The Reality of Top Chef

I love reality TV.

This includes talent competitions such as So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, Project Runway, and Work of Art  (so fun to see people create really awful art and then use pretentious words to make it sound like they created a masterpiece).  This summer I started watching Big Brother because an Orthodox Jew was in the house and I had to see how that played out.  Unfortunately he was voted out fairly early, and more unfortunately I was already hooked on the show.

Cooking competitions are a perfect blend of reality TV and food. There has been an explosion of these shows so I have had to narrow it down to a select few.  I like Top Chef best because it creates celebrities who often become accessible as chefs in local restaurants.

To date, I have experienced the food cooked by five Cheftestants.  Here’s the lowdown:

Harold Dieterle

Harold Dieterle, winner Season 1, owner and chef, Perilla, NYC.  Dined here in 2007 and have no idea what I ate.  I remember that I liked it.  I remember seeing Harold running through the dining room.  I remember that the dessert menu was strange.  It’s definitely a worthwhile destination.


Hung Huynh

Hung Huynh, winner  Season 3, previously chef at Solo, NYC.  I am not sure how Hung ended up cooking at a Kosher restaurant after winning Season 3, but somehow he did.  Eating here was a unique opportunity for my daughter, a Top Chef fan who keeps Kosher.  The meal we had here was one of my favorite meals anywhere.  It was two years ago but I can tell you that I had Asian-spiced short ribs.  Fantastic.  We told the waiter that we were big fans of Hung (actually didn’t like him that much on the show,as he was portrayed as the villain) and he came out to say hello.  He was genuinely nice and surprisingly humble as I raved about his food.  My daughter was only slightly embarrassed as I rattled on.  Just went to the website for this restaurant and surprisingly the current chef is Eli Kirshstein from Top Chef Season 6.  What’s with this restaurant and Top Chef?  Need to get back there pronto!


Carla Hall

Carla Hall, Top Chef Season 5, owner and chef, Alchemy Caterers, Silver Spring, MD.  Carla was serving small bites of food at Taste of Wheaton last year.  The bite was really too small to make an impression but I wasn’t wowed.  Just signed up for a cooking class from Carla so I will have another opportunity.  Hootie hoo!

Spike Mendolsohn

Spike Mendolsohn, Season 4, owner and chef, Good Stuff Eatery and We the People, DC.  I finally got to Good Stuff Eatery in DC a couple of weeks ago.  I found the food ok.  The burgers were tasty but we had to send the fries back because they were lukewarm and soggy.  Once we got a new batch they were better.  I was disappointed in the toasted marshmallow shake- it didn’t have that much flavor.  (If you’re in Cleveland try the same flavor shake at Iron Chef Michael Symon’s B-Spot- it is way better).  It was fun to see Spike working at the grill.  He looks younger than he does on television.  I plan to eventually try his new We the Pizza next door.  Why?  Because he was on Top Chef!

Bryan Voltaggio

Bryan Voltaggio, runner up Season 6, owner and chef, Volt, Frederick, MD.  I ate at Volt before Bryan appeared on Top Chef.  The restaurant was highly rated at the time and I recall an extremely satisfying meal.  Stay tuned as we are headed there for brunch on Sunday.

I am so disappointed that Top Chef 7 was filmed in DC and I had no opportunities to see it live.  I enjoy watching the season because of the familiar venues, but the contestants are pretty lackluster.  However, I’m sure if I have an opportunity to eat food prepared by any of this season’s group, I won’t turn it down.

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