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…)

We’re roughly sixty hours away from the premiere of Top Chef Season 7, and here in Washington we’re all eager to see just how our hometown plays as host to the seventeen newest Cheftestants.  Will they have as many celebrity sightings as we do?  Will they revolutionize the Rubber Chicken dinner?

At Capital Spice, we’re especially interested in seeing how everything plays out.  When we ran our Top Chef DC contest back in December, we had no idea that the show was going to be filming in town just a few months later.  But as soon as we heard the news, we reached out to see if there was any way we could be involved.

The production team was great, inviting us to attend the first Elimination Challenge to get an insider’s perspective on what goes on during filming.  We were able to chat with the chefs and guests, sample the food, and watch as Tom, Padma, Gail and Eric Ripert worked their way around the room.  We’ll have plenty of details for you once the episode airs, but suffice it to say that what you’ll see on screen is just a taste of what went on at the Mellon Auditorium.

After the jump, an idea of what you can expect from Capital Spice throughout the season. (more…)

As you may have noticed from some of our posts over the past few months, we’ve been expecting an addition to the Capital Spice family.  I’m proud to announce that the wait came to an end last Wednesday.  We’ve now got our very own Baby Spice!

So what did we do to mark the occasion?

Well, we took a week off from writing, for one thing.  Apologies to those of you who checked in regularly last week – we were hoping to pre-write some posts but the time got away from us.

Once we got home, though, we celebrated like any foodie couple would.  We reacquainted ourselves with some old friends that were off-limits during the pregnancy.  I paid a visit to Cheesetique to pick up a few favorites: Roquefort, St. Andre, raw milk cheddar.  We enjoyed them with some aged prosciutto and a sparkling rosé from J Vineyards (which we visited during our trip to Sonoma last year).

For us, it’s been interesting to see the health care community’s approach to food at various stages throughout the pregnancy.  Blanket prohibitions against certain categories of food perplexed us, as they usually did not come with clear explanations as to why.  Recommendations of some things seemed counter-intuitive to our “eat fresh, eat local” perspective.  And then there’s hospital food…

Elizabeth has plenty of thoughts on the subject, and I know she’ll be writing about them in the near future.

And what does this mean for Capital Spice?

At some point, it will mean that you’ll be able to get three opinions, instead of just two, when we check out a new restaurant.  But for now, it’s business as usual.  We don’t dine out quite as often as we used to, but that just makes it that much more important for us to seek out the best quality and value at restaurants both old and new – and to share them with you.  You can also continue to expect plenty of recipes from our own kitchen as the local farmers’ market season heats up.  And there are plenty of restaurant openings on the near horizon; we’ll be sure to provide you with information as we receive it!

We’ll also have plenty of exciting news and insights into Top Chef DC as the new season debuts next Wednesday.  As you may recall, we held a contest soliciting challenge ideas for a Washington-based season at the end of last year.  Who knew the folks at Bravo would be paying such close attention?

Check in with us next week and throughout the season for cast interviews, behind-the-scenes details (we may have been invited to a taping or two…) and a regular feature for national fans of the show providing the background of what makes each challenge so uniquely DC.

Thanks for reading!