What to Expect From the New ‘Top Chef’
We just screened the first episode of this season’s Top Chef, and again, we find the show compelling. And just the same as previous ones! Padma speaks slowly, Tom is bald and cocky, and Rocco DiSpirito and Tony Bourdain are back onboard. The location is a nonfactor — the main contribution Chicago makes is a Pizzeria Uno product placement. But the contestants still fit into those archetypes we love to argue about with Adam Platt.
Per Se Raises Prices; Shill for Whole Foods, Win FoodYou’re going to regret not going to Per Se the last time you had a chunk of change to burn: Thomas Keller’s luxe restaurant has raised prices for both the regular and vegetarian menus to $275 for nine courses. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Violence continues in the Flatiron club district, as two men were arrested for stabbing a patron and a bouncer at Club Spy after a fight erupted in the VIP room. [NYP]
As part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Green the Capitol project, the cafeterias are getting a locavore makeover, with the goal to sell as much locally grown, organic food as possible. [WP]
‘Culinary Conductor’ Reinvents Himself as ‘Gourmet Dude’
A while back we peeked at the audition clips for Bertolli’s online cooking show with Rocco DiSpirito, and decided we loved, loved, loved a clip by Pete Chelala, who submitted a Daily Show–esque spoof called “Food Train.” Sadly his disco-dancing in a carpenter belt loaded with seasonings and spatulas didn’t convince the judges, but that’s okay — geniuses are never understood in their day, and a clip Chelala sends us from his new YouTube show, “Gourmet Dude,” convinces us he is just that. We have to warn you: Nothing much happens in this first installment, but then again nothing much happened in the first five minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey either. We have no doubt that good things lie ahead.
Gourmet Dude [YouTube]
Earlier: ‘Culinary Conductor’ and ‘Love Chef’ Woo Rocco Online
Back of the House
New York to Charlie Trotter: Bring It On!
So Charlie Trotter is coming to New York at long last. (Or so the New York Times says today, reporting that the celebrated Chicago chef has plans for a restaurant on East 22nd Street, at One Madison Park.) Our question is, what took him so long? Trotter has been considered one of the top chefs in America for years, but big names in second-rate food cities rarely make a big splash here. Paul Prudhomme, the pride of New Orleans, had only mixed success here, and in recent years Charles Ramseyer of Seattle (at Wild Salmon), and Fabio Trabocchi of Virginia (at Fiamma), both the toasts of their former towns, have received tepid responses here. (Tim Love, the pride of Texas, washed out completely with Lonesome Dove.)
New Blue Ribbon Chef a Bouchon Bakery Alum; ‘Top Chef’ ReactionsThe chef for Blue Ribbon at Six Columbus will be Bouchon Bakery alum Jose Salazar. [Hotel Chatter via Eater]
By the end of Top Chef, even Frank Bruni got a little sentimental. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Related: Adam Platt Was Right About ‘Top Chef’ All Along
Rocco hearts Hung. [Eat for Victory/VV]
D. Freeman vs. A. Platt; Ditch Your Topps MeatFor the first time Danyelle Freeman is one step behind Adam Platt in her review choice, and she matches his star selection for Accademia di Vino. [NYDN]
Related: Molto Trendy [NYM]
Blue Ribbon at Six Columbus is expected to open in a couple of weeks. [Eater]
Related: Blue Ribbon Sushi at Columbus Circle Will Open in October
Hung offers insight into DiSpirito’s comment that the Top Chef contestant reminds him of himself: “He’s confident, he’s cocky, he’s good looking … his technique is on, his flavor profile is my kind of food. I respect him a lot.” [Eat for Victory/VV]
‘Exotic Spice’ Padma and ‘Ethnic Feast’ Marcus
When Esquire picked Bar Veloce’s Thomas Crowley one of the “Best Dressed Real Men in America” this month (and posed Simon Hammerstein and David Chang in pricey duds for its “Angry Young Men” spread), we realized that restaurateur style doesn’t stop at Batali’s clogs and Bobby Flay’s mom jeans. Now Us Weekly has posted its list of the “25 Most Stylish New Yorkers,” and we know a couple of the names.
A Restaurant World ‘Howl’
A reader sent us this Ginsbergian screed earlier this week, which struck us as a perfect snapshot of the restaurant world, circa summer 2007. We leave you now for the holiday weekend. Enjoy!
DanYelle as a restaurant critic? Anne Burell shticking it up in the kitchen with a skirt with horsies on it? David Chang morphing from shy nice smiley ramen guy to F-bomb dropping Esquire spread noodle mob boss? Johnny Iuzzini in a meringue body stocking? Tattoos as the new talent. Top Chef as the new Michelin. Glorified fryers, grass fed peaches, 1,000 day meat. I mean, it’s as if we are all now Cracker Jacks ripping open the next prize every time we open a menu. It’s always going to be a disposable toy. Or wash-off ink. It’s a 3 onion ring circus, this industry. We have our freaks and our clowns and our daredevils and our bearded ladies. It’s “I invented the lobster roll and that white wicker chair to sit on while you eat it.” Huh? It’s sellouts: Bertoli, Starbucks, Target, FreshDirect, Appleby’s. It’s all hypocritical: Eat fresh … and then buy my frozen dinner meals. Hitchcock would have tapped into a whole new genre with the horror of the food world.
—An Appalled Spectator
‘Culinary Conductor’ and ‘Love Chef’ Woo Rocco Online You probably don’t care that Rocco DiSpirito will be hosting a cooking show on Bertolli’s website, but the people who are auditioning to be his co-host sure do! As you might guess, there are a few oddballs in the bunch: In one video, Jernard “The Love Chef” and Rocco’s self-described No. 1 fan promises to “spread love all over the kitchen,” only to bark out his cooking demo like a drill instructor. Then there’s Nicole Navarro, a retired Vegas showgirl “inspired by culinary” who, as if to make up for her use of “culinary” as a noun, ends her demo with a high leg kick.
In the Magazine
Rocco Pities the Poor Models, Treats Them to Bicycles
The recent episode of Top Chef starring Rocco DiSpirito touted the profitability of the frozen-dinner business, but apparently it’s not that profitable — after all, if Rocco were looking to wow a pair of models like Le Call and Ciara Christensen (who according to this week’s Look Book, “do everything together. Everything.”), you’d think he’d treat them to something better than the Schwinn bikes he seems to have given them a day after meeting them, no? Not that a limited-edition Pea Picker reissue is anything to scoff at, retailing for $350 — but why didn’t Rocco splurge for a couple of sexy Vespas like his own? Clearly he should have. “We said we’d take him out to dinner,” admits Le Call, “but I don’t know.” Girls, a word of advice: Use those long legs to pedal away fast.
The Look Book: Le Call and Ciara Christensen [NYM]
End of the Line for Ureña; Rocco Admits Douche-baggeryAlex Ureña is closing Ureña and turning it into “a bistro-style eater called Pamplona.” The modern Spanish curse continues! Now Suba alone carries the banner. [Eater]
Rocco DiSpirito doesn’t seem to mind being called a douche bag: “I was thinking he must have worked for me to know I’m a douche bag,” the chef tells Nina Lalli. [VV]
Related: Joey, Latest ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner, on Why Rocco Is a Douche Bag
On his Top Chef blog Tony Bourdain has some wise words to console Joey: “Joey’s the chef of a damn famous restaurant in New York freakin’ City. The place every ambitious cook and chef hopes to work — in the big leagues. So he’s already a “Top Chef” — and already a winner in my book.” [Bravo]
Related: Adam Platt Finds the Moral in Last Night’s ‘Top Chef’
Rayuela Brings More Brunch to the LESDumbo/Fulton Ferry: Friday night at Rebar promises “free partial-nude drawing.” [Dumbo NYC]
East Village: Simone on First Avenue is closed, but let’s pray not for good. [Down by the Hipster]
Lower East Side: Rayuela has launched a weekend brunch with arepas and poached eggs, churros and Mayan chocolate, and guanabana mimosas plus live salsa music Sundays. [Grub Street]
Midtown West: Just when you thought he’d had enough of the limelight, Rocco DiSpirito will be the guest chef tomorrow at the Condé Nast cafeteria. [Eater]
Times Square: Ruby Tuesday will sidle up next to Red Lobster but may fare better with New York diners thanks to “fully upholstered chairs.” [Lost City]
Williamsburg: New fro-yo destination /eks/ whips up fresh organic yogurt and incorporates recycling holes into its cartoon-covered walls. [Gridskipper]
Back of the House
Joey, Latest ‘Top Chef’ Non-Winner, on Why Rocco Is a Douche BagTop Chef contestant Joey Paulino may have been a victim of casting last night when he was eliminated instead of Howie or Hung, who both made bigger mistakes but also seem to be the show’s emerging villains. Still, the native Long Islander and executive chef of Café des Artistes saved his ire for guest judge Rocco DiSpirito. He talked to us about why his fellow Long Islander is a “douche bag”.
In Defense of Rachael Ray and the Food NetworkAnthony Bourdain’s smackdown of the Food Network stars on Michael Ruhlman’s blog — in which the chef calls Sandra Lee “pure evil” and Paula Deen and drag queen Divine lookalikes, among other things — caused quite a stir the other day. Readers cheered Tony, and jumped on the Food Network with both feet. “But will the Food Network listen? Not likely,” Ruhlman lamented in a follow-up post. To him, the reason is obvious: Americans (other than his readers) are sheeple, shuffling Philistines who celebrate Rocco DiSpirito and Rocco Siffredi alike. “America is a mediocrity factory, and the Food Network is no different from any other business trafficking in cheap goods,” Ruhlman sighs. As opposed to trafficking in cheap shots — that’s Ruhlman’s specialty.
Chodorow Repudiates Celebrity Chefs, Opens Fish RestaurantIt wasn’t hard to see, after Jeffrey Chodorow’s infamous dustup with Rocco DiSpirito three years ago, that he had about had it with celebrity chefs. Except, apparently, he hadn’t: Chodorow hired Todd English a year later, in hopes, futile, that he’d redeem Tuscan, successor to Tuscan Steak. Earlier this week it was revealed that English Is Italian, the third restaurant to fill that space, will also bite the dust. Finally, Chodorow’s group is determined to avoid celebrity chefs. English Is Italian closes March 17. Wild Salmon, a seafood restaurant with a Pacific Northwest vibe, is slated to open in its place the first week of April.
Back of the House
Rocco’s Reality; Sacco’s Igloo; Three Ways Into the WaverlyRocco returns to reality TV. [Snack]
Now in Carroll Gardens, “the largest selection of Italian after-dinner drinks in the country.” [Gridskipper]
Graydon Carter not looking to be the godfather of Bank Street. [NYP]
Three ways to score a table at Ye Waverly. [NYO]
Sacco has an igloo. [NYO]
More zingers from the Batali roast. [NYDN]
Rogue taxidermists teach “jackalope”-making at Union Hall. [Gawker]
Did Food Network lift celeb-kitchens idea? [Gawker]
Mario Batali Is a Kobe Human, and Other Great Lines From His RoastMario Batali looked bigger than life last night, as he sat in a carved wooden throne taking punches from speaker after speaker at his celebrity roast at Capitale. The event, which benefited the Food Bank of New York, was simultaneously tame and vulgar: Every imaginable anatomical insult was made, but there was barely a mention of Super Mario’s actual partying practices, which are legendary in restaurant circles. Rachael Ray and Rocco DiSpirito, neither of whom were present, took far worse abuse.
Still, the roasters, who ranged from Sarah Silverman and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to Anthony Bourdain, got the merry pasta mogul pretty good.
Having Hit Rock Bottom, Rocco DiSpirito SpeaksRocco DiSpirito’s descent from the heights of gastronomy has been a steep one: He started out as one of the most talented and lauded young chefs in New York, made a jerk of himself on TV, was demoted to “Food Talk,” and then got fired from that. Now Rocco’s abasement is complete: He has been reduced to shilling for Bertolli’s stealth-marketing campaign, which recently involved 100 poofy-toqued “chefs” staging a mock protest of the company (their grocery products, in this delightful marketing alternate reality, supposedly keep people from eating out). This had to happen: Rocco could not attempt a comeback until he reached the pinnacle of cheesiness, and even his appearance on awfulplasticsurgery.com didn’t get him there. So what does the man have to say for himself? “Bertolli makes their dinners just like we do in the restaurant world.” Wait — he’s working in a restaurant now?
‘Food Talk’ Finally Finds the Right Voice
WOR’s “Food Talk” radio show never quite recovered from the loss of its longtime host Arthur Schwartz. Like the CBS Evening News after Walter Cronkite or the Celtics after Larry Bird, “Food Talk” got by, but the magic was gone. Hiring celebrity chefs like Rocco DiSpirito and Tyler Florence to discuss home cooking, rather than the New York restaurant scene, didn’t help. Now, in a more promising move, WOR has brought on Mike Colameco, late of Colameco’s Food Show on PBS.