“Top Chef: Seattle” Judge Wolfgang Puck Talks About the DC Cheftestants

Plus: who he’d like to see at judge’s table next season.

Wolfgang Puck (left) and chef Scott Drewno.

With the premiere of
Top Chef: Seattle quickly approaching, the newest
big-name chef to join the judge’s table, Wolfgang
Puck, hopped on a call with journalists from across the country
to answer questions
about Season 10. Without giving away too many specifics, the

celebrity chef-owner didn’t seem overwhelmingly excited about
the performance of the
Washington competitors, which include
Dan O’Brien of Seasonal Pantry,
Belga Café’s

Bart Vandaele, and former

Jeffrey Jew.

Says Puck of what stood out to him in particular about the DC cheftestants, “When
they cook, it’s almost like watching baseball. Sometimes the ones who do such great
jobs, all of a sudden, the next day they’re just okay. I’m wondering, often, how can
that happen? Everyone expected the Detroit guy to win last night in baseball, but
all of a sudden he couldn’t perform. And I think cooking is a little bit the same.”

Ouch? We’re hoping none of the chefs turn out to be the Justin Verlander of Top Chef: Seattle, but it seems like there’s a little spoiler alert in there. (Fingers crossed none of the local toques was behind the fried chicken dish Puck described as “one of the worst fried chickens I ever ate.”) The celebrity toque frequently referenced a lack of basic techniques in the cheftestants across the board, saying the most unexpected part of being a judge happened in the first episode.

“I really thought a lot of the chefs who participated lacked a basic foundation,” says Puck. “If you’re in France or Austria or Italy and you do an apprenticeship, you learn the basics. Here, what I was surprised with, a lot of people know how to do recipes, but the basics are very difficult for them.”

One toque he thinks could own the competition? Not surprisingly, his main man at the Source and winner of our most recent Bloody Mary throwdown.

Scott Drewno is really very, very good,” says Puck when we ask which DC-based chefs he’d like to see in the mix next season. “I think he could compete well because he has a big Asian knowledge about Chinese food, which not a lot of chefs out there have. So I think I’ll talk him into doing it.”

Heads up, Drewno—you may have to pack your knives and come the Season 11 casting call.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.