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Los Banos native reflects on 'Top Chef' stint

Los Banos High School graduate Ryan Scott now knows at least one thing you should never serve to Bears.

Poached pears with crème fraîche and huckleberry sauce.

The dessert was part of the menu that got the Scott booted from the fourth season of "Top Chef" last week during a challenge where the contestants cooked tailgate food for Bears fans. He was the sixth of 16 "Top Chef: Chicago" chefs on the hit Bravo reality series to pack his knives and go.

The 28-year-old chef's "California tailgate" food -- including the poached pear dessert -- was dubbed inappropriate tailgating food by the show's judges.

But Scott, who is back in San Francisco, said he has no regrets about going on the show or what he cooked. His multi-course dish included marinated chicken thighs on a bed of bread salad, spiked cocoa and the infamous poached pears.

"The judges chose my California tailgate because it was not indicative of what Chicago fans wanted," he said on the phone the day after his elimination episode aired. "But I don't know; I never tailgate. Someone invite me to a tailgate in Modesto and I'll cook what I cooked and they can decide."

Bears fans voted Scott's dish in the bottom three and the judges said his food didn't fit the occasion. Head judge Tom Colicchio called his dessert one that he "in a million years would never think to see at a tailgate party."

But Scott -- who is not a big sports fan and called himself a self-avowed "metrosexual" on the show -- shrugs off the disappointment.

"I couldn't be more proud to go home when I went home," he said. "I was surrounded by just immense talent. To go home when I did, when I know people who are 100 times better than me are still there, is great. It was such an honor, and quite humbling. I went on national TV, the number five reality show in the nation and the number one food-related show in America. It's been nothing but a great experience."

The pace, however, was grueling. He said each 45-minute show is the equivalent of some 20-hours of nonstop taping.

Scott said the challenges were intense.

"I've never worked that hard in my life," he said. "I've never sweat so much in my life. The humidity factor in Chicago was insane. You walk in and they say, 'Today's challenge is this,' and then you're off. You're thinking all the time."

And that, he said, is one of the things that makes the show great. It centers on the chefs' skills and not petty interpersonal drama like some other reality shows.

"There were no alliances; this isn't 'Survivor.' You brought your A-game and were working seven days a week," he said. "There was some socializing involved, but we all kept it professional. We all have careers and lives to lead. We all went on (the show) to make our careers go further, not bring us back a step."

Scott said the Quickfires -- one requiring pairing a dish with beer and another creating a dish using five ingredients -- were among his favorites.

Watching each episode was a surprise for Scott. While he was there for the taping, he was not privy to most of the judges' comments or fellow contestants' responses. Scott watched the series with friends each week and said he was pleased with how it was edited and how he came across.

"I think if you can't get that I have a good time and I smile and laugh a lot from that show, then they did a terrible job,' he laughed. "I made friends for life. I am an easy-going guy."

But there was one incident, in the first episode, he could have done without. Scott's dish, chicken piccata with gnocchi, landed him in the bottom three. While the judges were making their decision, Rocco DiSpirito made a crack about Scott being as dense as his gnocchi.

"I didn't like it, but it's Rocco, what are you going to do?" he said

But instead of lingering on the past, Scott is looking to the future.

Scott quit his job as chef and manager of Myth Café in San Francisco just as the "Top Chef" season started off last month. His goal is to parlay his exposure from the show into personal endeavors, including his own restaurant.

Already, he has launched his consulting/catering business Ryan Scott To Go. He is looking at restaurant locations in San Francisco, but is open to sites across the state and possibly beyond. The eatery will be casual American with his signature "California flair."

So what will be on the menu?

"Straight tailgate food and chicken piccata, that's it," he joked.

Scott said if he has time in between starting his restaurant, he will catch some of the remaining episodes to cheer the remaining competitors. He picked Richard Blais, Stephanie Izard and Antonia Lofaso as the chefs to watch and is also cheering on his fellow San Franciscan Jennifer Biesty.

Scott said people recognize him in the grocery store and at the gas station now. His MySpace page has added hundreds of friends since the season started.

He has used some of that new-found fame to raise money for area charities. On Friday, the public can bid on a dinner cooked by Scott at the annual Modesto Christian School Golf Tournament & Auction.

"I am amazed and blown away by what we can do and help charities," he said. "I've really had a blast. This is definitely not the last you'll see of me. I know people always say that. But I was successful before and this gives me an extra step. It was a life-altering experience."

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