'Top Chef': An Interview

Branzino's Ashley Merriman on Being Horrified, Making Mistakes, the Rumors, the Other Chefs, and Why This Season Kicks Ass


This season is a lot better than last, thanks to the talent of Ashley and her competitors. Last year felt like a contest between burnt-out line cooks. May as well have brought back Ilan and his hack attempts at Andy Nasser's recipes.

The marriage-thing seemed to be Bravo's method of commenting-through-surrogate on the issue. Was ham-handed on their part, but Ashley made her point well (even through editing, which, is kinda remarkable actually). Still, the scenario for the bachelor/bachelorette thing was not really that interesting. Pool party, popped collars, poseurs. Ugh. The gender pairing of teams was a wtf moment. Really? There's enough competition inherent to the format without layering a lame boys v. girls, lunch recess, cooties vibe. Hopefully, the producers got it out of their system with this early show.

My wife and I are crossing our fingers that Ashley wins. I like articulate laid-back people who let talent speak. Good luck!
Despite the fact that women have been getting steadily axed so far, there seems to be a tremendous amount of female talent this season... Ashley & Jen in particular.

I also love the guy who looks like Yukon Cornelius.
I love Jen and can't stand Michael I., who actually stated she won the quickfire due to favoritism. He's so sexist. I don't buy Ashley's claim that it's the editing that makes him come across that way. I'm sure she's just trying to be nice.
I thought the type-casting has gone a bit too far. I half expected the producers to fabricate some footage of Ashley setting the American flag on fire or force her to wear combat boots and shave her head. Either way, it's too much and it is not really doing her justice.
selective editing or not, of course the show is going to use to most interesting/controversial footage. if you sit around all day talking about boring inane stuff, then have an interesting 5 minute conversation, how could you expect them to show just the boring stuff. no one thinks you were bitching about marriage the whole episode, but what you say is what they have to work with.
dont be naive. michael knows that one sure fire way of maintaining a presence in this (albeit brilliant and skill based) reality program is to frame himself as the villian. but his heart isnt in it. and you can tell. he's almost just reading a self-written script.
"i'm better cause i'm a man".
what are you-challenging Billie Jean King to a tennis match in the 70's?!?
I've worked with Michael I at Zaytinya (the Jose Andres-owned restaurant where Mike is the executive chef), and he's great! yes, that's his personality, he's loud and a flirt, but he's fun and a good person, and a damn good chef.
Just in case she's reading this, I just wanted to say that I've really enjoyed watching Ashley on this show. I love her down-to-earth manner and soft-spoken resoluteness. She comes across like a real person you would like to know in your real life.

Er..plus she's really cute. And hates Las Vegas. My kinda girl.
Pfffft. Okay. Merriman's positions at Tilth and Branzino might have won her props, but...

The King County health department's database shows a different story. I don't care if she's gay, straight, bi, or into manatees (like, REALLY into manatees), but it's fairly clear she doesn't keep her house in order. During the season I've seen her handling food in ways that are most definitively NOT the way I would want to eat food.

And the red critical violations at Tilth and Branzino that stopped showing up on the health inspection reports when Merriman no longer worked at those locations tell a much stronger story.

As for me, personally - when I ate at Tilth, the food was bland, overcooked, the sauces dumped on top to cover up overcooked and thickly sliced pieces of food. It may not have been the food, but serious gastrointestinal bugs showed up both times after I ate at Tilth. As a result, I have no intention of eating at Branzino or any of Merriman's other restaraunts.

Robin, on the other hand, never made a dish of food I didn't enjoy, and her food at Crave, while sometimes a little out there, made me happy every single time I put it in my mouth.

Merriman can continue to be a mullet-driven crusader for teh gay, but at the end of the day, whether she's gay or straight doesn't matter if you're hugging the porcelain throne after the dinner service is done.
As a side note, here's Merriman's record at Branzino from the King County Health Inspection reports.


Since the inspection reports are not available online from 2006, I'm sure someone could go in and do a request for those records from Tilth, but it's telling that the same issues of the kitchen remain while Merriman continues to work there, and that the same issues (while possibly universal in busy kitchens) continue to appear wherever Merriman goes.
She's a freakin' pussy. Having a cow about making food for customers who are having a wedding is merely being a crybaby. You're a chef. You cook for people who don't have like-minded political views all the freakin' time. Whiner. I could have out cooked her any day, and I'd challenge her any time.
I went back through and read about Merriman's hissy fit over catering a wedding. Oh, really, Merriman?

Not to mention you come from one of the most progressive states in the Union, your stance on whether or not you can actually get married has NOTHING to do with you professionally. If getting married to someone else is the only reason you are having an issue with the cooking (and not, say, that you completely suck ass in the kitchen), then you're running pretty low on things to blame for your suckitude.

Every single episode, Merriman sheepishly huddles in the back of the chefs. She's never up in front. She's never active on the teams she cooks for. She blames the ingredients for her failures, or the fact that, by the way, you should probably NOT fuck with a classic recipe when serving it to French chefs of the world.

Maybe it's because she's a classic Seattle hipster - awkward, nerdy, socially inept, prone to passive-aggressive blamegaming on anything from her sexuality to her gender, but Merriman needs to GTFO of the kitchen.

I think Ashley is absolutely amazing, cute as hell, and I'd love to date her and eat her wonderful cooking any time she wants to slap me around with a stick of butter. Just my worthless but honest 2 cents.
Went to dinner tonight, most amazing food and technique. Really inspired. Ashley really seems in person as real as on the show!!! Go Ash!!
holy hell.. I think I'm in-television-love with Ashley. if I ever crossed her path, I make no gaurentees to her or her lady that I wouldn't hit on her with every ounce of my charm.
I am bummed that Ashley got booted when she did... I was shocked! I also was looking forward to taking a day trip to Seattle to taste her food to find out she is on a new adventure... Good Luck to you Ashley!
I didn't like Ashley at first, but she kinda grew on me. I think she's probably an average cook, but she seems like a very nice person. She should have defended herself more when the things she got in trouble for were not her fault. And Ashley - please stop cutting your hair with manicure scissors while blind-folded.
Ashley is/was the best!!! I was so sad to see her leave :( She seemed true to herself and i believe that came across.
Ashley you are awesome!!!

Also i don't believe it was not ashley cutting her hair in that one episode but what's her name...robin.
Ashley you are amazing amazing amazing! the 1st time I saw you I know who my favorite chef on this season would be! you are extremely talented, adorable, and charming <3333 Don't give up your dreams. even tho you didnt win, I still love and adore you. Go girl! nothing can stop Ashley Merriman!
Go Ashley! you kick a**!
Even though she's gotten eliminated, you can still vote for her to be fan favorite. Go to http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/fan-favo… and vote for Ashley as many times as you can. 80 votes maximum per person. It's fast, simple, easy and safe. Its completely free! Please vote for Ashley !
video tribute to ashley! check it out