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Top Chef

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‘Top Chef’ Contestants a Tame, Lame Bunch

nikki cascone and manuel treviso
Metromix does a nice job of fleshing out the backgrounds of the New York cheftestants on the upcoming season of Top Chef. But reading the not very scandalous “dirt” on these guys make us wonder if there weren’t five or ten or a thousand more interesting cooks in the city that could have been on the show. Manuel Trevino of Dos Caminos likes football? Whoa! Nikki Cascone of 24 Prince keeps Italian greyhounds? Quel scandal! Given the propensity of New York cooks for drinking, copulating, getting into street fights, and even hitting the dummy pipe, this all strikes us as kind of tame. 'Top Chef' Season Four: We’ve got the dirt on this year’s crop of NYC contestants [Metromix] Related: What to Expect From the New ‘Top Chef’

For Ilan Hall, a Taco Shack of One’s Own

Ilan Hall
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’ Exposes Tom Colicchio’s Hirsute Past

Tom Colicchio
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]

Shipwrecked With Padma Lakshmi

Padma Lakshmi
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.

‘Top Chef’ Parties at South Beach Wine and Food Fest

Gail Simmons, CJ, Lee Anne Wong
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…

Who Is This Man? And Where Does He Work?

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.

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.

Hung to Cook in Midtown Kitchen; Chirico Pleads Not Guilty to Extortion

Top Chef winner Hung Huynh will begin a one-month stint at kosher restaurant Solo on March 2; Justin Smillie, formerly of Barbuto, has replaced Akhtar Nawab at the E.U. [NYT] Related: Akhtar Nawab to *NOT* Leave E.U., Will Open New Restaurant If you’re clamoring for a Valentine’s Day tablecloth dinner at White Castle, you still might be able to get one. [Eater] Master Purveyors will live on: The fire destroyed the offices, but the meat is still safe and sound in the warehouse. [Crain's NY] Related: Venerable Meat Purveyor Struck By Fire

EPA Joins Mercury Craze; A ‘Seinfeld’–Inspired Food Study

The Environmental Protection Agency is beginning to examine the mercury levels in the twenty most commonly eaten fish in the New York City region. [NYT] Top Chef seductress/hostess Padma Lakshmi is moving into a full-floor loft in Alphabet City. [The Real Estate/NYO] The holy triumvirate of burgers, fries, and milk shakes continues to dominate the nation's culinary imagination. [NRN]

‘Top Chef’ Recruits Seven NYC Toques

Top Chef has announced its new cheftestants, and we, like everybody else who got the press release, were delighted to see that there are even more NYC cooks than ever before, from restaurants including Mai House, Buddakan, Public, 24 Prince, and Dos Caminos. You can’t go by where they work, though: Among last season's rivals, Casey was a “personal chef,” whatever that means, and made it to finale, while poor Lia was at Jean Georges and got bounced halfway through the season. Still, we’re already thinking deeply about this crew — and looking forward to making fun of them in IM conversations a few months hence. 'Top Chef' Chicago Premieres in March [Bravo press release] Related: Adam Platt Was Right About ‘Top Chef’ All Along

Chefs Relax in Bruni's Absence; Chinese Seafood: Now With Fewer Drugs!

Frank Bruni is out of the city until January 23, or maybe January 31. Either way, chefs at new restaurants will be breathing a little bit easier until he returns. [Eater] The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies has released a report saying that cloning causes suffering to animals, making it unjustifiable to clone them for the food supply. [NYT] Top Chef winner Hung Huynh was spotted in Las Vegas at Company, the same restaurant where Season Two contestant Marcel Vigneron works as a cook. It’s no coincidence, though; they’re buds from cooking school. [Eater L.A.]

‘Top Chef’ Cookbook Remains a Mystery to Us

When we got the Top Chef Cookbook press release yesterday, we were immediately consumed with curiosity. The tome purports to include "dishes from the Elimination Rounds and the Quick-Fire Challenges, daring fans to join the fun by recreating their favorite recipes at home," but beyond that there aren’t many details. Will C.J.s burnt broccolini, which Tom Colicchio considered the worst dish ever served on Top Chef, be in there? Or maybe his green tuna casserole, which Tony Bourdain compared to something found on the floor of an Irish bar on Saint Patrick’s Day? It’s safe to say that the show’s winning recipes, like Howie’s pork and beans seasoned with baldie sweat, will be there, in cleaned-up form. However until we get our copy, we can’t say. As for the book’s other touted features, such as “in-depth discussions with contestants, judges and crew,” there’s only one question that matters to us: Was Padma high the whole time or not? Bravo Media Announces "Top Chef: The Cookbook" Published By Chronicle Books [Snack] Related: Adam Platt Was Right About ‘Top Chef’ All Along

Keith McNally Sued; Huckabee Serves Clam Chowder in New Hampshire

According to a new class-action suit being brought against Keith McNally, servers at Pastis and Balthazar were forced to foot the bill for customers who walked out on their checks, in addition to being denied minimum wage. [NYP] Frank Bruni, like many other critics, believes a restaurant’s chicken dishes speak volumes about its overall quality. [Diner’s Journal/NYT] E-mails sent by Starbucks Corp. managers reveal their efforts to prevent unionizing among their employees, although labor experts say the activity is not illegal. [WSJ]

‘Top Chef’ Now Invades Last Imaginable Personal Space

There’s the Top Chef blog, Top Chef reruns, the endless media fodder about Padma and Tom and Dave Martin’s new restaurant, and all the speculation about next season, which judge Gail Simmons tells us is definitely the best one yet. This being the aughts, though, the show needs to expand its mindshare in the off-season and has done so with a wireless game on AT&T and Sprint. Top Chef Challenge proved impossible to download onto a new iPhone, but its creator sent us a phone with the game installed. It’s ridiculous, as is Top Chef, but like the show, it actually draws in some crazy way on the realities of cooking.

The ‘Top Chef’–‘Project Runway’ Mash-up We've Been Waiting For

Dale and Jack
How did such a coupling take so long? Top Chef’s Dale Levitski (who was NOT invited back for this week’s holiday special) and Project Runway’s Jack Mackenroth are dating! Here’s the dirt: “We randomly met over MySpace,” says Dale. “I like keeping it incestuous. Keep it in the Bravo family,” says Jack. Other pairings we’d like to see: Sam Talbot and Uli Herzner Mike Midgley and Wendy Pepper Elia Aboumrad and Michael Knight Have any suggestions for hot Project RunwayTop Chef crossovers? Play matchmaker in the comments. Real Reality Couple: Jack Mackenroth and Dale Levitski Dating [BreakOUT News via Towleroad]

Balducci's Ruins Hanukkah; Dave Martin Can Paint, Too

Balducci’s made a big mistake by advertising boneless spiral ham as “Delicious for Chaunkah.” [NYDN] Contradicting his colleague, Frank Bruni defends the entrée, arguing that a “too-long sequence or too-broad collection of too-small plates is like being tickled and tickled and never flat-out hugged.” [Diner’s Journal/NYT] Le Bernardin’s James Beard–award–winning pastry chef enjoys a nice Snickers bar with almonds at the end of the day. [Restaurant Girl]

‘Top Chef’ Bitch Opens Restaurant; Gordo Looking for Victims

Former Top Chef contestant Dave “don’t call me a bitch, bitch” Martin (Season One) has opened his own restaurant on West 42nd Street called Crave, and he’s serving comfort food. [Zagat] Hakata Tonton is bringing its love of pig's feet to the West Village — even dessert has the collagen-packed delicacy. [Eat for Victory/VV] Alain Ducasse’s wine bar Adour at the St. Regis Hotel is set to open in January. [Decanter] Related: Essex House and St. Regis Restaurants: Maybe Next Year! Grape Nuts [NYM]

Where Padma Eats Cheap in New York

Padma Lakshmi
Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet. That’s the name of model turned Top Chef dictatress Padma Lakshmi’s new cookbook, and that’s just how she behaved before swooning fans last night at her Strand book signing. After donning “serious” glasses to read food-related mini-memoirs from the book, she told the crowd that saying “Please pack your knives and go” to Top Chef’s weekly loser was “the hardest part of my job” … and divulged that men often ask her to say it to them in a dominatrix-y sort of way. (“It creeps me out!” she insisted.) She said the show had knocked down any remaining foodie limits she might have had: “I’ll put anything in my mouth once.” Oh, Padma!