Top Chef Alumni Newsletter

Battle of the Dale Levitski Feature Profiles

Photo: Neil John Burger

Both Time Out Chicago and the Tribune give long-form attention to Sprout chef Dale Levitski today, chronicling his culinary highs and lows from working the line at Blackbird to running Trio to almost winning Top Chef to finally finding redemption at the helm of Sprout. Of course we had to pit the two articles against one another — read on for our highly scientific compare-contrast:

Dramatic opening anecdote of tragedy in the midst of triumph.
TOC: Levitski is served legal papers on Sprout’s opening day.
Trib: Levitski has his sure-thing Top Chef win stolen by the evil Hung Hyunh.
Advantage: TOC. Everybody knows Dale’s snatching-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory. We’re pretty sure nobody knew about the non-payment of rent and subsequent legal fallout.

Uplifting anecdote undercutting the other publication’s dramatic opening anecdote:
TOC: “His performance on [Top Chef] is a source of pride for him … The morning after the season finale aired, he told Time Out Chicago: “I never actually felt that I lived up as a ‘Trio chef.’”
Trib:“On opening night, the two were served court papers for owing back rent. “We were in such a good mood, we started laughing,” Levitski said. (They’ve since paid it off.)”
Advantage: TOC, simply for sparing us yet another rehashing of Dale vs. Hung.

Ticking off gigs on Levitski’s resume:
TOC: Ground Round, Deleece, Blackbird, Orange, La Tache, Trio, Stone Lotus, Top Chef, sola, Relax, Sprout.
Trib: Deleece, Blackbird, La Tache, Trio, Top Chef, sola, Sprout.
Advantage: TOC, for sheer volume.

Illustration of the depths to which Levitski had fallen, pre-Sprout.
TOC: “Before long, both Levitski and Nguyen were unemployed, living off $20 a week, eating countless variations of ramen, spending their days “having sleep-offs,” playing with Levitski’s dogs, sitting on a broken love seat watching the same movies over and over again on their tiny television.”
Trib: “He fed himself a Tombstone frozen pizza a day and gained 20 pounds. He drank. He kept his phone off. He could recite plotlines from “All My Children” and “One Life to Live.”“
Advantage: Trib. We’ve all been in the Ramen Place in our lives at one point or another. But daily frozen pizzas and soap opera memorization? It’s practically Grey Gardens.

Illustration of Sprout’s redemptive entry into Levitsky’s live:
TOC: “The fact that Kristofer, already the GM, called Levitski, whom he’d known for 11 years, wasn’t as surprising as the fact that Levitski answered the phone. “I hadn’t been answering calls for a while,” says Levitski, who has been notorious for having a full voicemail box and not returning e-mail.”
Trib: “Within 45 minutes of walking into the Sprout space, and five days after his mother’s funeral, Levitski agreed to become its new head chef. He called Nguyen, who screamed on the phone and ran in circles around their apartment.”
Advantage: Trib. The image of Nguyen screaming while running circles is priceless.

Emotionally powerful closing quote:
TOC: “I think now, my priorities have changed, where it’s like: This is my home.”
Trib: “It’s a reminder that dreams are always a work in progress.”
Advantage: TOC. It’s so definitive! We love happy endings.

Final Tally:
TOC: 4
Trib: 2
Advantage to Julia Kramer and Time Out (with our condolences to the Tribune’s Kevin Pang). If you read only one Dale Levitski feature article today, we have statistically proven that it should be hers. Then again, we cannot imagine what obstacle might allow you to read only one Dale Levitski feature article today.

Back from Reality [Time Out Chicago]
Former ‘Top Chef’ star has revived his dream [Tribune]

Battle of the Dale Levitski Feature Profiles