At 9PM tonight, the wait is over. All that speculating about the challenges; all the sightings of Tom, Padma and Gail; all the shopping, chopping and cooking were completed more than a month ago. Now it’s time to sit back and “watch what happens.”
Yesterday, we presented our interview with DC native and current Baltimore chef Timothy Dean. Today, we’ve got our conversation with the only Cheftestant from this season who didn’t leave town when the cameras stopped rolling: the Oval Room’s Tamesha Warren.
Warren is a sous chef at the celebrated downtown power spot and previously cooked in the kitchen of Jean-Georges so you know her technique is SOLID. As the youngest contestant in the field and the hometown favorite, she’s got a lot of pressure on her to do well. Fortunately, it sounds like she’s up to the challenge:
Capital Spice: Good morning, chef. How have you been since taping ended?
Tamesha Warren: It’s been crazy already. The producers warned us to be ready, but I really didn’t expect it to blow up the way it has. Just the other night there was a party in the restaurant asking for “the lady who’s going to be on Top Chef!”
CS: You’re the sous chef at the Oval Room, one of Ashok Bajaj’s restaurants. How did he react to you going on the show?
TW: Bajaj is a great person to work for – anything he can do for you, he will. He was very supportive of my participation.
Age as an asset or liability, DC dining favorites and how YOU may have helped Tamesha prepare after the jump.
CS: It’s been pointed out that you’re the youngest contestant on Top Chef this season. The youngest contestants don’t usually stick around too long…should we be worried?
TW: I don’t want people – the audience or my competition – to judge me by my age. I’ve worked in the BEST – practically the best – restaurant in the world, and Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] was an amazing chef to work for. I have a solid foundation that can take me the distance. I really just want people to see me and what I can do for what it is.
CS: So would you say your age was a benefit or a drawback for you?
TW: Youth was an advantage. I’m young, but very talented. And as the competition went on it was comforting that the other chefs recognized my ability. We were all supportive of each other and we definitely developed some close ties during filming.
CS: Glad to hear it. What, if anything, did you do to prepare for the show?
TW: I’m originally from Barbados, and I’ve been cooking in higher-end kitchens since I graduated from culinary school. One of the things I tried to do was read as many cookbooks as possible and focus on American classics. I know the flavors, but I’ve never cooked them professionally before.
CS: Anything else?
TW: When I heard the rumors that Top Chef was going to be filming in DC this year, I read a lot of blog conversations on good themes and locations for challenges. Someone suggested a challenge involving DC school lunches, so I read up on the local school system. And someone else suggested a challenge involving a local fish market, so I checked them out because I hadn’t been there before.
CS: Smart! Do you feel any pressure to “represent” the District?
TW: There is some pressure, and I’m coming from a great restaurant so I want to represent them in a good light, as well.
CS: Did you get any advice from previous competitors?
TW: [Season Five contestant] Carla [Hall] was a big help. She encouraged me to stay true to myself and to cook what I know. Life can go in so many different directions, I’m not going to let this experience change who I am.
CS: Last question…other than the Oval Room and the other Bajaj restaurants, are there any places you particularly like to eat in town?
TW: I have a few favorites. Everything at Palena is great, the pastas are divine. I love the burger at Central, and I’m a fan of the Source and Bourbon Steak too. I had a great meal at Volt, and I was really impressed with the way [Season Six contestant] Chef [Bryan] Voltaggio combined classic and modern techniques.
CS: Thanks for taking the time this morning. Good luck representing DC!
TW: Thank you.
We’ll be watching the premiere at Good Stuff Eatery tonight, kicking off the season with Spike Mendelsohn, Carla Hall and 235 of our closest fellow Washingtonian readers. What are you planning for the new season? Regular watch parties? Live blogging? Let us know so we can figure out where to watch next week!