Hi guys. I'm a mom and lover of food. Looking forward to answering your questions today. Victoria's helping me out via phone. AMA!

https://twitter.com/reddit_AMA/status/555108581042040832

Update: Thank you for asking me questions and supporting all the stuff i have going on, and tonight is the premier of RESTAURANT STARTUP on CNBC at 10 PM! Check it out. It's with Joe Bastianich and Tim Love.

Comments: 142 • Responses: 39  • Date: 

tjordan52226 karma

What is something about Cutthroat Kitchen that we would find surprising or might not know from watching it?

AntoniaLofaso49 karma

That all the food that i eat on it actually tastes really good. People assume that it's really, really disgusting - I can't believe you eat those things! but 95% of the time the food's really good. Except for the time I ate a 100 year old egg.

tjordan52218 karma

Thanks for responding! When you're judging, do you often find yourself wondering about what sabotages the chefs had to endure? Like, if you're eating a dish with a strange ingredient, do you think to yourself, "I bet that was a sabotage?" Or do you try not to think about that to keep things fair?

AntoniaLofaso23 karma

The funny thing is on CUTTHROAT, people end up sabotaging themselves with their own doing versus what other people are doing.

Very rarely - I can count on one hand - how many times i really end up sending somebody home based on another contestant purely sabotaging them. I remember one time when one guy had to do all the prepping and the other guy had to do all the cooking. And i sent one of the guys home, because the collard greens didn't have the center piece removed, the fibrous stem. But to be totally fair, the guy that prepped the vegetables - he could have said "hey you need to remove this." He let the guy improperly cut the vegetable. And I sent him home for it. So it wasn't so much that sabotage, it was that he didn't go back and make him do it again.

Unremoved21 karma

Do you have a certain crappy comfort food that you love? I just have to imagine that with cooking on TV, and professionally, and as a mom, that at some point you just have to go, "You know what? I'm making microwave corndogs tonight."

AntoniaLofaso42 karma

Stouffer's french bread pizza. It is my favorite thing. When I'm in the supermarket, I always have to fight the urge to buy it. And the whole last month I was pregnant with my daughter, I lived on it and Chips Ahoy cookies.

Unremoved18 karma

Thanks for the response! That's honestly refreshing to hear. My wife and I watch so many cooking shows, and stuff just keeps getting more and more over the top and extravagant that it's nice to hear that you still enjoy some of the basics.

Also, Stouffer's french bread pizza in the toaster is the bomb.

AntoniaLofaso6 karma

Hahaha! Good.

bhalp120 karma

What do you think the best cooking TV show ever produced was?

AntoniaLofaso34 karma

Not really being biased but TOP CHEF. Only because I've done so many in general - TOP CHEF is the most true to life, real-time cooking competition that I've ever been on. Just "give me a challenge, set the clock, turn the cameras on, and watch it happen."

beernerd9 karma

Sounds like you've become accustomed to working under pressure. Were you always like that or was working in a kitchen a contributing factor?

AntoniaLofaso14 karma

You know, to be honest, I don't know if one came before the other. I don't thinK I realized how well I worked under pressure until TOP CHEF. I did get very worried when I first started cooking because i wasn't very good at it. But learning to work as a line cook didn't come very easily or naturally to me. It took a lot of hard work, and there was a lot of pressure. Initially, I thought I wasn't able to handle the pressure because i had people yelling at me, and very very fast pace environment - I didn't know if i was actually going to be able to do it. So that kind of speed, and being able to take the pressure, came later in my career.

courtiebabe42020 karma

[deleted]

AntoniaLofaso27 karma

What they don't usually get to see a lot of is our interaction in the house - waking up in the morning together and having breakfast, cooking eggs for one another, making dinner and sitting around and having fun - it almost becomes like a little dysfunctional family living together. It's actually - to be honest - the hardest thing for me and all of us, being in that house, and being pulled out your normal day to day. Imagine 6 weeks in your life of no TV, no magazines, no cell phone - you're totally and completely away from your regular life and you can only deal with the people on the show. NO BOOKS! When we were alone in the house - we spent a lot of time together. Whether it was card games or board games or cooking for one another...

ASIMOVSAGAN17 karma

What is a dish that as a chef you must know how to prepare well but that you personally can't stand?

AntoniaLofaso25 karma

Foie Grois. Since the day I started cooking. So many people love it, it's so extravagant, so expensive... and it's a very very hard piece of protein to cook because it's essentially all fat & shows a great amount of technique to cook as a chef, and the entire basis of cooking is derived from French technique but i can't stand it.

AAEburns13 karma

Food trends, current and past. My questions are 1) which trend are you glad to see go/tired of seeing and the opposite spectrum 2) which do you wish to come back/want to promote?

AntoniaLofaso20 karma

I really love the trend of straightforward cooking - straightforward, cook from your heart, rustic restaurants that LA is doing. I hate the use of liquid nitrogen and all that kind of stuff.

Redburnmik13 karma

Would you reccomend a culinary career to others, what are the downsides? How easy is it for someone without prior experience but loves to cook to get into a kitchen in some fashion? Is culinary school important?

AntoniaLofaso27 karma

I find that this business, you have to love it in order to do it, because it's very difficult.

Long hours - it's strenuous on the body, physically - and it's demanding of your time, and your body, and your spirit, and your everything. It's not a mindless job that you go to. You have to go in day after day and give everything. I find it very hard to balance being a mom and giving so much of myself to my industry. I don't think that culinary school is really important, to be honest. I feel like cooking is a trade. It's something that can be learned in the field from an excellent teacher / mentor. I thoroughly enjoyed my school, but i feel like culinary schools these days are taking a lot of money from people and not really giving them opportunities in the business and the real life of what this looks like.

If you come out with an $80K debt, you go into the kitchen making minimum wage. You don't come out of school making $75K a year. I made $7.50 for probably the first 3 years of my life, with my head down and my mouth shut... and it's a very hard place to survive in and the only way that you excel and the way that you move up is by devoting yourself non-stop to a chef that will teach you and have you really learn the business on the inside.

My advice is: If you love it and can't live without it, then do it. But it's harder work than anything I've ever seen. It's insane.

partycash4 karma

Along these same lines, do you think it would be difficult for a chef to break into the culinary scene in Los Angeles? You have a great set up where you are, but for someone new - without connections - what would be the first step in finding a good kitchen gig?

AntoniaLofaso13 karma

To be honest, when I came to Los Angeles, I had no connections. So it's not like an impossibility. I wasn't born into a hierarchy of the restaurant business. It wasn't like my mom or dad were a famous chef. What I did - I tell everybody this - go and work for somebody that has built the career that you want. And my very first job and my very first kitchen was Wolfgang Puck. So you go and work in the kitchen for the chef you want to model your career after.

TLeezy1313 karma

What is the one tip you would give a home cook that would immediately elevate their food?

AntoniaLofaso24 karma

It's all about the base of your ingredients that you're using. I always tell home cooks when you start with a base of really nice ingredients - really nice finishing salt, olive oil - keeping your cooking simple, just having fresh herbs is one of the best, under-used ways to elevate ALL your dishes. You're making spaghetti & meatballs? Tear fresh basil over the top. You're making sautéed shrimp? Try putting fresh cilantro on the top. You're making a fresh steak? Put fresh tarragon and parsley on the top. It takes it to a whole nother level.

BrennanDobak13 karma

When you are judging on Cutthroat Kitchen, do you generally have an idea when a chef has an ingredient switched out as a sabotage? For example, if it's a grilled cheese challenge and a contestant serves you a "rustic take on a grilled cheese with a waffle as bread" do you think to yourself "man they really got screwed"

AntoniaLofaso19 karma

You know what? To be honest, I don't think about sabotages at all. I just completely and totally on the flavor of the food. Exactly at the beginning when they say "Taste, presentation & does it remind me of what they were asked to do" - that is what I judge based on. I bite into it with a totally open mind. Because I've been so surprised SO many times, and I bite into it and I'm thinking I don't know what the hell you did, but excellent job!

gimpisgawd12 karma

What would you consider your signature dish?

AntoniaLofaso17 karma

I don't really think I have a signature dish because i mix so many different things depending on what restaurant i'm doing. But what's closest to my heart is italian cuisine in general. Beautiful braised beef, pickled vegetables & olives, that's kind of my favorite way to eat...

partycash12 karma

Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow Top Chef contestants?

AntoniaLofaso18 karma

Yes, in fact, all of them. In fact, Carla Hall and Tiffany Derry and I keep in touch and make a point to see each other when we visit each other's cities. And Mike Isabella, whenever I'm in DC or he's in LA... Dale Calde... Richard... all of them!

partycash7 karma

Awesome! Thanks for the response. Glad to hear you're still in touch with your "cousin" ;)

AntoniaLofaso6 karma

Yes :)

beernerd9 karma

What do you cook for yourself when you're not trying to keep up with your busy schedule?

AntoniaLofaso27 karma

Hahaha! It ranges... my favorite thing to eat after I've had the longest day cooking the most extravagant things is a bowl of cereal. Every chef movie you see, you'll see us eating cereal! Every movie makes a joke about chef cabinets with tons of cereal boxes. Or my Sunday night dinners of extravagant pasta - of spaghetti with olive oil, pecorino cheese, and black pepper, lots & lots of black pepper... crispy italian bread with olive oil & garlic... and that's it. When I'm at home, it's super-super simple.

beernerd10 karma

So you're saying my obsession with black pepper is natural? Because I love that stuff. I usually refrain from using it in nice restaurants because I don't want to offend the chef...

AntoniaLofaso24 karma

I feel like there's always a use for black pepper? And believe it or not, the French usually enjoy a good amount of black pepper - I was trained in more of a professional french kitchen. I always feel like there's a good use for it. Not to detriment in overseasoning, but I'm not offended when people want to add black pepper. I am more offended when people add salt, because that implies I didn't do proper seasoning. Pepper is more preference, salt is more the lack of seasoning properly / chef didn't do their job.

FriendlyCraig7 karma

What's harder to make well, noodles or bread? Also, what knives do you have at home? I agine they're a better set than the ones at the shop.

AntoniaLofaso9 karma

You know, I do. I get very specific about my knives, and I usually use - you can get these at Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, is Shun. Those are my favorite knives, and they are a japanese knife.

I'm going to go with bread. Bread is much, much trickier. I've also been making noodles my whole life, so it's a lot easier. And bread takes longer - there's the rising, and if you're like me and want instant gratification, you go with noodles.

SoltanPill7 karma

Are you a fan of Kristen Wiig?

AntoniaLofaso11 karma

OMG I love her yes.

HoboChique7 karma

Hello, could you please tell a little about how you and Mike Isabella found out about being related and if / how it has affected your relationship? Or if it did during Top Chef?

Cheers and thank you.

AntoniaLofaso16 karma

It actually happened during TOP CHEF ALL STARS and it happened the way it played out on television. We were given the history of our families in a docket, and as we were going through our histories in the docket, it wasn't even so clearly written out - it wasn't "Hey, Antonia, you're related to Mike" - what it said was that the name of Mike and my name kept crossing paths under the Antonacci family. So basically, I had to really digest the info - "What does that mean, that we're related?" Between Mike's and Antonia's docket, that name was coming up in both our histories. And with further research, they realized that it was a cousin that married that connected both of our families.

AntoniaLofaso23 karma

The crazy thing is I usually pride myself on being very put together, and Mike really rubbed me the wrong way. And then when I realized he reminded me of my family members - I grew up in Long Island, NY, and my brothers and my father were very machismo Italian men - and I realized that was why he was annoying to me!

oswald_the_mini7 karma

Do you ever just say "screw it" and pop a tv dinner in the microwave?

AntoniaLofaso22 karma

No. TV dinner is where i draw the line. I met my very best friend through a TV dinner. She invited me over and heated me up a HUNGRY MAN dinner and from that day forward I taught her how to cook! In my household my mom made dinner every night - I thought everyone did the same thing, because all the Italian families, that was how we ate. I'm not against pre-prepared meals - I like the stuff Trader Joes does - but I have an issue with microwavable brownie and salsbury steak. I do say "screw it" sometimes and make a bag of pre-made Penne from Trader Joes. But never the Salsbury Steak from HUNGRY MAN.

SoltanPill6 karma

What would you do if your kids decided to become vegetarian? I am 30, went vegetarian about 3 years ago and my family still don't get it. I don't even miss the taste of meat, the only thing i miss is the convenience of cooking a meat dish (you have to be a bit more imaginative) and having to deal with way more limited menus.

AntoniaLofaso17 karma

You know what? Here's the thing. Your family's always going to have an opinion on anything you do. The only thing I would be concerned with for vegetatarians is avoiding processed foods. I was vegan and I Loved it for 6 months. My only concern is that a lot of vegetarians like to use fake bacon, fake turkey - there's a lot of fillers, chemically produced products. Whether you're vegan or vegetarian, just make sure you're following the approach of eating clean and natural legumes and vegetables. And if it's a healthier lifestyle that you follow - the best way to lead is by example. People will always try to change you but when they start to see the health benefits that a lot of vegan & vegetarian lifestyles have, you'll be surprised that your family members might follow in your footsteps.

thesneak1556 karma

I have enjoyed watching you for year! Thanks for taking time to do this AMA! I've got a few...

What is your favorite simple healthy meal to make?

What is one piece of kitchen equipment (other than a knife and pans) that you can't live without?

What is it like being on CTK? Are some of the sabotages pretty evident?

AntoniaLofaso5 karma

One of my favorite go-tos (this is in my cookbook) is my Shrimp Lo-Mein that i do with bok choy, shrimp, noodles, bell peppers and cilantro... it's easy because you can regulate the sodium on it. I love to basically use my favorite asian sauce very sparingly because the shrimp and vegetables have their own natural flavors, and then using scallions and cilantro to add flavor as well. It's a one pot wonder as well - protein, starch and vegetable all in one.

My microplane!

Some of them I can kinda-maybe guess? But very rarely am I right. And to be honest, it's one of my favorite shows that I do. I think they're so diabolical I don't know how they come up with that stuff. And I'm always surprised by what the chefs can overcome and create.

littlebirddown6 karma

What is your favorite dessert?

AntoniaLofaso10 karma

Hmmm. Honestly? one of my favorite desserts is an affogato. I love really good vanilla ice cream or gelato with hot espresso poured over the top. And then I just eat it with a spoon.

Saiga_14 karma

What's your favorite food to make?

AntoniaLofaso12 karma

My favorite food to make would definitely be... I love cooking proteins, like a beautiful steak, or a perfectly seasoned rack of lamb... I'm really big on roasting large pieces of meat. I love braising brisket, keeping it very simple with really good french sea salt and herbs.

wevans594 karma

When did you start cooking? Also, what dish you've made is your favourite?

AntoniaLofaso10 karma

I started cooking when I was about 7 years old. And the first thing I got excited about making was a Jell-O mold. I went to a neighbor's house, and saw a Jell-O mold, and was like What is that? and started cooking them every night. And then started dabbling in cooking for real.

thenickb4 karma

I live 5 minutes from your restaurant and I've never heard of it. My girlfriend is a vegan. Should we come?

AntoniaLofaso5 karma

Which restaurant? Scopa or Black Market? Both are vegan friendly.

CokeTastesGood394 karma

Favourite junk food?

AntoniaLofaso6 karma

Kit Kats.

CokeTastesGood392 karma

Nothing is wrong with KitKats. Bites or big ones?

AntoniaLofaso6 karma

Hahaha! I actually had green tea ones for the first time not too long ago. Those were outstanding. But I like the regular ones.

SoltanPill3 karma

Did you like Ireland? What part were you in?

AntoniaLofaso7 karma

I was in Dublin. And I did, I actually really did enjoy it. I was in Dublin for about 2 weeks, right after New Year's. Loved their use of root vegetables - parsnips, parsnips, potatoes - that whole kind of thing of meat & potatoes, but it's really about meat and root vegetables, and I thought their use of root vegetables was outstanding.

metagloria3 karma

For all the cooking-based television I watch, I'm still a complete novice in the kitchen. Can you help me finish a spice rub for seafood? I know I want ginger and paprika involved, but I don't know what else would go well with that. (Plus if I cook it for my wife and tell her Chef Antonia Lofaso personally helped with the recipe, she'll flip out!)

AntoniaLofaso5 karma

Hahah! That's so cute.

Hmm. A spice rub on fish is hard. Can I ask what fish you're using?

Mutt12233 karma

What is your favorite ice cream?

AntoniaLofaso13 karma

I am a very natural chocolate / vanilla / strawberry girl depending on the day. Every once in a while I'll eat Rocky Road but only when i'm in a drugstore shopping for Shampoo. Rite-Aid thrifty ice cream!

GetFiredup2 karma

Have you ever tried something on Cutthroat and decided to recreate it because you enjoyed it so much?

AntoniaLofaso2 karma

Heheehehe! NO!

senorpapagiorgio1 karma

Where have you traveled for culinary inspiration?

AntoniaLofaso5 karma

I've been to...

Outside of the US, Ireland, England, Italy, Paris. And inside the US, New York, Chicago, Atlanta...Idaho (to be honest, I loved it), Vermont, Louisiana & New Orleans... Texas... Kentucky... Tennessee (those are my favorites, actually, those 3, Kansas City, oh my god, some of the best BBQ ever!)

ziplockered1 karma

[deleted]

AntoniaLofaso1 karma

It's very classic. I personally don't really ever use it? But I do think it's a great healthy alternative, because you're basically able to steam with a lot of beautiful aromatics. But I don't use it all that often. But it's very very classic.

Ucala-Guk-14 karma

[removed]

AntoniaLofaso4 karma

I've never met Gordon Ramsay, no.

Ucala-Guk-8 karma

Do you want to?

AntoniaLofaso3 karma

I look forward to meeting anybody in the culinary world.