Word comes today of the forthcoming Top Chef Kitchen, the “first-ever branded restaurant” from the cash cow Bravo series. Opening Tuesday, October 16, the temporary eatery will pop up in the Distilled NY space at 211 West Broadway. Now, do we really need to tell you which busy Washington Top Chef alum will be among the former cheftestants cooking there?
This morning, Bravo revealed its lineup of cheftestants for the tenth season of Top Chef, which will take place in Seattle. And for those local fans who’ve been waiting for some Washington representation ever since the glory days of Mike Isabella and Bryan Voltaggio, the announcement brought good news: There are three DC-based chefs in the running.
Look for Bart Vandaele, the Belgian-bred chef/owner of Capitol Hill’s Belga Cafe; Dan O’Brien, the chef/owner of Shaw market/supper club Seasonal Pantry (which garnered three stars on our most recent list of 100 Best Restaurants); and Jeffrey Jew, who most recently led the kitchens at Marvin, BlackByrd, and the Brixton, but according to Bravo now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The first episode premieres on November 7. Best of luck, chefs! Keep those knife kits in the game.
With two pop-ups in the bag, the staff at Bandolero should be all set for the grand opening. On Thursday, Mike Isabella and team unveil the two-level restaurant, featuring a long copper bar with crates displaying bottles of tequila and mezcal--37 of the first and about 15 of the latter, with more on the way, according to Sam Babcock, the man in charge of beverages.
Babcock is betting the Bandolero margarita will be among the most popular orders. He's prebatching the cocktail daily in Cornelius kegs--old-school soda canisters--which are hooked up to a nitrogen line. "The nitrogen provides the liquid with enough pressure to force it up through the tap, but not enough gas to carbonate the beverage," Babcock explains. Down the road, we may see more on-tap cocktails at Bandolero. The service method has shown up in other cities--New York, Seattle--but as far as we know, the Bandolero margarita will be the first on-draft mixed drink in the Washington area.
By Jessica Voelker
At Good Stuff Eatery, chef Spike Mendelsohn (Top Chef alum, Acid Reflux meds shill) famously serves burgers named for Barack and Michelle Obama. The edible homage to POTUS--as heartburn-inducing as a gridlocked Congress--is a beef patty topped with applewood bacon, onion marmalade, Roquefort cheese, and horseradish mayo. Reflecting her ever-controversial aversion to childhood obesity, Mrs. Obama's sandwich is a free-range turkey burger with caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, ruby tomato, and lettuce on a whole wheat bun with "Southlawn herb garden mayo."
But as Washingtonians know well, a change in the White House leads to countless other little changes throughout the town. If Mitt Romney manages to grab the presidency, he'll be needing a Good Stuff burger too, right? We asked chef Spike what would be on it. "The Romney Burger would be fried cod, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, Creole mayo, and roasted red peppers," Mendelsohn revealed to us in an e-mail yesterday. The burger is "an ode to Massachusetts, and specifically Cape Cod. The roasted peppers and Creole mayo compliment the cod--a nod to the great seafood from Massachusetts."
Ed Lee, flanked by fellow cheftestants Heather Terhune and Paul Qui. Photograph courtesy of Virginia Sherwood/Bravo.
Top Chef: Texas fans, take note: Season 9 finalists Edward Lee and local son Paul Qui (from Springfield, Virginia) are going to be in town on March 31 for a cooking demo, lunch, and Q&A at Asia Nine, so get your tickets early. If you miss the class, you might catch Lee dining at Volt or tasting through a meal at Minibar—two spots he says he’d like to hit during the visit.
We recently checked in with the Louisville, Kentucky-based chef, who has spent this season whipping up rattlesnake for Padma, barbecuing for Modernist Cuisine author Nathan Myhrvold, and creating gore-inspired treats for the Evil Queen herself, Charlize Theron. With only five toques left, the pressure is on, and we won’t know until tomorrow night whether Lee makes it to the final four. Below, the chef spills his thoughts on the toughest challenges, what he’d change about the season, and his upcoming projects.
So what have been some of your favorite challenges so far?
My favorite challenges were the ones I did well in! The one with Charlize Theron is definitely up there, and I think the other chefs would agree. It was challenging, but there was a lot of freedom. As chefs, that gets our juices flowing.
“This is not classic food,” says Mike Isabella, pointing to a draft of the Bandolero menu. “The tradition is there, but then it’s the Mike Isabella touch.”
A few days before Living Social announced a new pop-up project that will preview the menu at Isabella’s forthcoming Mexican restaurant in Georgetown, the Graffiato chef had just returned from an eating trip to San Francisco—the final leg of a three-city tour designed to familiarize himself with the offerings at the best Mexican eateries around the country. In between these jaunts, he’s been poring over the Mexican cookbook canon, “from Diana Kennedy, the classic, to Rick Bayless and some of the modern stuff.” The Bandolero menu has yet to be finalized—Isabella says he’ll likely make tweaks up until two weeks from the opening—but the chef seems to have nailed down the lion’s share of the dishes.
Here’s the scoop on what to expect:
Bryan Voltaggio’s time on Top Chef turned him into a household name, attracting foodies far and wide to the tasting menu at Volt, his restaurant in Frederick, Maryland. But on the outskirts of town, Voltaggio observed a different dining need. "I noticed chain restaurants packed full of families," he says. "People want something easy, where they can throw their family in the car, park outside, and have a quick meal."
So he decided to open a diner. Rumors of the project started circulating a few weeks back, but Voltaggio confirmed to us yesterday that the yet-to-be-named eatery will be housed in a former car dealership just outside downtown Frederick. The chef will retrofit the auto showroom into a classic American diner—albeit with a distinct Voltaggio touch. It will be "simple fare done really well at a moderate price,” he says. While the menu isn’t set, dinner options could include meatloaf, lasagna, and crispy fried chicken. And yes, there will be breakfast: Voltaggio is planning egg sandwiches, platters, and pancakes (his son's favorite).
Mike Isabella's paella stuffing brings new flavors to the feast. Photograph by Erik Uecke
This vibrant stuffing from chef Mike Isabella may look familiar: The Graffiato chef-owner conceived the dish during a quick-fire challenge on Top Chef All-Stars, where the cheftestants scrambled to create stuffing after cutlery and utensils were removed from the kitchen. Tre Wilcox took the prize, but Isabella’s bright riff on paella with saffron, piquillo peppers, and chorizo is a winner on the toque’s home table. Isabella likes to use it with a turkey for Thanksgiving, but even if you’re not cooking the big bird, it’ll make a zesty filling for wild game, peppers, and even whole roast fish.
Check out Washingtonian.com’s recap of last night’s Top Chef: All-Stars finale and a conversation with the runner-up here.
The final showdown was a nail biter, with the judges finding lots to love about both Mike’s and Richard’s dishes. But in the end, there could only be one Top Chef . .
While prepping for the elimination challenge—to create “the restaurant of your dreams”—on last night’s Top Chef: All-Stars finale, Richard Blais said he was planning to make Cap’n Crunch ice cream for his dessert course. As someone who could happily eat both ice cream and cereal at every meal, I was instantly salivating. But then Richard changed his mind, deciding instead to make fois gras ice cream. That’s right. He decided to swap out Cap’n Crunch for fattened goose liver. He might as well have reached through the screen and punched me in the face. And yet . . . I was still rooting for him. How could you not? He’s won more challenges than any other competitor on the show and somehow he’s not a jerk. In fact, he seems like an incredibly nice guy.