webisode?
RF: When I got the letter, I really thought it was just to be a sous chef for somebody. Then to be thrown back into the competition and to have a chance to get back in ... it’s kind of a redemption thing. It's good to get a second chance, but to be double eliminated kind of sucks. So you’re actually a loser-loser.
Surely there were moments the two of you had that didn’t make it on to the show so far. Anything you wish had?
CJ: I know at one point … during the chili cookoff and it was like 3 o’clock [in the morning], we’ve got another cook [at Moto], D’Andre, and we do a handshake called the Captain Crunch. It’s basically three slaps on the hand and a salute. And we promised him that if we got on the show, we would do that for him. We tried … but they didn’t actually show it.
Richie, we heard you mention your “salty palate” more than once. Do you think you lucked out having a coworker there that would be honest with you?
RF: It was definitely nice to have Chris there to double-check, but I’ve been able to develop my palate over the years and it’s still … a process I have to work on. I tried toning down my seasoning a little bit for the show ... after the first comments. And I think also the fact that I just brought it up maybe put it in their mind that I tend to be salty, where[as] if I didn’t say anything at all, they wouldn’t have saw it. I do like to push seasoning, but I don’t think I oversalt food.
CJ: And I’ve tasted tons of Richie’s food and over these last years, his palate’s amazing. He can pinpoint spices off the food if you asked him to. He just pushes the envelope of what food should be.