Top Chef DC


Check out our map of sites associated with Top Chef DC, updated each week

Finally!  An entire episode that represents some of the best of the Washington area’s foodshed.  From Maryland blue crabs to organic and humanely raised meats from Ayrshire Farms, this week viewers got a chance to see the kind of local bounty that we enjoy in and around Washington.

No political puns in the challenge, though there may have been a comment or two about getting crabs, because most chefs are just grown-up fifteen year-old boys.  No “official Washington” guest judges: instead, an honest-to-goodness chef from one of the area’s most famous restaurants. And no flags-and-Americana backdrop, though Ayrshire is hardly your average working farm.

If past seasons are precedent, we’ll probably want to enjoy this while it lasts.  Host cities are rarely more than a backdrop for the challenges, and there are too many DC celebrities (Speaker Pelosi! Joe Scarborough! Buzz Aldrin?) yet to appear whose names were leaked in the preseason press release.

After the jump, we’ve got details on who, where and what you saw this episode as well as a suggestion for a great place to get all-you-can-eat blue crabs. (more…)

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Check out our map of sites associated with Top Chef DC, updated each week

This week, Top Chef DC approached Washington less like tourists and more like honeymooners.  Sure, they knew the sights were out there, but they were perfectly content to spend the day in the hotel.

Poor Season 7 cheftestants.  When Top Chef did a hotel dining challenge in Season 1, the chefs served professional poker players and the cast of Cirque du Soleil.  When they did a hotel dining challenge last season (in Las Vegas, where the hotels pretty much ARE the attractions), they served breakfast in bed to Padma and Nigella Lawson.

This time?  Breakfast lunch and dinner to DC area Top Chef alums and the chef/owner of the country’s first certified organic restaurant.

So that means we’re all about the personalities this week as we dig into the who’s, what’s and where’s of Top Chef DC.  After the jump, find out what Mike Isabella, Spike Mendelsohn and Bryan Voltaggio have been up to since their appearances on Top Chef, meet celebrated chef Nora Pouillon and check out a local company that’s doing baby food even Padma and Tom would like. (more…)

Check out our map of sites associated with Top Chef DC, updated each week

We knew it was coming.  A challenge involving George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

Sure, we could have guessed in light of the proximity to Washington, DC and the fact that it’s George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. But DCist had actual confirmation of this particular challenge while it was happening, and it looks like the Post’s Express Night Out had an inside source who was on hand for the taping.

Unfortunately the Quickfire Challenge and the guest judges this week didn’t give us a lot to work with in terms of Washington-specific details.  Cheftestants were tasked with making pies as a cross-promotional opportunity for the upcoming Top Chef: Just Desserts.  The guest judge for the Quickfire was New York pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, and he was replaced for the Elimination Challenge by New York chef (and former Top Chef Masters contestant) Jonathan Waxman.  Oh well.

We’re going to go ahead and assume that you don’t need us to give you the insider’s scoop on what Mount Vernon is all about.  Instead, we’re going to clue you in to George Washington’s other claim to fame, point you toward some well-made pies in DC and reveal some of the places where those interns actually work (hint: It’s not Capitol Hill).

Check it out after the jump. (more…)

Check out our map of sites associated with Top Chef DC, updated each week

It’s official: the Washington-related puns have begun and it’s only Episode Two!

Last night’s episode of Top Chef began with a Quickfire Challenge whose DC connections were worn on its sleeve, er, apron.  Paired cheftestants, red and blue aprons, working together to achieve consensus (with one hand tied behind your back, no less!)…what better metaphor could there be for Congress?

And the end result: a bipartisan-dwich!  Get it?  The only way this could have forced the connection any further is if every sandwich was required to include “pork” as a main ingredient.

Even so, the episode did a great job of introducing the chefs (and the audience) to the Let’s Move! initiative and the national effort to improve the quality and nutritional value of school lunch programs across the country.  It didn’t hurt that they included White House Chef / Food Policy Guy / Foodie Sex Symbol Sam Kass to do so.

After the jump, details on the local (Kass) and the locale (Alice Deal Middle School) as well as some more info on Let’s Move! (more…)

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. (more…)

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.

Image courtesy of Bravo

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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