Cigarette Man, the Watcher, and the guy on the grassy knoll have nothing on the Time Out Chicago staff, who have been relentlessly staking out the Top Chef cheftestants and have delivered up what they believe to be a major spoiler about the next four episodes.
Ilan Hall’s last night in town before departing out west to open his tapas truck looks like it was a pretty sweet one, judging from the images of Friday’s charity dinner. As we wrote last week, Studiofeast, a swank “culinary collective,” a.k.a. underground supper club, brought in the Top Chef–at–large to cook a fairly elaborate meal for charity. (A portion of the proceeds went to the West Side Campaign Against Hunger.) The slideshow is thin on images of dishes like Hall's bacon-poached swordfish or crispy American Lamb breast with ginger and mint vinegar, but it was enlightening sociologically. Is it just us, or does this look like the Logan’s Run of supper-club events? We knew that Ilan was a member of the beau monde, but assumed that at least some of his customers would be the usual Billyburg lows. In fact, they all looked like people you would expect to be friends with Ilan.
Studiofeast: Special Ilan Hall dinner [Studiofeast]
Earlier: ‘Top Chef’ Victor Ilan Hall Stealthily Cooks for Williamsburgers
Yesterday’s report that Rachael Ray’s syndicated daytime TV show was in danger of being canceled was completely bogus. [NYDN]
Related: Rachael Ray Encounters a Setback in Global-Domination Scheme
Less women in the workforce means less money in the family budget, and that translates to less money going into the hands of restaurateurs. [WSJ]
Former Top Cheftestant Dale encouraged Stephanie from this season to audition for the show’s producers. [Bottomless Dish/Citysearch]
Gawker agrees with us that Erik is the new Howie and points out that indeed all of this season’s chefs seem like rehashes of previous contestants:
Hung and Ilan have been combined into Dale, who is both Asian and smug. Erik, chrome-domed and prone to silver rings, is the new Howie. Spike, bluff and handsome, is the new C.J., and Stephanie, the winner or last night's challenge, is the new Lia.
Top Chef champ Ilan Hall’s rumored L.A project is now a restaurant truck that serves tapas and has a foldout bar. [MSNBC]
Related: For Ilan Hall, a Taco Shack of One’s Own
The president of Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., the California beef company responsible for the largest meat recall in American history, acknowledged yesterday the illegal slaughter of sick cows at his plant after a congressional panel forced him to watch the undercover video depicting the abuse. [WSJ]
Chefs’ blogs keep getting better and better, and there are increasingly more and more of them. At what point are they all just going to leave the kitchen and become full-time bloggers? [LAT]
We’re surprised it took this long to happen, but “celebrity chef” Robert Irvine, known of late for his lies about his background, has announced that he will not proceed with the opening of two planned restaurants in St. Petersburg. [This Just In/St. Petersburg Times]
Related: Surprise, Surprise: Robert Irvine Gets the Boot From the Food Network
The best way to taste the dishes on Top Chef is to head to the toques’ post-Bravo places of employment in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and San Francisco. [Zagat Buzz]
Frank Bruni muses on the tourist-tipping problem, noting that he’s not a fan of automatic gratuity charges since they prevent diners from communicating their pleasure or irritation with the service. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Have you had your fill of pre-season-four Top Chef hype yet? No? Well, fix yourself a cup of coffee and settle in for a good, long read. Hosts Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi did a loooong conference call with reporters yesterday, and the results can be found in a six-page post on Monsters and Critics, among other places. Among the highlights: Tom saying that he never has a conversation with the contestants outside of the kitchen, and Padma adding “And actually, I really don’t want to.” We were also pleased to learn that the single worst thing Padma ate in the four seasons of Top Chef was made by none other than Ilan Hall. (Though she points out that he made one of the best dishes, too.) It's not the same as watching the show, but it should hold you until the premiere on March 12.
A Chat with Bravo's 'Top Chef' Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio [Monsters and Critics]
Related: Grub Street's complete coverage of Top Chef
There’s no doubt about it: Pizza prices are going up. A survey of pizzerias around town — well, below 14th Street, anyway — reveals that slice prices are almost unanimously going to increase over the next few months, owing to the soaring price of flour. [City Room/NYT]
Though the National Labor Relations Board ruled more than two weeks ago that Saigon Grill‘s deliverymen must be rehired with full back pay, delivery service at both locations remains suspended and there are doubts about its returning anytime soon. [Villager]
You can learn so much from hanging out at Ko and the Rusty Knot, like how good Jay-Z is at playing pool. [Mouthing Off/Food & Wine]
Last season’s Top Chef winner Hung Huynh, who previously cooked at Per Se, Gilt, Manhattan Ocean Club, and others, is back from a year and a half at Guy Savoy in Las Vegas — this week he started as executive chef at Solo. The Mediterranean-Asian restaurant happens to be kosher, meaning Huynh can’t use his beloved fish sauce or sherry vinegar. “I’m pretty limited to proteins,” he tells us. “I have to be a little bit more creative with my flavor profiles.” If Padma and Tom paid a visit, he says, he’d probably serve them his sweetbreads glazed with truffles and served with lemon-honey carrots. But forget what he’s cooking; we’re more interested in what he ate this week.
In what may be your last chance to taste the quirky cuisine of Ilan Hall before he heads to L.A., Studiofeast, a self-described “invitation-only culinary collective” based in Williamsburg, has tapped the former Top Chef winner to prepare the latest of its feasts, to be held at a secret location on Friday. The $100 ticket price (a portion of which goes to the West Side Campaign Against Hunger) doesn’t get you booze — but you’re welcome to either bring a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck or pick up a pack of wines recommended for pairing with Berkshire pork tartare (with popcorn emulsion), bacon-poached swordfish (with “Ilan Chon” skin salad), crispy American lamb breast (with ginger and mint vinegar), and Scottish rice pudding. Get on this fast, because space is limited.
Special Guest: Ilan Hall [Studiofeast]
Related: For Ilan Hall, A Taco Shack of One’s Own
The Food & Wine editor–cum–hostess at Dovetail had a hard time learning the ropes of the job at first, but by the end she learned that star ratings from critics matter, and there’s more to being a hostess than checking coats. [TONY]
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has filed a suit against Tonic East for “a pattern or practice of denying African-Americans from admittance into its club.” [Down by the Hipster]
Unbeknownst to us, rapper Coolio has a cooking show on the Web called, succinctly, Cookin’ With Coolio, but he might not be the most adventurous kitchen personality we’ve ever seen: “I don’t like pork, I don’t eat pork, and I don’t cook pork.” [Serious Eats]
It’s a far cry from helming a Ken Friedman restaurant, as he was previously rumored to be doing, but now the word, via the Gluttoness, is that former Top Chef Ilan Hall is said to be opening a taco shack in Los Angeles. We suspect, as the Gluttoness does as well, that the hire is a way to buy cheap publicity for the taco shack in question. Still, is this what being a Top Chef has come to? Somewhere, Sam Talbot must be sniggering.
Rumor Mill [Gluttoness]
Related: Will Ken Friedman Open a Restaurant With Ilan Hall?
Nightline did a loving, lingering profile of Craft chieftain Tom Colicchio last night, and the substance of the piece is on ABC’s Website today. It’s all interesting stuff — why Colicchio loves mushrooms, how he developed his style, his rough-and-tumble boyhood and all that — but the real value in the story is this truly bizarre picture of Colicchio with hair! It’s a strange, unsettling image, and the sooner we forget it, the better we’ll feel.
Nightline Platelist: Tom Colicchio [ABC]
We met Top Chef hostess Padma Lakshmi on a yacht in Miami Beach yesterday. No, it was not a private cruise. Padma was shilling Vacheron watches and graced us with a brief interview.
I see they have a menu on the yacht tonight that is your doing.
I didn’t cook this menu. But if you try some of the recipes from my book, I know you’ll enjoy them.
Eh, I probably won’t. They’re all for healthy little salads and curries and so forth, right?
Uh, no! This just proves that you haven’t even opened my book up! [Laughing.] The best recipe in it is for brisket wrapped in bacon.
Our first night at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival made it pretty clear why this event is such a success. For one thing, it’s warm down here. And the two parties we attended were as carefree as hayrides. The full moon shone down on the Versace mansion, and we gained some useful knowledge. Such as…
Having seen an advance screener of the Top Chef premiere, we’re all set and ready to dig in and immerse ourselves in the show’s patented straight-faced lunacy this season. But something is getting in the way. The most annoying of the new cheftestants this season’s Howie is the high-strung Andrew, supposedly a cook somewhere here in New York. But where? His Top Chef bio calls him a “Sous Chef in NYC,” but no one seems to be able to give us a hint of where. (One tipster seemed to think that it was at Tocqueville, but the lead was a dead end: Jo Ann Makovitzky, Tocqueville’s co-owner, tells us, “He does not look familiar to me.”) Have you seen this man? Tell us all about him in the comments.
Top Chef Cheftestant Bio: Andrew [Bravo]
Related: What to Expect From the New ‘Top Chef’Update: The mystery has been solved. An Eater reader has IDed Andrew D'Ambrosi as a sous chef at Le Cirque.
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.