RC: Tell us a little bit about your cooking background.
Clay: I actually started cooking when I was 18 before going into college. I start cooking at an italian deli & eventually at City Grocery, which is fine dining restaurant in Mississippi. I worked my way up the ladder & eventually became a sous chef at University Club in Santa Barbara.
RC: There are a lot of cooking shows out there. What drew you to Top Chef?
Clay: I had seen the previous seasons & thought, "I can do that!" I tried out at the open call in L.A. & kept getting called back for interviews. I liked the situations the chefs were put in & the spontaneity of the show. There was such intense competition & I really liked the caliber of the contestants & judges.
RC: How did you feel you stacked up against your competition?
Clay: I feel I stacked up just fine & I still stack up. I think I stack up 100%.
RC: In the surf & turf challenge, you chose wild boar & scorpion fish to work with. What was your initial reaction to those ingredients?
Clay: I wasn't sweatin' the wild boar, I had worked with it before. I hadn't worked with scorpion fish but I've worked with enough fish & it was fine.
RC: Howie doesn't get his full dish plated & Dale chooses ingredients he's never tasted. Were you surprised you were the one to go home?
Clay: In all honesty, yeah. Yeah, I was. I was floored. I read the rules & that's all I'm gonna say.
RC: Did you feel the judges were too hard on you?
Clay: That's their job to be judgemental - they're judges! I know it sounds childish but ... sticks & stones, you know? They're just words.
RC: You didn't get to stay very long but did you have the time to establish relationships?
Clay: Yeah, very much so. It was amazing how well I got along with everyone.
RC: What chefs impress you? Who should we keep our eye on this season?
Clay: Hung seems to be the one to keep his eye on. My boy Brian seems to be bringin' it too even though he was in the bottom 4 last week.
RC: What have you been doing since you got home?
Clay: I've been right back to work. It's our busy time now, starting right when I got off the show. I have some business endeavors back home. I'm going to be headed there after Christmas.
RC: What's the reaction been like from your family & friends since you've been on the show?
Clay: Nothin' but full support ... and outrage! Let's just say Howie shouldn't go to Mississippi anytime soon! I like the guy but ... he shouldn't go to Mississippi.
A new episode of Top Chef airs tonight on Bravo at 10pm EST