‘Top Chef’ Guest Judge Denies All Relations With Frozen Scallops

Rick Tramonto never even met that scallop.
Rick Tramonto never even met that scallop.

Over in the Second City, the fallout from Wednesday’s Top Chef Scallopgate continues. Guest judge Rick Tramonto is defending himself from the charge of serving frozen scallops in his high-end Chicago steakhouse, Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood. Over on the Chicago Tribune’s food blog, the Stew, Tramonto is fulminating that there were no improper relations between his restaurant and those waterlogged, tasteless frozen scallops that got Spike tossed off the show. “Their team purchased all the food and put it in the coolers,” he tells the Trib, perhaps a little too hastily. “They put those in the mix to see…who would use them or not.” Ah, so it’s Bravo’s fault then! Actually, this assertion is backed up by Tom Colicchio’s blog, over at Bravo.

My heart sunk when I heard [Spike accused the chef of having frozen scallops] because I’ve known Rick for years and can say with certainty he doesn’t use frozen seafood in his restaurant. Along with the high-end steaks they had provided for the show, Allen Bros. had included a variety of other products to round out the restaurant’s existing stock, including frozen scallops, which is how they came to be in Tramonto’s walk-in. I learned later that Rick knew this when we taped the show, but chose not to make a federal case out of it. But as a colleague and fan of Rick’s, I feel it’s important to set the record straight.

Yes, it is important. Of course, that doesn’t help the poor Chicago trenchermen who came to dinner and had to eat Spike’s mushy scallops, Lisa’s peanut-butter mashed potatoes, and so on, but it does clear Tramonto’s name. Now, we hope, we’ll actually remember it.

Not our scallops on ‘Top Chef,’ says Rick Tramonto [Chicago Tribune]