Bravo’s Top Chef loves travel as much as IgoUgo—tonight’s premiere kicks off a Chicago season—but there’s one big difference between the two: according to Season 3 finalist Casey Thompson, stiff competition among chefs precludes community. Thompson, last season’s fan favorite and the executive chef at Shinsei in Dallas, answers this and other questions for IgoUgo.
IgoUgo: This season, Top Chef relocates to Chicago. Why Chicago—what will the Windy City bring to the table that's unique to that town?
Casey Thompson: Chicago is a great food town. Fresh markets and a concentration of people of all different cultures make Chicago an ideal place for a cooking competition.
IgoUgo: Top Chef: Competition or Community?
Casey Thompson: Competition.
IgoUgo: Do you have a favorite moment—or a favorite dish—from the show?
Casey Thompson: Right before the final judges’ table, Dale, Hung, and I nearly could not go out there because of a hysterical, oxygen-deprivation-induced laughing fit. And my favorite dish had to be the Smurf village that Hung created. I have nothing else to say about that.
IgoUgo: What's the toughest challenge you've seen or participated in?
Casey Thompson: The trout challenge was a bit tricky; the fish was semi-slimy, we were bent over a stump with one skillet, and there was a huge spider in my vegetable basket—20 minutes, yeah...
IgoUgo: If you could bring one specialty ingredient or tool to use in any challenge throughout the competition, what would you bring?
Casey Thompson: Yuzu juice.
IgoUgo: What do you consider your signature dish and why?
Casey Thompson: Tempura scallops with yuzu lemonade. It is absolutely delicious, simple and clean.
IgoUgo: What food do you crave regularly?
Casey Thompson: Cheeseburgers and Mexican food.
IgoUgo: What food product would you cross an ocean to buy right now, if you could?
Casey Thompson: Truffles.
IgoUgo: If you could visit one destination with unlimited resources (whether it's money, transportation, or connections) for eating, where would you go?
Casey Thompson: Thailand and Vietnam.
IgoUgo: What's the worst meal you've ever had on a trip?
Casey Thompson: It was in Santa Fe—the ABSOLUTELY hottest enchiladas I have EVER eaten. And I am from Texas. They were inedible, and we were starving!
Photo courtesy of Bravo TV