|"The fuck you just say about my Diet Coke commercial?"|
|"I'm going to stare at you like this, and continue to stare at you like this, until you sate my current post-partum craving. Eggs over hard and an acoustic rendition of Del Amitri's 'Roll to Me' or I'll vaporize you with my fucking eyes."|
|"Come forth, and bury your chef heads deep in the swollen bosom of democracy!"|
|"We're all mega jet-lagged, so it'd be really helpful if you fed us a couple irritatingly pithy culinary talking points about your crappy dish while you plate it."|
|Padma's eyes are up here, guys.|
A self-proclaimed "beast in the kitchen" with unrivaled knife skills, Kevin is currently the Executive Chef at Rat's at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ, which is managed by Stephen Starr. After earning his BS of Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales in Miami, Kevin went on to become the Chef de Cuisine at The Grill at Philadelphia's Ritz-Carlton Hotel and was included in the 2007 list of "Top 10 Chefs" by Philadelphia Style magazine. In 2008, Kevin served as the Culinary Director of Garces Restaurant Group and was named winner of Best Meat Presentation at Bocuse d'Or USA. This African American, Italian chef declares he's the "Barack Obama of the cooking game" and wants to prove that "he can."
The eBay auction for this Blackfish guest chef menu signed by 10 Arts chef de cuisine/Top Chef finalist Jennifer Carroll ï¿½ plus a $100 Blackfish gift card ï¿½ ends this evening, so be sure to get your bids in while you still can (it's up to $132.50 as of right now). One hundred percent of the proceeds from the sale go to Philabundance.
Stephen Starr made his first appearance on Bravo's Top Chef during Season 5's Restaurant Wars episode. For Top Chef Las Vegas, he sat at the Final Table during last night's finale episode. Meal Ticket caught up with the restaurateur today to get his thoughts on the experience.
Some Top Chef fans here in the city are sore over the fact that they always identify you as the owner of Morimoto and Buddakan in New York, but gloss over all your restaurants in Philly. What's up with that?
The first time I was on [Top Chef New York], it was a totally new experience, and I had no idea what they would do. I had barely watched the show and I didn't know much about it. I don't know why they didn't say that. If I do it again, I would make sure they say that I'm the owner of restaurants in both Philly and New York. My guess is they're sort of not giving us the respect we deserve, just honing in on New York. And of course, that's ridiculous. Philly is our home, and most of what I do is here.
Did you feel as though the format for this final table ï¿½ï¿½ mandatory dessert, the "mystery box" ï¿½ damaged the finalists' ability to showcase their strengths?
It probably hurt them. It's like playing in the World Series in 60-degree temperatures or 40-degree temperatures. What's easier on the pitcher and batter? It's better when things are controlled. If they figure out how to do their best and plan it in their heads, I think it'd be much easier and better.
Now I don't know when Tom Colicchio actually told them [about the various twists]. It might have been 7 in the morning. So if they were told that at 7 a.m., it's not as much as a curveball, since we taped until the late afternoon. But generally speaking, my answer would be that those curveballs would only hurt the chefs.
How long did the taping for the Final Table actually last?
Five or six hours? I don't know. I have all these confidentality agreements so I can only give you the broad view.
Based on what you tasted, do you feel as though the right chef came out on top?
It was really close. And at the end of the day, I was not the judge who made those decisions. I really liked that dessert with the pumpkin seeds. It was really good. People said it was dried out, but it didn't matter ï¿½ the flavors and consistencies were really good. I think that dessert was from the guy that won [Michael Voltaggio]. Bryan [Voltaggio] did the venison ï¿½ that may have been the best [entrï¿½e]. But if memory serves me well, I think that the right guy won.
I don't watch these things very often. I'm really way too busy to watch them every week, but I read on the Internet when people are like, "So and so should've won." But there's no way you can know who should've won by watching TV. You gotta eat it! I think that people really develop a fondness for the characters, like that guy with the beard [Kevin Gillespie]. He was a very folksy, likeable guy.
With so many palates at one table, there was bound to be some disagreements about specific dishes, right? Any disputes or differences in opinion that didn't make it onto the show?
Not really ... there were no major disagreements on this one. Tom Colicchio is excellent, by the way ï¿½ he really is almost a professor with his analysis of food. My opinions are very basic ï¿½ which may be better ï¿½ but Tom's are so much astute and prolific. He's really good.
Taking their styles and cooking in consideration, which of the three chefs would you most like to hire for one of your restaurants?
If you really want me to be very honest with you, the conditions by which we eat this food, the number of dishes we have ï¿½ it's not even close to being enough for me to determine if I would do a restaurant with them. If I were a judge the whole time, sure, I could figure it out.
Funny you say that, because leading up to the Final Table, they had the contestants saying stuff like, "This could make or break our careers!"
It's a television show, you know? It's a very well-done and successful one. It's inspired a lot of people to not only watch, but to want to cook.
You said you didn't care for the inclusion of bacon in Kevin's dessert. Safe to say we'll never see a bacon-laden dessert at a Starr restaurant?
Chefs are experimenting with lots of stuff, and pork has become a very important ingredient in cooking. Of course, it's always been. [That type of dessert] is being done a lot now ... but putting pork in a dessert for me is just gross. I don't want pig ice cream.
So are you not into that vein of experimentation?
When you're a young chef and you just start doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff ... your foundation needs to be strong. Your knowledge of classic techniques needs to be awesome. Then I think you start to play. That's the danger in cooking shows and things like this. Maybe a lot of people are going too quickly to the experimental stage before they have the basics down pat.
What are the chances of seeing a Top Chef season set in Philly in the future?
I don't know. Of course I put my two cents in that they should do that. I've pushed the producers. I told them they need to come to Philly, it's a great culinary town. I think they are considering it.
Last night, Top Chef's sixth season wrapped up in fairly dramatic fashion. Dramatic chair-leaning was involved.
First off, it should be said that this final three ï¿½ brothers Bryan and Mike, and Kevin ï¿½ is, in my opinion, the strongest in the show's history. Unlike last season, when I (and some of the rest of y'all, i'm guessing) boo-hissed at my screen due to the groan-inducing nature of the conclusion, I knew that all the remaining finalists were worthy adversaries for one another. While it's easy to argue that these three were groomed from the outset by producers based on their manifold archetypal value ï¿½ tall good-looking blonde dudes! vicious sibling rivalries! jolly Southern gentlemen! pork fetishes! tattoos! beards! ï¿½ you can't knock the numbers: This threesome combined to win 12 of the 13 elimination challenges this season. No joke.
To be honest, I was surprised and a little disappointed that they decided to switch up the free-for-all format of the final challenge this year. While in previous seasons the judges had final cheftestants cook up whatever they pleased (the transcendently beautiful Padma would always say something melodramatic like "cook us the best meal of life," and then make a series of sensual gesticulations), this year's ultimate challenge carried a barrage of stipulations and limitations that I believe hampered the overall results for the worse. At first, Bryan, Mike and Kevin are told that of the three courses they're required to cook, they'll have free reign over only one. For the other two, one must feature ingredients out of a Chopped mystery box (above ï¿½ rockfish, kobacha squash, meyer lemon, etc.), and the other ï¿½ the other must be DESSERT. Nooooooo.
Before they get their prep started, the chefs draw knives to see which eliminated contestants will back them up in the kitchen. Kevin pulls Preeti (who was probably offended by this facepalm-worthy WaPo correction) and Ash. Mike adds Jessi ("She's a workhorse") and Eli to his team. Bryan gets Ashley as well as our girl Jen.
While the three finalists sit and stew in a really nice hotel room, they're thrown for yet another loop when their adorable mothers show up and immediately start crying and matting down their sons' cowlicks with spitty fingers. This, of course, translates into even more work for the guys ï¿½ now that mamadukes action is in the house, they have to tack on a fourth course, one inspired by a favorite childhood dish.
The cheftestants cook, Kev gets mad at Preeti for chopping veggies too slow, Bryan reveals that he hunts to "be more in tune with his ingredients," yeahyeahyeah. The final table, at Douglas Keane's Cyrus, features all the usual suspects, plus a murderers' row of big-deal restaurateurs, including Sam Nazarian, Donatella Arpaia and Philly's own Stephen Starr.
Kevin's mom dish, chicken skin over a complex squash casserole, is a huge hit. His mystery box dish features a wack matsutake mushroom, and his pork belly is also poorly received ï¿½ odd, since pig is his wheelhouse. His similarily kosher-unfriendly dessert, a banana/peanut/chocolate/bacon deal, moves Starr to declare that he doesnt't want pork in his sweets.
Bryan's mom-homage sardine starter wins praise, but his sous-vide rockfish mystery box dish is deemed too safe by Gail. His venison/sunchoke purï¿½e main, on the other hand, is a smash, as is his polished dulce de leche cheesecake to round it all out.
Finally ï¿½ Mike dehydrates broccoli for his childhood memory plate (he was a picky eater), but serves an iffy spot prawn with it. His dashi-glazed rockfish is generally well-received, and the same goes for his squab breast with pistachio cassoulet and 'shrooms. A chocolate/caramel/squash coulant/brulee combo for dessert doesn't quite come full circle.
At judges' table, Kevin's zapped at the outset (the unfortunate timing of some personal issues might've played a part), so it comes down ï¿½ much to Bravo's devious glee, I'm sure ï¿½ to the Voltaggio brothers (have I mentioned that they have a SIBLING RIVALRY?!). Bryan's food is "well-presented and beautifully constructed," says Tom C, while his brother "reached high, and often delivered." So who the hell is rightly supposed to take this thing?
Mike Voltaggio is your new Top Chef, winning $125,000, the title, and psychological dominance over his older brother for years to come.
Questions and thoughts for y'all (let's hear what you have to say in the comments):
- Hell of a close call between these two, based on both season-long success and finale performance. What, at the end of the day, do you think bumped Mike past Bryan?
- What went wrong for Kevin in this episode?
- What did you think of all these final-table curveballs ï¿½ the mystery box, the mandatory dessert, the mom course? Good to level the playing field? Or squelching for the competitors?
- How much of a role ï¿½ in any ï¿½ did the Voltaggio sibling rivalry play in both of them to the very end?
- Is Mike the father of Padma's baby?
Check back on Meal Ticket a little later, when we'll chat with Stephen Starr about the Final Table.
We really enjoyed Stephen Starr's appearance on the last season of Top Chef -- he repped us well. Now comes word that the restaurateur will pull up a seat at the "Final Table" for tonight's episode, featuring cheftestants Kevin Gillespie, Michael Voltaggio and Bryan Voltaggio vying for the title. (Philly's own Jennifer Carroll was lamely sent home in part one of the finale last week.) We're sure he'll hold it down and provide some solid feedback during what is always our favorite challenge: When Padma and Co. tell the finalists to simply cook the best meal they've ever cooked. The results are always interesting.
Last week, we did a little poking around to try and determine which of the remaining chefs were hosting finale parties. Results here; do with them what you will.
It's part one of the Season 6 finale, and there are only a few things on my mind at this point in the competition. First ï¿½ remember when Preeti said she became a chef because of 9/11? That was awesome.
Second ï¿½ knowing what we know now, that Top Chef snoopage sesh from yesterday has created nothing but more confusion for me. And the last thing I need is more Top Chef confusion.
Quickfire: Our final four ï¿½ Jen, Kevin, Bryan and Mike ï¿½ show up one by one on a railroad platform at what looks like Shining Time Station, hair all different and strangely rested-looking. They're in Napa. Kevin's beard has a Facebook page. A pretty train arrives. The transcendently beautifully preggos Padma emerges alongside Top Chef Masters finalist Michael Chiarello. Does anyone else feel as though Padma should always be trailed by a Crazy 88-style entourage every time she enters or exits any type of door or vestibule?
You know what? It's the second-to-last episode of this season. I'm just going to go ahead and get this out of my system:
God that feels good. What am I supposed to do when this season is over? Read books? I'm so angry already.
So the Quickfire is that the final four cheftestants have to cook dishes for Padma and Chia on board the Napa Valley Wine Train, using grapes as a thematic ingredient. Kevin gets motion sickness easily so he's not feeling so hot about the situation, at least until he hears that the prize is a brand-new Toyota Prius. Jen reveals that she drives a 2000 Chevy Cavalier, which endears me to her even more ï¿½ I'll race you down Broad in my '98 Civic with the cracked-ass back bumper, Jen!
Chia has kind words for all of the chefs and their dishes, even threatening to steal to Jen's chicken liver/clam/cabernet grape combo for his restaurant, but Mike ends up getting the keys to the whip with a "cous cous"-stuffed grape leaf (his "dishes" always have so "quotes" around the "ingredients") with a "scallop" "skewer." "Screw him, man," says Jen. GOOD FOR YOUUUU, Mike!
Elimination: Napa Valley's fall crush season is reason for celebration, and the foursome are told to cook two dishes apiece for a crowd of 150 rich people who wear denim shirts. One dish must be all-the-way vegetarian, while the other can feature a protein ï¿½ but ALL the ingredients, S&P excepted, come from within a 50-mile radius. This stirs up some trepidation in Mike, who's used to cooking with space food sourced from the Crab Nebula, but Kevin, Jen and Bryan all seem OK with it.
"There's definitely a sibling rivalry," Mike says of competing against Bryan. Really? While we're all rattling off long-established absolute truths here, I definitely spend way too much time thinking about this show and Gail Simmons is definitely extremely into me.
Jen puts out a chevre mousse for her veg entry and a delicious-sounding roundup of braised duck legs and confit duck breast for her meaty plate; Chiarello compliments the "duckiness" of her Sonoma duck (are chefs allowed to say stuff like that?), but there's apparently too much salt in her goat cheese jawn. Mike's veggie pistou with slow-poached eggs and turnip/foie/pear soup earn dubious feedback. (His food causes Chiarello to utter the phrase "finish in my mouth," which made me laugh because I am 12 years of age.) Kev's roasted root-veg dish (above) is a huge hit, as is Bryan's goat cheese ravioli, and it's a battle of the short ribs for their meat courses: B's comes fig-glazed and flavorful, while K's ropy ï¿½ sorry, "toothsome" ï¿½ presentation with polenta is slightly less well-received.
The judges have quibbles for each of the chefs, but when it comes time for elimination, it's our girl Jen who's sent packing. Not to sound like too much of a homer here, but I think this is a perfect example of how utterly stupid it is for the judges to claim that they view the chefs' efforts on an episode-by-episode basis. If that were really true, Mike would've been axed, only because the stringent locavore parameters of the Elimination threw him off his game a bit ï¿½ he stated himself that he missed his "tricks," and it showed in the mixed-bag reactions to his food. Jen's veg dish apparently had too much salt, but her duck was a smash across the board ï¿½ even though they tried to twist her on-the-fly decision to confit her duck breast instead of grill it (coals weren't hot) into a shortcoming.
Next week: FINALE. OK Top Chef fans ï¿½ who's taking this? My gut says Kevin, but based on my nosiness research, the logical pick here miiiightttt be Bryan. Let's hear what you have to say.
Yesterday, 10 Arts by Eric Ripert announced they'd be holding two big viewing events for the last two episodes of this season of Top Chef Las Vegas ï¿½ from 7 to 11 tonight, guests can partake in final-four cheftestant Jennifer Carroll's $35 three-course prix-fixe, with the episode unfolding on flat-screen TVs in both the restaurant and bar/lounge areas. (They're also selling "Bet on Jen" buttons, with proceeds benefitting Philabundance.) Next Wednesday, Dec. 9, when it's whittled down to the final three, 10 Arts will do a $65 dinner deal that includes an autographed menu from Carroll as well as a champagne toast.
So is this is two-part celebration a giant tell of Carroll's victory on the show's sixth season, a la the big-ass party Jose Garces threw at Distrito when he became an Iron Chef? It's tempting to say yes ï¿½ but first we gotta check on the other three cheftestants to see what their plans are. Meal Ticket just put in calls to the restaurants of fellow Top Chef finalists Kevin Gillespie, Michael Voltaggio and Bryan Voltaggio to see if they had any comparable events planned.
Woodfire Grill, Gillespie's restaurant in Atlanta, informed us, in an almost regrettable tone, that there was nothing Top Chef-related scheduled for this week or next. Pasadena, California's The Dining Room, where Michael Voltaggio is chef de cuisine, will be playing the show at their bar, but there are no official parties on the books for tonight or next Wednesday. Tonight's a normal night at Volt, Bryan Voltaggio's restaurant in Frederick, Maryland ï¿½ but next week, the city of Frederick is hosting an invitation-only bash at the restaurant for the final episode.
Last year, eventual winner Hosea Rosenberg held a viewing party at a bar in Boulder, Carla Hall held a viewing party in D.C. and Stefan Richter, who didn't have a restaurant at the time, watched from home. (Check out our recap our last season's finale.)
So there y'all have it. Draw your own conclusions, Top Chef fans!
- barstool scientist
- Brew Revue
- Chef Salad
- Dirty Dishes
- Don't Front
- Eat This Immediately
- Field Trip
- Food and Art
- Food and Holidays
- Food and Movies
- Food and Music
- Food and Politics
- Food and Sports
- Food and Web
- Food Blogs
- Food Books
- Food Events
- Food News
- Food TV
- Happy Hour Hopper
- In Print
- Meal Ticket
- Menu Time
- Not So Quickfire
- Notes from the Weekend
- On Wheels
- Patio Drinking
- Philly Beer Week 2010
- Private Chef POV
- Product Placement
- Snack Time
- Stiff Drank
- Ticket Stubs
- Top Chef
- Weekly Candy
- Weird Regional Foods
- We're Here to Help
- Where'd We Eat?
- Drew Lazor's Ill-Advised Rant Factory
- Ill-Advised Ranting
- The Week Without Meat
- Philly Beer Week 2009
- Real Big
- Where'd I Eat Last Night?
- Top Chef Masters
- The Good Word
- Next Iron Chef
- Arterial Terrorism
- Food and Radio