As we promised earlier in the week, we’re not going to be doing minute-by-minute recaps of Top Chef on Thursdays…there are plenty of other blogs and sites that will take care of that.  Here at Capital Spice, we’re all about the Washingtonian aspects of each episode.  We’ll give you a run-down of the who, where and why.  And we’ll be tracking all of the Top Chef locations – including challenge sites, the Top Chef house, Whole Foods and past Cheftestants’ restaurants – on one of our signature Google maps.

Top Chef wasted no time throwing the seventeen new Cheftestants into action last night, once again leading off with a mise en place competition and then challenging the competitors to cook a dish that reflects where they’re coming from.  With a focus on introducing the competitors and no special guest judges, this episode could have taken place almost anywhere.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  The episode title – “What’s Your Constituency?” – served to connect the elimination challenge to Congress and, by extension, Washington.  And the beautiful views down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Newseum can’t be duplicated anywhere else.  This week, the real DC connections come in the form of the challenge venues.

After the jump, check out some local intel on the locations and the map.


Opened in its current location in April of 2008, the Newseum melds history and current events as it catalogs and interprets the media and methods that have gone into newsgathering throughout the ages.  The seven-story structure stands at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Sixth Street, NW, prime real estate for viewing the Presidential Inauguration and the procession that leads up to it.  Inside, you can find everything from ancient printing presses to the CONUS 1 satellite news truck – an artifact so large that it had to be placed before construction of the building was completed around it.

The facade of the Newseum is dominated by a stone carving of the First Amendment, and visitors can catch up on the day’s headlines by checking out a newspaper from each state, the District and several overseas outlets that are on display out front.  The museum is open from 9 AM to 5 PM daily and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  Admission is $19.95 for adults 19 to 64; $17.95 for seniors, military and students (with valid ID); and $12.95 for youth 7 to 18.  Children six and under are admitted free of charge.

If you thought you saw flappi Canadian flags in a few shots during the Quickfire Challenge, you were right.  The Newseum is located right next door to the Canadian Embassy.  And it’s a shame that the Cheftestants didn’t get a chance to stick around for a meal – the museum’s food court is called The Food Section, and the menu was developed by Wolfgang Puck.  Scott Drewno, the chef at Puck’s The Source (enter around the corner on 6th), was just named Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

555 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20001

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium

After cooking up a storm in the Top Chef kitchen, located at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue, Northwest, the chefs served up their dishes at a reception for young professionals who were active in planning events during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.  The reception was held at the Mellon Auditorium, a private reception space built from 1932 to 1934 and named after Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon.

The auditorium was historically used for governmental functions like the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949.  As part of Federal Triangle, the auditorium stands in the middle of governmental Washington and is directly across the street from the National Museum of American History.

The Mellon Auditorium can be rented out for private events and can accommodate up to 1000 guests (they recommend no more than 600 for wedding receptions!).  Boasting 65-foot ceilings, gold leaf decoration throughout and 14 massive cement columns, this is an opulent and refined venue for the most special occasions.  Unfortunately, it’s not open to visitors.

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
1301 Constitution Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20240

The National Cherry Blossom Festival

Roughly scheduled around early April each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is timed to coincide with the peak bloom period of the cherry blossom trees that have been planted around the Tidal Basin as a symbol of Japanese-American friendship since 1912.  At least that’s the theory.

In practice, accurately predicting cherry blossom bloom times is notoriously difficult, with peak bloom periods being announced and revised right up until the appearance of the first flower.  And even once the blossoms have emerged it’s difficult to catch them in all their glory as anything stronger than a stiff breeze sends the petals cascading to the ground like a blizzard.

Thankfully, most of the events during the festival celebrate the idea of the blossoms and what they represent, so this two-week long collection of culture, food and entertainment goes on no matter what.  It’s worth planning a trip to DC to experience some of the fun…just don’t expect the cherry blossoms to be waiting for you when you get here.

So that’s this week’s episode of Top Chef from the DC perspective.

And here are the key locations from the premiere mapped out:

Click on the image to go to our Google Map featuring all of the locations for Top Chef DC

We’ll be updating this map each week with new locations, so stay tuned.  And let us know if there’s anything else we can add to make this even more useful.