Jenna Johansen talks frankly about her boot from Around the World in 80 Plates
"Annoying" is the last word I'd use to describe you, but your fellow contestants repeated that trait over and over again to characterize your personality. So, come clean: Are you annoying? No, I don't think so. I'm passionate and definitely have a strong personality -- that's not up for debate -- and when you're in a competition and there's adrenaline pumping 24 hours a day, I'm sure there are going to be some annoying moments, but I'm fun, and I don't think "annoying" describes my personality. Had it been a different setting -- had we been a bunch of chefs just running around, or just a group of friends -- I think I would have been perceived differently. I can safely say, however, that my friends don't think I'm annoying.
How do you feel about how you were portrayed on the show? There were certainly characteristics of mine that were portrayed in a negative light, and I'll admit that I talk a lot and have a lot of opinions, but I talk to people face-to-face, not behind their backs. I prefer to be upfront and honest, and while that can appear as though I'm pushy and bossy, I'd much rather be that person than someone who's catty. It's a positive to me that I can speak my mind, so I was surprised at a lot of the things that people said behind my back. In some ways, it became like Desperate Housewives drama, and that's not what I was interested in.
What's the feedback been like from people here in Denver? Really supportive, lovely and phenomenal. I'm so grateful for the this community -- they know that how I was portrayed on TV isn't the real me.
There are always haters -- the people who are glad to see you gone. What would you say to them? It's really easy to sit in an armchair and judge someone based on 42 minutes of a TV show, and while I appreciate their opinions, I respectfully disagree. I know I'm definitely not the fan favorite, and that's okay with me. The people who matter support me.
Where did you enjoy traveling the most, and where do you want to go next? I loved going to Barcelona, which had been on my bucket list for a long time, and while I really loved the food in Morocco, the people weren't very nice to us at all -- they tried to grab and trip us, and there were a lot of racist comments; it just wasn't a very friendly culture, and I wouldn't go back there again. Thailand was really lovely -- but hot! My fiance, Mark DeNittis, and I are planning a vacation to Italy. He has a lot of family in Mattinata on the Gargano Coast, and the kids really want to go there.
You've been all over the world, and obviously love to travel, but you've made Denver your home. From a culinary point of view, what do you love most about it? I love the food scene here, and I'm so thankful that I've made this my home. I love that so many chefs have their own farms and that it's the culture here, rather than a buzzword. We have phenomenal chefs and restaurants, cheesemakers, farmers, gardeners, beekeepers and people who are so very passionate about the food scene. We're not up and coming -- we're already here -- and just continuing to grow.
You're a chef, and you've cooked in tons of restaurants, but this show doesn't focus on cooking as much as it does on physical, taxing challenges. Was that disappointing to you -- that you weren't able to cook more? We did do a lot of cooking -- we cooked some spectacular food -- probably as much as they do on Top Chef, but I'm disappointed that there wasn't more focus on cooking in terms of what you saw on TV. There was too much of a focus on the drama and on running around, and that's a shame, because everyone on the show was an accomplished chef who could cook. I went on the show to cook and to travel, and we all cooked our hearts out; you just didn't get to see it.