Tag Archives: top chef


Seeing Tom, Gail and Giada at the Metro Cooking and Entertaining Show

I learned something at the recent Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show: Tom Colicchio’s and Gail Simmons’s fans are into “Top Chef”; Giada De Laurentiis’s fans are a cross between Kathy Bates in “Misery” and Oprah’s audience.

First though, the show itself. Held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, it featured exhibitors selling specialty foods, cooking demonstrations, celebrity chef appearances and samples to be had, provided you had the patience to systematically walk the exhibit floor.

My friend Liz and I had patience, making two walks, once when we first arrived, and once again near the end of the day. Much more success the second time around. The crowd had thinned some, and there seemed to be many more samples available.

We especially liked the mixes from Stone House Mixes.

And the soft pretzels from Hempzels. Yes, they’re hemp pretzels. Quite popular in Colorado, I hear.

The line for chorizo samples was long, as you’d expect. Finally made it the second time around.

This man was demonstrating a bowl that was also a built-in grater.

Most of all though, we were excited for the celebrity chef demonstrations. First up were Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons.

Cute pair those two, making dishes like seared rabbit and whipping up a couple of cocktails. At one point Giada crashed the stage and came up to cook with them.

Tom and Gail took numerous questions from the audience, most of which focused on “Top Chef”: What were your favorite dishes, what it’s like being a judge… the usual stuff you’d expect. Interesting for all us fans.

An hour later, Giada did her thing. There she is in front of what looks like a raging inferno.

She’s tiny in person, I mean really small. Extremely perky like on TV. A bit more comfortable on stage than Tom and Gail, as if she does this sort of thing all the time.

The most amusing part of her demo was the audience questions.  Liz and I just looked at each other and laughed.  Some audience members were gooingly fawning (I’m your biggest fan!).  Others bordered on creepy, like the girl who asked if she could come onstage for a hug, or the adoring and hormonal thirteen-year-old boy who may have been kick-started into puberty just from seeing Giada in person.

(Note to the boy’s mom: check under his mattress for food magazines with Giada on the cover.)

The best though was the woman who concluded her fawning by asking Giada the secret to a happy marriage. Who did she think she was talking to, Dr. Phil?

Giada was nice about it and spoke about spouses being supportive of one another.  Meanwhile, she brought a few people up on stage to help cook a shrimp bruschetta and lamb dish. Smelled and looked good.

Fun time at the show — check it out when it comes back again next year. Who knows, you might get some solid relationship advice!

Food Thought Potpourri

Because some food thoughts are too long to tweet…

* My sister gave me several bottles of Zico coconut water to take home with me the last time I visited. Tastes good, is all-natural, and each bottle contains 569mg potassium, 160mg sodium, and 13g carbohydrate. Pretty great stuff if you do any kind of endurance sports.

* Looking to expand your culinary horizons?  Check out Westchester Community College’s Continuing Education Taste of Westchester cooking demonstrations. Each class is held at a different Westchester restaurant and led by the restaurant’s chef. Click down to page 46 of the brochure.

* CIA Director Leon Panetta came off ten times less wax museum-ish than Nancy Pelosi on last night’s Top Chef, but I couldn’t help thinking how bizarre his day must have been:

9am: Meet with top CIA staff to discuss Iran’s nuclear capability.
10am: Brief President on counterintelligence efforts in Afghanistan.
11am: Serve as tasting judge for Alex’s nasty veal parmesan.

* Speaking of Alex, has Chris Hansen of Dateline NBC ever strolled into his kitchen? Cause it wouldn’t surprise me.  Dude is uber-creepy.

* You know you’re too into food when you hear “CIA” and immediately think, Culinary Institute of America.

* I hard boil an egg exactly the same way every time, so how come sometimes the shell peels right off, and other times it sticks?

* I like how chefs have turned the word “confit” into a verb, as in, “I confit’d it.”

* Who funded this beer goggle study, the National Academy of Fraternity Sciences?

* Anthony Bourdain crushes the dreams of every aspiring culinary student, riiight at about page 50 of his new book, Medium Raw.

* Two recipes I’ve liked recently:

Peas and Broccoli Rabe Risotto

Panzanella (Bread and Tomato Salad)

* It’s been such a hot summer that I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have almond jello and cut-up melons in the refrigerator.

* If you’re buying almond extract, don’t buy the McCormick brand. Buy generic at Stop & Shop or ShopRite — it’s half the price.

* After spending quite a bit of time in professional kitchens these past few weeks, I’ve made a few observations: 1) The chefs are fastidiously clean (they’re constantly wiping down their cutting surface), 2) The way they dice vegetables into such small, uniform pieces always impresses me, and 3) A proper mise en place can make all the difference in the timing and efficiency of cooking.

* Grimaldi’s, Grimaldi’s… with all that pizza you’re selling, how do you manage to be $44,000 behind in rent?  And what does paying rent on time “for the most part” mean?

* The new indie film Soul Kitchen starts playing at Jacob Burns Film Center on Sept. 3rd. The description says it’s “a delicious, free spirited story of food, friends, and rock & roll.”  Sounds intriguing.

Quick Thoughts on the Top Chef Masters Premiere


Good start to season 2 — glad to have TC back.

Whew, they’re returning to the regular 10pm time slot next week. I’m no senior citizen, but 11pm was a little late.

Sorry to see Cambridge, MA’s own Ana Sortun go, but she acquitted herself well. One Bostonian left.

Clamato — tomato juice with clam juice?  And people drink this as a beverage??

I’m shocked, gas station ingredients and not one person grabbed a bag of pork rinds.

The chefs would have felt much better about acquiring ingredients from a gas station if the gas station was the Citgo in Bridgeport, CT.

Jamie Oliver just announced that he’s protesting Top Chef for serving Slim Jims and Cheetos.

Please, someone buy Kelly Choi a hamburger.

There’s an alarming lack of neck tattoos on these chefs.  TC Masters sure isn’t like TC.

First date jitters… stomach fluttering… lamb carpaccio would not be my dish of choice.

Did anyone think that James Oseland in his red sweater and black tie bore an eerie resemblance to Mister Rogers?

Cleaning out the Food Clutter

Great episode of Top Chef tonight, so I’m gonna kick off this collection of food thoughts with TC talk. (Spoilers ahead.)

1) How cool was Eric Ripert?  He’s one of the most celebrated chefs in the country and he came across as down-to-earth, warm and supportive — more a good teacher than famed chef.  Who knows if that’s what he’s really like, but I was impressed.  Not so impressed with Leah though; how is she still on the show??  She “gave up” and they didn’t boot her?   She’s the youngest of the remaining chefs and it’s showing.

2) I finally made the Jamaican rice and peas recipe I posted a while back, and it’s a keeper.  Not a quick recipe — there’s a lot of inactive cooking time — but worth it.

Paired up with jerk chicken and it was almost like visiting Golden Krust.

3) If anyone owns the Slap Chop, please email me and tell me if it works.  That guy Vince kills me. First the Slap Chop and now the ShamWow?  He’s on fire!  Where did he come from? And why is he wearing a headset?


4) The Foreman Grill — still useful after all these years.  Been grilling up Boca Italian meatless sausages with peppers and onions recently — not like having the real thing outside Fenway Park, but surprisingly satisfying.  The Foreman also grills a mean turkey reuben, or any sandwich for that matter.  Who needs a fancy panini maker or sandwich press when you’ve got the FG? Plus it knocks out the fat.

5) Has anyone eaten at Il Sogno, the restaurant that replaced Pacifico in Port Chester?   I was sad to see Pacifico go — horrid parking situation, but I always had good meals there.  At least Sonora and Palomino are still around (have yet to try Palomino, but it’s on the list).

6) If a “World’s Slowest Eater” competition existed, I’d be an elite competitor.  At Memphis Mae’s everyone at the table finished eating about 15 minutes before me.  In college it was a running joke — other people would be getting up for seconds, and I’d barely be halfway through firsts.  I could never figure out if I was interminably slow, or they were absurdly fast.  The fact that this still happens today makes the answer crystal clear: I’m interminably slow.

7) Swing by Stew Leonard’s Wine of Yonkers this Saturday to meet Danny DeVito and sample his very own Limoncello. Details here.

I Finally Watched Top Chef

My mom’s a huge fan of Top Chef.   Sometimes in her emails she’ll tell me about the latest episode. When I talk to her she’ll ask me if I’ve been watching, and my response is always the same: “I don’t watch Top Chef.”

There’s a reason why I stayed away; I had a preconceived notion about the show: that it’d be a cross between The Apprentice (hated it) and The Restaurant (hated it, although it was vaguely compelling, like watching a car crash).  I was also convinced the contestants would be a bunch of no-talent petty backstabbers just looking to become the next celebrity chef.  Not appealing.

When I come home tired and cranky after a long day, I want to see Lidia Bastianich taste her gnocchi, or marvel at Jacques Pepin’s knife skills, or watch Claudia Bassols do, well, anything.  I look to food for relaxation, enjoyment and escapism (I remember reading somewhere that after 9/11, ratings for Food Network went up because that was one of the few channels where people could turn to and not be reminded of the tragedy).  

If I want to see nasty people doing nasty things to each other, I can go to work; that’s why I loathed The Apprentice, and that’s what I thought Top Chef would be like. But after my mom and cousin mentioned the show over Thanksgiving, I decided to give it a chance.

You know what?  I liked it.

Here were a group of talented, established chefs looking to win a cutthroat cooking competition, only they actually seemed to get along and genuinely support one another.  That was a surprise. One guy made a comment about wanting to be a celebrity chef like Bobby Flay, but everyone else seemed dead serious about their craft. The group as a whole were likable. And it was fun watching them scramble to cook their dishes under intense pressure and time constraints (Creme brulee in one hour?  Bad idea).

In this episode ironically enough, Rocco Dispirito showed up as a guest judge.  He was still full of himself, but toned down from The Restaurant days.

(Side note: Two years ago at a triathlon, my bike was racked only a few feet from Rocco’s.  I wanted to ask him how much of The Restaurant was staged, or if the cast were truly as big assholes as the show made them out to be, but it didn’t seem like the right time.)

I enjoyed the blatant product placement on Top Chef, like how they’d cut away from a shot and the camera would move to a logo for “Calphalon”, or when one chef won a challenge and Rocco gave away the prize — “A copy of my new book, Rocco Gets Real.”  Gee, thanks.

What’s with the “immunity”?  That’s basically a direct rip-off of Survivor.  Might as well end the show with a tribal council and surround the chefs with Jeff Probst and tikki torches.

My favorite part is the ludicrous tagline when a chef gets booted: “Please pack your knives and go,” which has to be the single goofiest variation of “You’re fired” out there — it’s time to come up with a better way to kick someone off a show.  

I think I’ll watch next week’s episode to see what happens. That Italian dude Fabio has to cook for a group of women at a bridal shower or something, and it looks interesting.  I don’t know if I’m hooked yet, but this Top Chef isn’t so bad.

What about you — are you a Top Chef fan?