When Howie Kleinberg, after twice coming to the brink of elimination, returned last week to win a Quickfire Challenge on Top Chef, he was rewarded with a one-week internship at Gotham Bar and Grill, courtesy of the guest judge, Alfred Portale. Kleinberg, whose unremitting hostility originally endeared him to us, has gotten on swimmingly with the chef, we hear. “He’s a very likable guy,” Portale tells us. “He’s a big guy, kinda cuts a pretty wide path through the kitchen, but he shows a lot of respect and poise.”
Howie is so impressed, meanwhile, that he says he’s thinking of moving to New York. But it doesn’t sound like he came out on top on the reality show, based on his vague but sour-sounding comments about his experience on it. “When you’re put in that situation and you’re put under pressure, the truth comes out in people. And you take those experiences and you grow from them.” That definitely has the music of conflict to it. Can there be any doubt that Howie had a major flare-up with one of his rivals? How many weeks will we have to wait to see it?
Meanwhile, in other Gotham-related news, Portale has gotten rid of practically the entire front-of-the-house staff. He has a new GM, Daniel veteran Brett Csensitz; a new wine director, Café Boulud’s Michael Nelson; and a new dining-room manager, former Tocqueville GM Rick Pitcher. We asked the dapper chef what happened. It’s very simple, he says: “There was a purge.” Hear that, Howie? They play rough in the NYC.