Chef Lisa FernandesA fourth season of Bravo’s hit reality show, Top Chef kicked off this week with a new batch of chef’testants hoping to win $100,000 in seed money to open a restaurant. Lisa Fernandes is one of three lesbians making the cut in Chicago and after the first episode; she’s still simmering with her sharp knives and saucy attitude. With all that dough up for grabs, it’s fitting to slip in ten money questions.

1. What are three things that stand out about the cost of living in Chicago vs. New York City?
One major thing I noticed was that gas is actually more expensive in Chicago than NYC. As for what everything else costs, I’m not really sure since I was busy with the show.

2. What is your most significant memory about money?
My most significant memory about money is when I needed a lot of it to buy a new car. I was working as a sous chef 5 days a week and as a line cook 4 days a week. I started my day at 7 AM and then went straight to the second job until after midnight. It was hard, but I made the money I needed and bought myself a brand new custom made MINI COOPER!!

3. What is your worst habit around finances?
I’m actually really good with my finances. I use an excel spreadsheet to budget all my money. I know it sounds like a lot to do but I’ve been using it for almost 10 years and it’s great.

4. I understand you quit your job at Public. What will you do if you don’t win this season?
Play the lotto maybe? Just kidding. I’m currently looking for a new job. I don’t want to settle. I want a restaurant that is very Asian driven where I can be creative, but I also don’t want to kill myself working 6 days a week, 16 hours a day.

5. Is culinary school worth the investment?
Culinary school is very expensive and my school was very strict with its policies. It’s all about how much you take out of it and how much you personally put into it. I know the price now is about three times more than when I went. That’s insane! You still need to get out in the field and work in kitchens. Culinary school only teaches you the basics.

6. I know a lot of restaurant workers who work long hours for low wages and struggle to make ends meet. Did you ever feel this way?
Chefs are very underpaid and overworked. Of course I’ve felt this way before. Everyone does.

7. What did your mother teach you about finances?
My mother taught me much more about cooking than finances. My father was more the one who told me to be smart with my money.

8. How can foodies strike a balance between good taste and frugal spending?
The two are mutually exclusive. You can go out and have an expensive meal but end up very unsatisfied with what you ate and even more upset that you spent all that money. Or you can have a relatively inexpensive meal and it will be amazing. You have to go out and look for the places that will meet both expectations of moderate prices and great food.

9. What role has money played in your relationships?
I’ve been around people who are terrible with money. It’s hard to watch. The most important thing is to never involve your friends when you need to borrow a large sum of money.

10. Does a sense of entitlement usually accompany fine dining?
Fine dining usually requires a lot of cash. All that entitles you to is less money in your bank account, but a full stomach!

More about Lisa Fernandes
Top Chef competitor Lisa Fernandes, a Canadian who worked and went to school in Florida then headed back North to New York City to concentrate on her passion, Asian Cuisine. Lisa is 27 with an A.A.S. in Culinary Arts and a B.S. in Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales University.

Being drawn to the flavors of Asian cuisine since a young age, Lisa moved to New York City where she decided food was her passion and career choice. At only 17, she attended Johnson & Wales University and received a B.S. in foodservice management. She moved to south Florida to diversify her cooking palette, absorbing the local flair of Latin food.

With Asian cuisine still in her heart, Lisa moved back to New York to get involved with more Asian restaurants, working at Asia de Cuba, Rain and then Public. Lisa says she always exercises Asian flair in her dishes and has taught herself as much as she can about the cuisine. Lisa hopes to open an Asian influenced restaurant in New York in the years to come.

Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.

Photo credit: Bravo