This season, Top Chef offers two contestants with local pedigrees for those who like to root for the home team, and their backgrounds are decidedly different. As we’ve done in previous seasons, we here at Capital Spice sat down for a conversation with each of the local Cheftestants. For today’s interview, we spoke with DC native Timothy Dean, who comes to the competition as chef/owner of Prime, a steakhouse on Baltimore’s Fells Point.
Top Chef DC represents a homecoming for Dean, but it’s certainly not the only thing that’s been bringing him back to Washington lately. He’s planning to open a DC outpost of Prime in the near future, and he’s been scouting locations. I know what you’re thinking: “Great…another steakhouse for DC.” I had the same misgivings, until Dean dropped Michael Landrum’s name and clarified that his concept is much more “Ray’s the Steaks” than “Capital Grille.”
But I’ll let him tell you in his own words:
Capital Spice: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us.
Timothy Dean: Happy to.
CS: So let’s start with the basics – how would you describe your style as a chef?
TD: I’m sexy, and I can cook.
CS: And what kind of cooking background are you coming from?
TD: I’m the chef and owner of Prime, where we prepare the best steak you’ve ever had in your life.
CS:Were you worried that the judges might pigeonhole you as the “steak guy?”
TD: Not at all – my background runs a lot deeper than that [Dean actually cooked with Jean-Louis Palladin in the Watergate back in the 90s] and I think that will show through. That being said, people are definitely going to be excited to check out Prime after they see what I can do.
Check out Dean’s thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of being a local in the contest, what he did to prepare for the show, and his relationships with his fellow contestants after the jump.
CS: Your official bio over at Bravo indicates that you’re planning to bring the Prime concept to DC this year. Why another steakhouse?
TD: The demand is there. I’ve been all across the country looking at restaurant concepts, and more laid-back and stripped down steakhouses are doing REALLY well. So I talked with [local restaurateur] Michael Landrum and he’s been a friend and a huge help throughout the process.
CS: Any word on where this new Prime will be?
TD: We haven’t locked anything in yet, but it’s looking like it will either be at 15th and K Streets or in the space formerly occupied by John Harvard’s next to the Warner Theater.
CS: So what did you do to get ready for Top Chef?
TD: My whole life is prep for something like this. As a chef/owner I’m already putting in sixteen, seventeen hour days, though I don’t get to spend as much time in the kitchen as I’d like.
CS: Have you watched any of the previous seasons of Top Chef for inspiration or caution?
TD: I’m a huge fan of the show as well as Top Chef Masters, though I usually end up watching both after their original air dates because I’m working.
CS: Will you be able to take a break for any kind of Watch Party tomorrow night?
TD: No, I’ll actually be cooking while the premiere airs…I’ll probably catch up on it afterwards.
CS: Do you think there were any advantages or drawbacks to your being a native Washingtonian?
TD: I’d say there were both. There were definitely some times when we’d learn about a challenge and I’d have a bit of a head start because I knew the local background involved, but it was also a bit of a distraction for me competing in a place that I know so well.
CS: You’re also one of the older competitors. Did that have any impact on you along the way?
TD: A little. I had the energy of a twenty-year-old, but every so often my knees would remind me that I’m much closer to 40.
CS: How did you get along with your fellow Cheftestants during filming?
TD: It’s kind of a cliche, but you can see for yourself. We all got along REALLY well. We still keep in touch with each other on Facebook, Twitter, etc. It wasn’t a question of whether we liked each other…we loved each other.
CS: And how was the experience overall?
TD: It was exciting. This was the most beautiful experience I’ve ever had in my life. It’s an amazing, amazing production. I’ve never had this much fun in my life and I have never been involved with anything of this caliber. Nevermind an Emmy, Top Chef deserves an Oscar!
CS: Sounds like you enjoyed it. Well thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, and good luck. We’ll be rooting for you when the premiere airs tomorrow night at 9.
TD: Thanks for your time.