Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Video du Jour - Kitchen Tour with Tony Mantuano

TC News & Information 3.31.2010

Philadelphia's Vetri Foundation is having another Great Chefs Event to support Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research. Appearing will be Top Chef's own Tom Colicchio and season 6 finalist Jennifer Carroll, along with Top Chef Masters season 1 competitors John Besh, Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson, Michael Schlow, and Jonathan Waxman. Click here for more information.

Win private cooking lessons with Bryan Voltaggio for you and 11 of your friends by bidding on them at the 12th Annual Cactoctin Affair, April 9th.

Chef Bryan participated in a special luncheon at DC's Eastern Market to celebrate National Peanut Month. Read about it here at Serious Eats; see a pic of Bryan and his helpers here.

Padma Lakshmi unveiled her newest jewelry collection at Bergdorf Goodman last week.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Top Chef Masters, Season 2

theminx: Recently All Top Chef received a copy of the screener for the upcoming season of Top Chef Masters from the lovely PR people at Bravo. Even though it hasn't been all that long since Top Chef 6 ended, I've been champing at the bit for more Top Cheffery to appear on my TV screen. While Masters doesn't have the same drama as a bunch of chefs living together, it's still a high-stress situation for the chefs involved.

Last season, four chefs competed against each other for a single slot in the final round. This season there's a wee change - six chefs are competing in each round, with two of them heading to the finals. (As I've only seen the first episode, I don't know how the finals are structured.) With more chefs competing, the excitement was ramped up a bit, and I must say I really enjoyed it. Also, with more chefs in the mix, there's the possibility for stuff like team challenges, and that's all I'm sayin'.

Laura K: One thing that I really like about the second season is that the familiar faces are back. James is erudite and adorable, Gael is wearing her hat and Jay is wearing a scowl. All is right with the world. It took me a while to warm up to Kelly Choi in the first season. (I mean how could anyone so thin be taken seriously as a genuine "foodie?") She has grown on me though and I am glad to see her again. Because I am accustomed to these judges, I am able to focus more on the chefs - and there are plenty of them!

Another thing that makes the Masters so enjoyable, is the mutual respect that most of the competitors have for one another. It seems like they are all friends, or perhaps members of the same fraternity. Sure, there is a spirit of competition, but it all seems so... polite.

Watching presentations from six different charities was a little bit tiresome, but I suppose this is part of the experience and I can accept it.

The first episode was fast-paced and very entertaining.

Top Chef Masters season 2 starts April 7th. Will you be watching?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cooking with Top Chef 3.25.10

This week, Jenn Murphy of Sweet Water tries out a recipe from Top Chef Masters season 1 winner Rick Bayless and one from TCM1 finalist Michael Chiarello. Thanks again, Jenn, for sharing your kitchen experiences with us.

I just had to try this soup by Rick Bayless.

I actually didn't realize he was so famous for it until, um, 30 seconds ago when I did a quick google seach with his name and the soup. I just wanted to give a Mexican recipe a try.

Mexican flavours are not ones I indulge in much. I think I've been a bit jaded by my general perception that Mexican food has been franchised out and reduced to chihuahuas yapping about tacos and quesadillas.

On one of the few occasions that SeaBass decided to take me on a romantic dinner date (this was at the beginning of our relationship. The attempts at romance have only gone downhill from here) he made a reservation and would only tell me that he was taking me out for a wonderful meal of "real" Mexican food at this restaurant he had heard about. As we drove closer to our destination I started to get a bad feeling about just where he had "heard about" said restaurant.

Woman's intuition is a powerful thing.

We were headed for "Mexicali Rosa's". He had heard about it on the radio. In one of their incessantly repeated commercials.

We were headed for the typical Mexican fair of tortilla chips and salsa and crappy margaritas. I was trying very hard to be pleasant.

The funny thing was that SeaBass totally didn't recall being inundated with commercials with this place. He was sure that someone he knew had given him a hot tip on a great place.

Their ad agency better have been well paid.

SeaBass also did not recall, until he saw the sign for the restaurant, that we had just eaten at another one of their franchises a couple of weeks before with some of his rowdy friends.

Yep, his romantic destination was filled with families with screaming children, drunken boys and bad food.

I think that's the night he gave up control in our relationship.

Hmm...maybe some good did come out of it.

I have for some time now been wanting to give Mexican fare another chance though. Especially since my brother just returned from a trip during which he got to experience a bit of the real Mexico. No Acapulcan resort food on this journey.

Now he keeps walking around mumbling about "tortas" every time he gets within hearing distance of me. Can anyone help me with this?

Back to Bayless and his Sopa Azteca. It was damn good. I loved all the layering of flavours involved. The tomato base was very nice on its own but building on the soup with the condiments and garnishes to suit your own taste was my favourite part.
(Full disclosure: This pic is from Bayless' website. I was having an off day when I made the soup and hated all the pics I ended up with. I had a bit of a temper tantrum and deleted them all. I am a huge whining baby. Thank you for understanding.)

Sopa Azteca
(adapted from Rick Bayless recipe on
Serves 6

*1 large dried pasilla chile stemmed and seeded
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 med white onion sliced
3 garlic cloves peeled
2 quarts chicken broth
**1 large epazote sprig
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cubed into 1/2 inch
1 large ripe avocado pitted and flesh scopped out
1 1/2 cups Mexican melting cheese
approx 4 cups broken tortilla chips
1/2 cup mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraiche
1 large lime cut into wedges

*no pasilla chiles in my neck of the woods. I used a scotch bonnet and dried red chili.
** I substituted some dried oregano and savoury

Quickly toast the chili over an open flame (or in a dry pan over medium heat on both sides) for just a few seconds. Break chili into pieces and put in blender with tomato and juices. Heat oil in large saucepan over med. high. Add onion and garlic. Saute until golden. Remove onion and garlic with slotted spoon (leave behind as much oil as possible.) Put onion and garlic in blender with tomato and chili. Blend until smooth.
Return pan to med high heat. When pan is hot add tomato puree and stir constantly until reduced to tomato paste consistency (approx 6 mins.) Add chicken broth and epazote (or herbs.) Reduce heat to med low and simmer 15 mins. Season with salt. Approx 5 mins before serving add chicken to simmering broth. Divide acocado, cheese and tortilla chips up soup bowls. When chicken is cooked (5 mins) ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with cream.

Here's how my brain functions (or malfunctions - I leave that for you to decide) if I don't like what I perceive to be the personality of a given singer/actor/chef/general celebrity type I cannot, in turn, enjoy any of their work.

Take Bono of U2 for instance. He seems like a pompous ass to me. That's exactly how I describe him any time the topic arises. Luckily for me it seems to arise often and I get to shout out "pompous ass" and get all kerfuffled about my obviously very valid judgment of his pomposity.

Another good example: Alanis Morrissette.

I don't care that she's Canadian, I really don't. I care that her songs back in the day were ridiculous and stupid and therefore she is obviously a fool. Don't get me started on the now infamous "Ironic" lyrics. Complete idiocy.

And so I couldn't even stand to be in the room when one of her songs was played. Back in the 90s I was so well known for harbouring these strongly held opinions about people I totally have no personal knowledge of that my friends once took it upon themselves to trap me in a room and force me to endure Morrissette and her Ironic philosophizing.

It was pure torture. I still have nightmares.

The point is that this character trait of mine informs a lot of what I do and don't do in my life. I'm a little rash, I jump headlong into things.

I love as easily as I hate though. In fact, I don't like much. I love, I hate, there's not much in between for me.

Also, not really about the nightmares by the way, I'm not that pathetic.

So what does this have to do with Top Chef? Well it has a lot to do with Chef Michael Chiarello from Top Chef Masters.

The guy was a bit of an ass on the show. Sometimes more than a bit. He seemed to be dealing with some serious insecurity and self confidence issues. He was totally intimidated by Chef Keller and in every championship round made some mention of a personal competition between himself and Keller that Keller seemed to be totally unaware of.

When former Top Chef contestants arrived to act as sous chefs in one round, they all immediately felt the overcompensating ego of Chiarello as the "master" made them run ridiculous errands in the kitchen to prove their prospective worth to him. Those who were chosen to be on his team he treated like lesser beings and not the seasoned chefs they all certainly are.

Oh yeah, and he was also totally put off by the idea that former Top Chef winners would have a hand in deciding the Masters winner, stating clearly that they were not qualified to judge his food.

As you can see, I was a little annoyed by the guy.

Actually I more accurately vacillated between being super put off by his attitude and feeling incredibly sorry for him that he couldn't enjoy the comaraderie and friendly competition the way the other chefs seemed to because he was just so busy trying to prove himself all the time.

But his food looked good dammit.

I actually struggled with myself about cooking one of his dishes because his personality bothered me so much.

My own ego insisted that if I gave in to cooking Chiarello's food I would be giving in to...well, I don't really know what....his yucky pomposity I guess.

Then rational brain had a chat with ego and talked ego down off the ledge of self importance and all the voices in my head realized the whole discussion was stupid and really all any of us really wanted was some short ribs.

Does this mean I'm maturing? Growing more rational or less dramatic?

Probably not. I'm pretty sure most rational mature folks don't have multiple arguing voices in their heads

And also I still won't listen to U2 and I'll still throw up a little in my mouth if I hear Alanis Morrissette in my vicinity. And I still won't watch movies with Russell Crowe get the idea.

But a good short rib dish? Well I guess I have to draw the line somewhere.

I wanted to try this dish because the ribs are brined before braising and I haven't done that before. This extra step of marinating the beef in salt and really imparted some nice flavours on the meat.

My favourite part of this dish was actually the cabbage. It was so softly sweet and tender. The onions were subtle and sweet. The julienned carrots and raisins were visually beautiful and added a nice level of sugar to the cabbage.

They were such a perfect match for the ribs. Another brilliant dish in which the whole is that much greater than the sum of its parts.

On their own I found the ribs to be very good if a little too salty for my taste (salt loving dad thought they were just perfect). They were tender and falling off the bone and when met with the cabbage the whole dish gained a wonderful balance of flavours and textures.

Brined Short Ribs with 5 Onion Cabbage
(adapted from Michael Chiarello's recipe on

2 quarts water
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups kosher salt
2 tbsp. juniper berries
3 bay leaves

Bring all ingredients together in a saucepan. Stir to dissolve sugar. Let the brine cool completely and then cover the ribs with brine and refrigerate for 3 hours.

4 lbs. cross cut short ribs
olive oil
2 cups onion coarsely chopped
1 cup carrot coarsely chopped
1 cup celery coarse chopped
1 cup red wine
1 quart chicken stock

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Remove ribs from brine. Pat dry. Heat a high sided saute pan over medium high heat until hot. Add a layer of olive oil to the pan. When the oil begins to smoke add the ribs and brown on all sides. Note: They will brown very quickly due to the sugar in the brine. After browning place the ribs in an oven safe dish. Put onion, carrot and celery to saute pan and cook over medium heat until well caramelized. Add vegetables to dish with short ribs. Pour red wine into saute pan. Deglaze the pan and then simmer until reduced by half. Add stock to wine. Bring to a boil and then pour liquid over ribs and vegetables. Bring the ribs to a boil on the stovetop. Then cover and place in oven. Bake until tender (approx 4 hours).

5 Onion Cabbage
1 cup leeks sliced (white parts only)
1 cup green onions sliced (white parts only)
1 cup shallots diced small
1 cup red onion diced small
1 cup yellow onion diced small
1 cup grated carrot
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 head savoy cabbage

Sweat leeks, shallots and all onions and carrot in olive oil. Add raisins. Saute for a few minutes. Add cabbage and cook slowly until very soft (approx 2 hours). Stir frequently.

If you have a Top Chef Recipe Experience to share with us, please drop us a line at We'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TC News & Information 3.24.10

What's Stefan Richter been up to recently? Opening restaurants and flirting, of course. Read a new interview with him here.

There will be lots of familiar faces at the upcoming Pebble Beach Food & Wine event, April 8 - 11, including Top Chef Masters Graham Eliot Bowles, Michael Chiarello, Hubert Keller, Roy Yamaguchi, Tim Love, and Jonathan Waxman, former Top Chef judges Tyler Florence, Ming Tsai, Wolfgang Puck, Rick Tramonto, Gale Gand, Thomas Keller, and Jacques Pepin, and cheftestants Jamie Lauren, Fabio Viviani, Carla Hall, and Hosea Rosenberg. For more information, visit

Richard Blais claims he's not a molecular gastronomist.

Season 4 cheftestant Valerie Bolon is hosting a Culinary Speakeasy. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Marcel on TV

Marcel Vigneron is getting his own show, appropriately on the SyFy network.

"Utilizing the science of cooking, Marcel's Quantum Kitchen stars one of America's most notorious chefs, molecular gastronomist Marcel Vigneron (Top Chef). In each episode, Marcel and his new catering and event company will be hired by a demanding client to produce an extraordinary celebration or event. Based on the client's requests, Marcel will dream up a theme and cuisine for the event, which range from a fairytale graduation party and a Goth-rock fashion show to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new subway line. He and his team of party planners and chefs will tap the depths of their imagination and culinary talents to create everything from the immersive dcor to a delicious menu that emphasizes Marcel's unique brand of avant-garde cooking."

Apparently he's notorious. Who knew?

Monday, March 22, 2010


Congrats are in order for Tom Colicchio and Bryan Voltaggio for making to the final list of nominees for this year's James Beard Awards. Tom has been nominated for the Outstanding Chef Award, and Bryan for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic.

Top Chef Masters 2- Meet Thierry Rautureau

Known affectionately as “The Chef in the Hat,” French born Thierry Rautureau is the owner of Rover’s Restaurant in Seattle. Raised on a farm in the Muscadet region of France, this James Beard Award-winner for Best Chef in The Pacific Northwest began a cooking apprenticeship in Anjou, France at age 14 before training at top culinary locales across that country. He eventually found himself working for Jean Claude Poilevey at La Fontaine in Chicago before heading to Los Angeles’ The Regency Club and The Seven Street Bistro Opening Rover’s in 1987 after a chance visit to Seattle, Rautureau has been a staple on the national culinary landscape ever since, and has been featured in Gourmet, Zagat’s, USA Today, and every major metro-Seattle publication that covers dining.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Padma Out and About

Sure didn't take long for Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi to get back into shape after the birth of her daughter, Krishna. Here she is, in all her skinny-again glory, attending the Pampers Dry Max launch party in New York.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Video du Jour - Kevin Gillespie

See Kevin in the first 1.08 of this CNN video.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Susan Feniger

Susan Feniger is well known to Angeleno’s as one half of the popular "Too Hot Tamales" along with her longtime business partner Mary Sue Milliken. Almost 30 years ago, the two chefs opened CITY restaurant, becoming an instant success story. Next came Border Grill in Santa Monica, California and Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, and then the Latin themed Ciudad in downtown Los Angeles and the Border Grill Truck.

With the opening of Susan Feniger’s STREET in Hollywood in 2009, the celebrated chef launched her first solo venture. Feniger’s dream of creating a unique restaurant inspired by the authentic flavors of street food was fulfilled, creating a spontaneous love story enjoyed by foodies and the media alike. A veteran of 396 episodes of "Too Hot Tamales" and "Tamales World Tour" series, Feniger also co-authored five cookbooks with Milliken--City Cuisine, Mesa Mexicana, Cantina, Cooking with Too Hot Tamales, and Mexican Cooking for Dummies. She has been on the board of the Scleroderma Research Foundation for 17 years, spearheading a mission to find a cure for scleroderma, a life-threatening and degenerative illness, by funding and facilitating the most promising, highest quality research, as well as placing the disease and the need for a cure in the public eye. Feniger also serves on the board of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Baby-Daddy Revealed?

So...Adam Dell it is! At least, until we know otherwise....

Top Chef: The Tour

21-City Tour Expands To Pacific Northwest Locations For First Time Bringing Affiliate Partners And Fans Across The Country A Hometown "Top Chef" Culinary Experience

NEW YORK, NY - March 17, 2010 - Today, Bravo announced the official third annual kick-off for its highly anticipated and widely successful "Top Chef: The Tour," a 21-city tour, that for the first time ever expands to the Pacific Northwest with stops in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Sponsored by Dial Nutriskin, the annual tour brings the Emmy and James Beard Award-winning, No. 1 food show on cable, "Top Chef," to fans and foodies nationwide, beginning Wednesday, April 14th, with its first stop at Soulard Farmers Market in St. Louis, Missouri. This year's tour will feature an updated, restaurant-style format with table seating for 64 guests, bringing fans a fuller, more enjoyable culinary experience as they interact with their favorite chef'testants.

For the second year in a row, the "Top Chef" tour truck will make its way to Churchill Downs for a two-day stop at the Kentucky Derby, in advance of NBC's live coverage of the event on May 1.

"Bravo viewers like to truly engage in the shows they are passionate about," said Ellen Stone, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Bravo. "With 'Top Chef: The Tour,' we are able to give our fans the hands-on experience with our chef'testants and the opportunity to finally judge and taste what they had only experienced by watching."

Visitors of "Top Chef: The Tour" will have the opportunity to meet and greet with "Top Chef" talent, sample food tastings, receive gourmet cooking tips, hear "Top Chef" show "secrets," get chef'testant autographs. Visitors will also receive samples from the tour's national sponsor, Dial Nutriskin Body Wash, a new product that contains a blend of moisturizing fruit oils and extracts. Fans and affiliates will also have the opportunity to participate in a variety of on-site "Top Chef" activities, including a Quickfire Challenge. Guests will compete for a chance to win prizes by testing their senses and food knowledge in a series of smell-tests as they attempt to identify the correct scent in the quickest amount of time. Attendees can also try for a hole-in-one on the "Top Chef"-themed putting green, purchase Bravo and "Top Chef" merchandise, and capture their "Top Chef" experience with a photo at the "Top Chef" judges table photo-opportunity. Fans will be able to access and download their photos at

In each city, two former chef'testants will host four live interactive shows, complete with tasting samples, including three for fans in attendance and one private show for affiliate partners over one or two days. Additional guests will be able to view demonstrations from outside of the canopied seating area through a 42" plasma television in the activity area. To date, "Top Chef: The Tour" has visited 41 cities and traveled approximately 30,000 miles, generating over 7,000 consumer impressions per day and interacting with thousands of "Top Chef" fans and affiliates nationwide along the way.

"Top Chef: The Tour" will be pulling up to a farmer's market, mall or food festival in the following cities:

St. Louis, Mo. - April 14
Kansas City, Mo. - April 16
Atlanta, Ga. - April 18 & 20
Charlotte, N.C. - April 22
Pittsburgh, Pa. - April 24 & 25
Louisville, Ky. - April 30 & May 1 (Kentucky Derby)
Grand Rapids, Mich. - May 4
Chicago, Ill. - May 6 & 7
Westfield, N.J. - May 15
Philadelphia, Pa. - May 17
White Plains, N.Y. - May 19 & 20
New York, N.Y. - May 22 & 23
Boston, Mass. - May 25
Denver, Colo. - May 30
Salt Lake City, Utah - June 3
Seattle, Wash. - June 6
Portland, Ore. - June 9
San Francisco, Calif. - June 12
Los Angeles, Calif. - June 14 - 16
Irvine, Calif. - June 17
Phoenix, Ariz. - June 19

"The 'Top Chef' tour has generated a tremendous response from fans and distribution partners nationwide. This year's tour extends farther than ever before, with new, interactive 'Top Chef' elements, sponsorship opportunities and plenty of on-site action for consumers and affiliates to fully engage with their favorite food show on cable," added Brian Hunt, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Sales Strategy, TV Networks Distribution, NBC Universal

Partnership opportunities for affiliate partners at each city stop include a VIP reserved cooking demonstration, meet and greet with chef'testants, "Top Chef" Quickfire Challenge sponsorship, logo placements, a sampling of affiliate products, advertising services and sponsor table, and promotional spots on plasma televisions airing throughout the day. Additionally, affiliates will provide 200 on-air spots, which include 100 "Top Chef: The Tour" promotional spots, as well as 100 spots for designated Bravo programming.

To sign up for free admission and learn more about "Top Chef: The Tour," visit

TC News & Information 3.17.2010

Just in time for St. Patty's Day, Richard Blais has come up with a drink called a "Corned Beef Collins." Would you drink it?

Sam Talbot finally has his own Web site!

The Brothers Voltaggio visited Martha Stewart's "Morning Living" radio show last week. Hear what they had to say about tuna and pizza here.

Art Smith was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during filming of Top Chef Masters. He discusses his weight loss strategy here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Jimmy Bradley

The chef-owner of two popular New York City restaurants — The Red Cat and The Harrison — Jimmy Bradley presides over neighborhood joints that have become destinations for guests from around the city and the country. A purveyor of straightforward, occasionally irreverent, food, and contagious conviviality, all of it wrapped up in an attitude-free package, Bradley has helped contemporary diners rediscover the intrinsic value of classic Mediterranean cuisine, reinterpreted for a modern American clientele. His accomplishments have earned him features in New York magazine, Food & Wine magazine, Bon Appetit, and The New York Times, as well as appearances on Today and The Martha Stewart Show among others. His cookbook, was published in 2006.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Ana Sortun

Cited as one of the country’s “best creative fusion practitioners,” Seattle-born Ana Sortun graduated from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine de Paris before opening Moncef Medeb’s Aigo Bistro in Concord, Massachusetts, in the early 1990s. Following stints at 8 Holyoke and Casablanca in Harvard Square, she opened Oleana in 2001, immediately drawing raves for dishes that The New York Times described as “rustic-traditional and deeply inventive.” Awarded the Best Chef: Northeast” honor by the James Beard Foundation in 2005, her cookbook SPICE: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean was published in 2006 and has become a best-seller. Her husband’s farm, Siena Farms, provides Sortun’s restaurant with all of its fresh produce and is named after their daughter. Her most recent undertaking has been Sofra Bakery & Café in Cambridge, which offers a unique style of foods and baked goods influenced mostly by Turkey, Lebanon, and Greece.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Top Chef at the Upfronts

Bravo's 2010 Upfronts were held last week and several cheftestants came out to play.

Among them, Hung Huynh, Jennifer Carroll, Eli Kirshtein, Casey Thompson, and Richard Blais.

And Michael Voltaggio, looking like he has a cold. Which may be why he's not in the photo with the rest of the gang.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Top Chef D.C.!

According to the Washington Post's "Reliable Source" column, Top Chef 7 will indeed be filmed in Washington D.C., confirming the rumor we reported last month.

Additionally, it seems that Kate Winslet would like to be a part of the festivities, but we'll have to wait and see on that one.

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Jerry Traunfeld

After graduating from the California Culinary Academy, Jerry Traunfeld served as executive chef at Alexis Hotel in Seattle and as a pastry chef at Jeremiah Tower’s Stars in San Francisco. After spending over 17 years honing his skills as executive chef of The Herbfarm, Traunfeld went on to open Seattle-based restaurant Poppy, named after his mother. The 2000 James Beard Award winner for Best American Chef: Northwest and Hawaii, he is the author of The Herbfarm Cookbook, The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor, and has appeared on Martha Stewart Living, Better Homes and Gardens, The Splendid Table, and a host of other television and radio programs.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

TC News & Information 3.11.10

Top Chef Masters competitor Maria Hines was on the Martha Stewart Show recently and prepared butter-poached spot prawns. Watch the video here.

The Bungler offers up a scary fictional alternate-universe Top Chef.

Tim Love, of Top Chef Masters season 1, seems to think that bacon has jumped the shark.

So what does Top Chef Masters judge James Oseland like to eat? Grubstreet knows.

Wylie Dufresne speaks out about the future of molecular gastronomy.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Govind Armstrong

Raised in Costa Rica and Los Angeles, Govind Armstrong is one of the nation’s brightest cooking stars, noted for his commitment to market-driven California-style cuisine. Creator of the Table 8 brand of restaurants, Armstrong is currently the executive chef and owner of 8 Oz Burger Bars in Los Angeles and South Beach. He plans on expanding to California, Arizona, and Nevada. Armstrong began his culinary training at age 13 at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant in West Hollywood. He is the author of Small Bites, Big Nights and has been featured in People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” issue, Bon Appetit, Gourmet, O: The Oprah Magazine, along with appearances on Oprah, Top Chef, Iron Chef America, and Today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Video du Jour - Interview with Stephanie Izard

Thanks to reader mjr for bringing this clip to our attention!

Click here for more, including recipes.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Tony Mantuano

Regarded internationally as an influential culinary force, Chef Tony Mantuano is the chef/partner at Spiaggia, the only four-star Italian restaurant in Chicago. Awarded the 2005 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Midwest, Mantuano worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants in Italy before opening Spiaggia in 1984 to critical acclaim, and has since gone on to win The Chicago Tribune’s highest culinary prize, The Good Eating Award, and named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 1986.

His other ventures include Mangia Trattoria in his hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin and as the chef/partner of Terzo Piano at new The Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago. Mantuano’s first cookbook, The Spiaggia Cookbook, was lauded by Food & Wine magazine as one of the top 25 cookbooks of 2004. In 2008, Mantuano co-authored Wine Bar Food with wife Cathy, which was the inspiration for WINE BAR FOOD outposts at the 2008 and 2009 U.S. Open Tennis Champions. He has also made numerous television appearances and has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and Food & Wine and is a frequent contributor to local Chicago television and radio stations.

In addition to his 2005 honor, Mantuano’s Spiaggia also received James Beard Foundation nominations for Outstanding Restaurant in America in 2006 and 2007 and for Outstanding Service in 2008 and 2009. The Mantuanos were honored with the keys to San Martino in the Italian region of Molise (the ancestral home of Cathy Mantuano) for serving authentic Italian cuisine to President Barack Obama, a long-time guest who celebrated his presidential election victory at Spiaggia in 2008.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Marcus Samuelsson

Award-winning chef and cookbook author Marcus Samuelsson is the youngest chef to ever receive two three-star ratings from The New York Times, the first of which was awarded to him after just three months as Executive Chef of Aquavit. His impressive list of accolades includes a 2003 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: New York City, having already won the foundation’s 1999 best Rising Star Chef honor. He has received consecutive four-star ratings in Forbes’ annual All-Star Eateries feature, named one of the 40 under 40 by Crain’s, and was hailed one of The Great Chefs of America by the Culinary Institute of America.

Also named by the World Economic Forum as one of the Global Leaders of Tomorrow, this Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised talent studied at the Culinary Institute in Goteborg, Sweden, before apprenticing in Switzerland and Austria. Having made Aquavit a landmark in Scandinavian dining in New York City, Samuelsson has found additional success as the author of The Soul of a New Cuisine and New American Table. Most recently, Samuelsson was guest chef for the Obama Administration’s first State Dinner honoring the Prime Minister of India.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cooking with Top Chef 3.5.10

This week, Jenn Murphy of Sweet Water tries out another recipe from Top Chef Season Six and then switches shows and cooks up something from Top Chef Masters. Take it away, Jenn!

This is the first dish of Jenn Carroll's that I've cooked during my Top Chef experimentations. There is something about her style that intimidates me - and this dish certainly includes a lot of elements for one plate (at least for a home cook like me.)

I am extremely happy that I decided to tackle this recipe though.

This was Jenn's version of a deconstructed meatloaf (though it seems more like a deconstructed meat lasagna to me - either way, it's good so I'm not complaining.)

The tomato sauce is the best sauce I've ever made...and so simple, so very, very simple. I was licking that stuff off my plate.

The bechamel was brilliant and a perfect balance to the basic flavours of the tomato. I am always a fan of adding chilis to my Italian cooking, so this bechamel made perfect sense in my mind (and in my mouth.)

The lasagna tossed in lemon butter lifted all the other flavours and added an element of freshness.

And of course, a well sauteed steak never goes amiss.

The outcome of this dish is worth the effort for sure.

Another word about the sauce: If you try cooking nothing else from this recipe, make the sauce! I beg you! I love it so much that I plan to make it again on its own as a soup. I might add something akin to the bechamel to make a cream of tomato.

I'm drooling

Flat Iron Steak, Mascarpone Bechamel, Tomato Sauce and Parmesan
adapted from Jenn Carroll's recipe on

Tomato Sauce
1/2 head garlic finely sliced
2 shallots sliced
1/4 lb butter
1/2 bottle white wine
1 16 oz. can san marzano tomatoes with juicw

Sweat garlic and shallots in a large saucepot until transluscent. Deglaze the pot with wine and reduce mixture. Add tomatoes and juice and cook out acidity. Blend until smooth. Pass through chinois. Season with s&p.

1/8 lb butter
1/8 lb flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
*1/2 cup creme fraiche
pinch nutmeg

Combine butter and flour in a pot to make a roux. Cook out flour. Slowly add milk whisking constantly. Simmer until thick. Whisk in mascarpone and creme fraiche. Season with nutmeg, s&p and crushed chili flakes to taste.

Herb Puree
1/2 bunch fresh parsley
1/2 bunch fresh basil
1/2 bunch fresh oregano

Blanch herbs in salted water. Shock in ice bath and drain. Blend until smooth. Season with s&p.

*4 sheets of fresh lasagna
1/4 lb butter
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

Cook pasta. Melt butter and mix in lemon juice and zest. Toss cooked pasta in lemon butter.

*The original recipe calls for handmade pasta. I intended to make my own but the mangled hand demanded that I take a store bought shortcut.

8 oz. flatiron beef (2 steak portions)
ground chili flakes or very finely diced hot pepper

Heat pan on stovetop. Dry steak thoroughly. Season with S&p. When pan is well heated add steak. Sear on all sides and cook to medium rare.

To Plate
Lay tomato sauce on plate. Steak on top of sauce. Pool bechamel on either side of steak. Lay lasagna on top of steak. Herb puree on lasagna. Garnish plate with grated parmesan and pecorino.


Anita Lo's Soft Scrambled Eggs with Shitake and Oyster Sauce

I've been wanting to try this recipe since I saw Anita Lo make it on Top Chef Masters.

Top Chef Masters is, by the way, relatively new to me because I, as a Canadian, am treated to second rate television programming and am forced to wait patiently for my Bravo produced food porn until it is picked up by the Canadian Food Network.

Yes, I realize I could just watch it online. I get some sick pleasure from making myself wait.

So yeah, I watched Anita make this dish - with one hand tied behind her back - and it just seemed so beautiful and simple and elegant. Many of the Masters' dishes have intimidated me but this one just called out to me to try.

...I also tried out Art Smith's fried chicken this week - I'd say it went over pretty well since I had none left to photograph. It even won my dad over!

But back to Anita's egg dish. It was definitely the most simple of all the Top Chef dishes I've attempted thus far and it is definitely one of the tastiest. The slight Asian flavour of the oyster sauce is beautiful in the creamy eggs and the meaty shitakes are a wonderful contrast.

A plating explanation:
I tried to plate the dish the same way Chef Lo did. The problem? Chefs have these fancy tools that seem to just cleanly pop the tops off the eggs and leave you with a nice clean edge and a lovely little egg bowl for you dish.

I had only a sharp knife a tiny bit of patience. This is what I ended up with - the ghetto egg cup.

......damn, maybe I should have just tried to play it off like I was going for a rustic plating?

I heartily suggest everyone give these eggs a try. Delicious and simple.

Soft Scrambled Eggs with Shitake and Oyster Sauce
adapted from recipe by Anita Lo found on

4 eggs (tops removed and bottoms saved if you want to be ghetto-fancy)
1/3 cup heavy cream
*1 tbsp chives chopped
1 tbsp oyster sauce
3 tbsp butter
4 shitake caps very finely diced

*I couldn't find chives so I used the green parts of scallions.

Whisk together eggs, cream, chives, oyster sauce. Taste and season with s&p. In saute pan melt 3 tbsp. butter over high heat. Add shitakes to butter. Season with s&p. Remove from heat. Add eggs to pan with mushrooms. Over low heat whisk egg mixture slowly to form curds. Stop when eggs are still soft and creamy. Garnish with chopped chives.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet David Burke

One of the leading pioneers in American cooking today and owner of David Burke Townhouse, David Burke at Bloomingdales, Fishtail by David Burke, Burke in the Box, David Burke Prime, David Burke’s Primehouse, David Burke Las Vegas, and Fromagerie, Burke is one busy chef. Having trained at the Culinary Institute of America and in France under esteemed chefs Pierre Troisgros, Georges Blanc, and Gaston Lenôtre, Burke went on to become America’s first recipient of France’s coveted Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Diplome d’Honneur for excellence in American cuisine by age 26.

Burke’s other accolades include Japan’s Nippon Award of Excellence, the Robert Mondavi Award of Excellence, and the CIA’s August Escoffier Award. In addition, Burke was inducted into the 2009 James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America. Also credited with being a standout culinary product inventor (GourmetPops, Flavor Sprays & Flavor-Transfer Spice Sheets), Burke is a noted author of two cookbooks, Cooking with David Burke and David Burke’s New American Classics.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How About a Parody?

Because we have a lull in programming, with Top Chef Las Vegas long gone and Top Chef Masters a full month away, I thought I'd put together a little parody post (even if my last one seemed to fall flat). Check it out here.

Spike on Iron Chef!


Chefs Spike Mendelsohn, Michael Colletti and Brian Lacayo of Good Stuff Eatery take on Chef Michael Symon in the next new episode of Iron Chef America.

Turn your TV dials to the Food Networkon Sunday, March 7, at 9 PM EST to catch Mendelsohn and his team run around the kitchen as the secret ingredient is revealed and they are put to the test!

Will Spike win? What do you think?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Top Chef Masters 2 - Meet Carmen Gonzalez

Puerto Rican native Carmen Gonzalez has been a prominent figure in American dining for over 20 years. Upon opening the nationally recognized, Miami-based Carmen the Restaurant in 2003, it was hailed “One of the Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine. Gonzalez has been recognized with many honors including the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence from 2004-2006; AAA’s coveted 4 Diamond Award in 2004 and 2005; a 2006 mention in Zagat’s America’s Top Restaurants; among others.

Gonzalez has been featured in The New York Times, Miami Herald, Food & Wine magazine, and Bon Appetit, as well as appearances on The Martha Stewart Show, Today, MGM Latino, among others. Gonzalez’s greatest passion comes from community outreach efforts, involving herself for many years with Share Our Strength, the James Beard Foundation, Chef Carmen Cooks for a Cure, and Feeding the Mind Foundation, the latter two of which she founded.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cliff Visits Two Chicago Top Chef Restaurants

Hey there, hi there, ho there, Top Chefies. Cliffie here.

A few weeks ago, the hubby and I sought to escape the dreary cold of Columbus, Ohio, and headed to lovely, warm and sunny Chicago!

OK, there may have been a problem or two with that plan.

Well, it was sunny at least.

In any case, we had a good time. And it being Valentine's Day weekend (I know; I procrastinate), we decided to take in a Sandra Bernhard show and visit a couple Top Chef-related restaurants.

Our first day in town, we decided to have lunch at Top Chef Masters winner Rick Bayless' classic Frontera Grill.

Wow. I thought I had had Mexican food before. I clearly was mistaken. We knew that the Mexican cooking master had wowed the entire universe with his slow-cooked mole, so we ordered his Enchiladas de Mole Poblano, homemade tortillas rolled around Gunthorp free-range chicken, doused with Mexicos most famous mole; black beans.


And, I know, when one does this kind of thing, the dining parties are supposed to order different things. But there's no way either one of us were going to deprive ourselves of that delicious experience.

Even the (ordered separately) chips and salsa were exquisite. And my drink, a Bloody Mary-esque concoction made with beer was amazing. Yum!

The next night, we headed to dinner at Sprout, the establishment of Top Chef Season Three finalist Dale Levitski.

Being as this was Valentine's Day weekend, we felt this was a very special dinner and the place didn't disappoint. (Side note: I had "friended" Dale on Facebook in advance of our dining there and wondered if there was a chance we'd get to see him to say hello. He did accept the request, but never wrote back. Not that I expected him to come out to greet folks, really. Particularly when I saw how wonderfully busy the place was. Yea for him!)

The restaurant is located near DePaul University and, being near a college, is surrounded by the usual collection of pubs, laundromats, 24-hour copy shops and parades of girls in scrunchies and pajama bottoms with words like "FIELD HOCKEY" written across their asses. So, I was (for whatever reason) surprised to enter the place and discover it to be a very fancy fine-dining establishment. Thankfully, we did dress nicely. But if we hadn't, I would have felt impossibly out of place.

The restaurant offers both á la carte and a prixe fixe dining options. But since it was a special occasion, we decided to go all-in and take the latter choice from their special Valentine's Day menu.

Again, we both made the same dining choice across the board. (I really don't like to eat off anyone else's plate and refuse to let anyone eat off of mine. It's a reaction to that being my mother's perpetual M.O. Sue me.)

We started with the truffle, a creation with radish, frissee, mushroom and a crunchy baguette. The dish was quite tasty, though the truffle's gelatinous texture could be off-putting to some. The baguette tasted a mite stale to me, but perhaps that's how it was supposed to be.

This was followed by the second course where we opted for the game dish, made up of duck, pheasant, veal and lamb with blackened peas and apricot.

This was quite delicious and a lovely marriage of various proteins. Having watched the chefs last season have to create a protein inside a protein inside a protein, I wondered how that would taste. And now I know. Yummy.

And for dessert, we had the banana dish, a delectable pastry with cashews, coconut, 5 spice and chocolate.

All in all, it was a lovely time and a great dining experience. (Oh, I did see Dale in the kitchen through that little glass door pane on my two trips to the washroom. He is looking good, but clearly was very busy back there.) It's great to see that this Top Chef vet and his sous chef, castmate Sara Nguyen, are succeeding!

Hope you enjoyed that. And happy dining!

TC News & Information 3.1.2010

The Guardian UK is giving away a dinner with Top Chef Masters judge Jay Rayner. Click here for more information and to enter.

LAist has an interview with Top Chef Masters competitor Susan Feniger.

Top Chef season 1 host Katie Lee and season 5's Fabio Viviani will serve as hosts and mentors of the Almost Famous Chef Competition, sponsored by S. Pellegrino. Top Chef Masters competitor Rick Moonen will serve as one of the judges. More info can be found here.

The CIA has a series of podcasts called Insight from the Inside, one of which features Top Chef season 2 winner Ilan Hall and season 3 winner Hung Huynh. Another features TC season 4 guest judge, hottie pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. You'll need iTunes to access the podcasts. The listing is here.