MasterChef interview: Jeff Philbin reflects on top 6 finish, season at large

Jeff PhilbinThroughout this season of Fox’s MasterChefJeff Philbin was a major force in the kitchen. He battled hard in the challenges, clashed at times with the competitors, and then embraced his underdog status before eventually being one of two home cooks sent home in the first of two episodes airing on September 13. He had a heck of a run, and we knew that there would be a lot to discuss in an exit interview this week.

Note that this is actually the second interview we’ve conducted with Jeff this season. If you didn’t see his first piece about the fundraising efforts that he’s been making throughout the season, you can see that over at the link here.

CarterMatt – What’s it been like for you watching everything back this season?

Jeff Philbin – It has been an incredible journey for me and it is surreal to watch the show sometimes. I have watched every episode in its entirety except one; the infamous team challenge in Beverly Hills. I had a suspicion I would turn heel that night and maybe not enjoy the final viewing product. The best treat has been for my son Holden to watch it and for him to get all excited and scream “DADA” while pointing to me on TV. Those instances have solidified that it is real!

Has it been as much of a rollercoaster as your time on the show has?

Knowing that end for my run on MasterChef was coming to an end I grew introspective of the entire process coupled with the notion of realizing I had a lot of screen time; some high points and certainly some low points however what dawned on me in that contemplation was that I was the only allowed the honor of having an arc. I came in as a hero on the beach, grew to be the villain from the hotel, and then the viewer embraced my tenacity. I was not going to give up with so much on the line for my family and city so persistence made viewers appreciate the journey. Not to mention, that I believe as a viewer and from what I have read and heard from fans of the show they loved the fact that with all the daggers thrown at me and the bullying or naysayers; I just kept pushing through it!

When the judges called out Yachecia’s name first to go home, did you think that you were going to be safe?

No. The dish was garbage considering it was an audible after consultation with Gordon to not cook my original dish. I was working on a salmon eggroll that with all of the ingredients combined would have worked within the time allotted but as an entrée like the one I presented; I was stuck with what I chose from the pantry.

Ultimately, why do you think the other home cooks targeted you so much late in the game?

You try having a son just born and not be able to see him, hold him, or be with him. I did it for over 2 months and that becomes taxing at times as real-life impacts reality life. I believe they saw an opportunity to come at me because of vulnerability for what real life was … is it sportsmanship, no. The Art of War, yes. And, The Art of War is one of favorite books so I understand it. I also believe given the team challenge history they thought that would automatically do me in but they failed to forget; team challenges don’t make MasterChef. Sure, they give you the chance to not be in an elimination challenge but you win because you keep moving no matter what and you survive by realizing you are only as good as your last dish so prove your worth now when it’s just you fighting for your place in the pursuit of the title. It’s pure strategy!

Did that make you feel more like an underdog?

Absolutely it did, because they believed the team challenges represent the show. It doesn’t. Moving forward represents the show. It is what cuts the competition out one by one. I never focused solely on the team challenges; naturally anyone wants to win but at the end of the day it is a battle of you and your dish and there can only be one left standing! I feel that some of the bullying and antagonism probably for some was something they believed would rattle my cages as a tactic in battle however you tune them out and focus in on the task at hand… for an underdog to take it almost to the last week of the season [based on how the episodes aired] I’d say I am pretty fine!

You and Dino were at odds much of the season, but when you guys actually teamed up for a challenge earlier this season you did really well! What’s the relationship between you guys now?

We were a very close group when we were done filming an episode. We were always hanging out together as a unit by the pool or the fire pit at the hotel. One night we had a really heart to heart conversation where he and I turned a new
page, gave our apologies, and moved past it. In fact, I have spoken to him the most on the phone since we finished filming. He knows I have his back as much as I know he has mine and I truly miss him!

How special was it having your family there in the kitchen?

Absolutely incredible! I hadn’t seen my son in over 2 months and in that moment to hold my son and to share a kiss from my fiancé was incredible! It was a wonderful journey capped by a beautiful sendoff to know they were always a part of the journey being steadfast in the determination that I attempted to win for them and, to be quite honest, having them in my life…I’m already the winner!

What are you hoping to do with food now that your time on the show is over?

Hoping to me is aspirational, doing is more proactive. I am excited to be doing a lot with my future post MasterChef as I have some media engagements lined up across all marketing vehicles which is fun. I will be judging several events that should be announced soon, one with a very prominent media figure! I am finalizing details for a lecture series to talk about perseverance and the threat of bullying to school-age kids coupled with a more business and adult friendly conversation for other audiences. I am also going to be a key note feature and presenter at this year’s Florida Restaurant & Lodging Expo which is a real treat to be in the company of other Florida industry folk.

Beyond that, I would like to get in restaurant consulting as I have nearly 15 years industry experience with operations and management with a list of services that can be found on my website 

Furthermore, I am putting together some menus for some local restaurants as I am a celebrity chef for one of the most anticipated new restaurant openings which I have a final menu tasting later today (at the time of sharing this response) in addition to a series of pop up restaurant dinner events with a diverse mix of philanthropic and customer friendly offerings. I am also engaging in talks about product ideas as a spokesperson for a great packaged food concept I believe in that has scalability and fantastic growth plan as well as collecting my thoughts and recipes for a book that would be a passion project for me, an outline is currently being developed which has been an eye-opening process! But probably the greatest thing to come is being a part of Leadership Tampa Bay Class of 2018 where I have a strong aspiration to take on a larger civic and potentially political role shaping our future and community. Leadership Tampa Bay is a comprehensive leadership program designed to better prepare a diverse group of community, government, business and nonprofit leaders to work collaboratively in addressing regional issues. The program is designed for C-Level executive to provide a unique learning experience for emerging and existing leaders through an intensive nine-month program that trains, empowers and supports leaders so they can affect positive community change in the region. I am humbled to be in the company of such leaders within their respective and am excited to contribute to the growth plan of Tampa Bay as I eventually take a larger role politically to champion our community for even greater days to come! I am busy but am excited and humbled for what is to come!

Want more MasterChef interviews?

Then be sure to click here! After all, this is where you’re going to have a chance to check out our complete interview with Yachecia and many other home cooks throughout the season. (Photo: Fox.)

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