Mike Isabella's right-hand man is following in his footsteps. George Pagonis, Kapnos's executive chef and a partner in the Greek eatery, will compete on Top Chef season 12. The Boston-based season's episodes begin airing October 15.
Pagonis previously served as chef de cuisine at Graffiato, and will open Kapnos Taverna in Ballston this fall (here's his full bio). Though he's the only Washington cheftestant this season, Joy Crump of Foode in nearby Fredericksburg is also packing her knives for Beantown.
Don't want to wait until autumn for your Top Chef fix? Tonight you can catch the spinoff, Top Chef Duels, in which Isabella will fight it out with former rival Antonia Lofaso in an Italian-style battle. If you're a Top Chef superfan, head to Kapnos for a viewing party starting at 9 (the show airs at 10). Happy hour runs in the restaurant's bar and at G, and Isabella will be there to cheer on his television alter ego.
It’s all about family in episode three of Life After Top Chef. Fabio gets a visit from his mom; Richard celebrates his wife’s birthday—attempting to win her over with a backpack and a visit to the shooting range; Jen heads to the track with her dad; and Spike travels to Montreal with his kind-of girlfriend Julia and the rest of the fam for a wedding and a little steak-frites research. Oh, but there’s so much more. Let’s get to it.
“At every turn, I have to make sure I’m still qualified to be her husband.”
Yikes, Richie. This show is preoccupied with Fabio’s dangerous stress levels, but the code red situation is really in the house of Blais. It’s Jazmin’s birthday, and Richie has bought her some kind of purse/backpack thing in honor of the occasion. Does she like it? Does she not? Blais explains how astute he’s become at examining the nonverbal queues. After nail-biting through the gift offering, we head out with the Blaises to shoot some (gulp) guns, and although artillery isn’t his thing, Richie must prove his manhood by firing away. Meanwhile, the sight of his wife packing heat causes our hero even more consternation, since “every time she picks up a butter knife in our house she tells me she’s worried she’s going to stab me.” Frankly, we’re a little worried, too. Hope she likes that backpack.
The new reality show Life After Top Chef airs this October on Bravo, and local burger and pizza maven Spike Mendelsohn will be among the former cheftestants featured—the show will tape Mendelsohn as he works on, among other projects, his new Capitol Hill steak-frites concept, Bearnaise. Press materials for the program set up the tension between the fedora-wearing cook and his “food industry family,” with whom he works closely: “This carefree and brilliant chef struggles with his strong desire to venture on his own while avoiding ruffling feathers with the Mendelsohn clan.” Also featured on the show is Atlanta-based Top Chef All-Stars contestant Richard Blais, “badass” Jen Carroll in Philadelphia, and “fan favorite” Fabio Viviani in Los Angeles.
“I think it's pretty gutsy for someone to try and feed me pasta,” said Giada De Laurentiis, her voice crackling slightly thanks to a sinus infection.
The Food Network's queen of Italian cuisine had just left the stage at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show. Held this past weekend at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, it is the sort of event where vendors hand out samples of pepper jack cheese and jam and tiny sausages to suburban couples getting a jump on their Christmas shopping. Behind a labyrinth of black curtains, attendees watched De Laurentiis and fellow Food Network personalities Guy Fieri (bleached hair, bowling shirts) and Paula Deen (butter) demoing dishes from a large, brightly lit stage.
So who would have the gall to serve gnocchi to the Everyday Italian lady? That would be Mike Isabella, Top Chef alum and owner of the recently opened Graffiato in Chinatown, where De Laurentiis and her agent spent Saturday night gorging themselves on the potato-filled pasta, along with chestnut-filled mezzalunas; handmade spaghetti with cherry tomato, garlic, and basil sauce; crispy goat; chicken with cranberry sauce; and pumpkin-filled zeppole (doughnutlike pastries).
This week’s Top Chef: All Stars was a tale of two pop-up restaurants, as the chefs divided into teams and opened their own eateries. One team's Mediterranean-style spot, Etch, was plagued with problems from the very start, with poor communication and bickering leading to disastrous food.
Spike Mendelsohn is the proud owner of two popular Capitol Hill eateries, but he never lost his hunger to take home the title of Top Chef. Expectations were high when joined this season’s All Star cast, battling it out against other DC-area favorites such as Carla Hall and Mike Isabella. Alas, when the owner of Good Stuff Eatery and We, the Pizza paired a tangy tomato-tamarind soup with bland shrimp, the judges were nonplussed, asking Mendelsohn to pack his knives and go. We chatted with him about strategy, Angelo’s sabotage, and who he sees as the top competitors.
This week’s Top Chef featured a Quickfire of lobbyist-friendly toothpick snacks, followed by an elimination challenge that sent the contestants to cook a “power lunch” at the Palm, using the restaurant’s proteins. Saddled with swordfish, Miami chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo dished it up pan-seared with a vanilla/mustard beurre blanc. Alas, the judges found her dish too “sweet” and “totally unfocused” and sent her home. She chatted with us about the case of the missing pea puree, her rivalry with fellow Miami chef Michelle Bernstein, and why she wouldn't do the show again.
Local ingredients were the star on this week’s episode of Top Chef. For the Quickfire challenge, the contestants confronted squirming blue crabs that seemed ready to take over the whole kitchen. Later, they decamped to Virginia’s Ayrshire Farms to create a family-style meal, working together as a single team. Battling frigid temperatures, limited produce, and a makeshift outdoor kitchen—not to mention 12 oversized egos— the chefs cooked a lunch of (mostly) farm-grown ingredients. Three dishes sank to the bottom: Amanda’s shockingly rustic faux-minestrone, Stephen’s “over-thought and over-dressed” salad, served—Horrors! —in a bowl, and Timothy’s forgettable roasted turnips, potatoes, and asparagus. In the end, the judges sent Timothy packing. We talked with the DC/Baltimore-area chef about home-turf advantages, Angelo’s master plan, and his favorite local restaurants.
Wednesday night’s episode of Top Chef saw a sandwich-making Quickfire that forced the chefs to work tied together in pairs (hilarious for the viewer, perhaps not so amusing for the cheftestants), followed by an elimination challenge that grouped them into teams of four to create a healthy, budget-friendly school lunch. With her teammate Amanda insistent on dishing up the unlikely kid’s meal of braised chicken thighs in sherry jus, Jacqueline Lombard was left with meager fixings to prepare her banana pudding. Alas, two pounds of sugar later, judge Tom Colicchio deemed Jacqueline’s dessert “grainy, loaded with sugar, and not very nutritious” and sent the Brooklyn chef home. We caught up with her today to discuss the combative atmosphere at judges’ table, grocery shopping for 50 on a tight budget, and why she didn’t know that desserts on Top Chef are usually the kiss of death.
>>For a recap of episode 2, click here.
Was Amanda really as selfish a teammate as she appeared to be?
“Amanda took the competition very seriously. She had a take-no-prisoners attitude, and she was working for herself and no one else, versus having us come together as a team. [At judges’ table] I defended the team, but my teammates only defended themselves.”
Do you regret making a dessert?
“I didn’t want to be the one to do dessert, but I was the only member of the team with pastry experience, which everyone kept bringing up. I would’ve loved to do the chicken! But [dessert] was the hand I was dealt.”
Do you feel your team had the worst plate of food?
“My team felt very strongly that, based on the critiques, our dishes were much less offensive. Angelo’s team was really the losing team. They had a total lack of nutritional quality. They served carbohydrates and sugar in all four of their dishes, which was way worse than Amanda’s boozy chicken. We served 19 ounces of health with one ounce of sugar.”
Everyone’s favorite reality cooking show is back, and it has a new star: our fair city. Season seven of Top Chef premiered this week with beauty shots of the cherry blossoms, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Capitol—not to mention a new judge, Eric Ripert of DC’s Westend Bistro. And of course, there was a whole lot of drama. After enduring a mise en place Quickfire that featured bloody potatoes and a $20,000 cash prize, the cheftestants prepared cocktail fare that was supposed to reflect their roots and personalities. Alas, dreadlocked Michigan chef John Somerville disappointed the judges with an overly sweet maple-mousse napoleon that was long on the packaged puff pastry and short on the maple flavor. We spoke to him about how it feels to be the first to leave, the steamy close quarters of the Top Chef kitchen, and which contestant most resembles belligerent Lakers star Ron Artest.
>>For a recap of episode 1, click here.
Were you surprised to be the first to go?
“Absolutely. [Stephen] pounded the living crap out of rib-eye steak and then fried it. And I thought [Jacqueline] was going to have to throw those livers away. I really thought I had a real good chance to win. I’m hoping this shows how legit Top Chef really is. The show is creating a new breed of highly skilled superchefs that can think really fast on the fly.”