Andrea Strong

Andrea Strong reveals her schoolgirl crush on a chef.

on Jun 12, 20080

I eat out an average of five nights a week and sometimes food can blend together and a sense of sameness can overwhelm me. Not that the dishes aren't good, they may be delicious, but it's refreshing to find a chef like Stephanie who surprises us, and makes his or her mark with something as unexpected and thrilling as braised pistachios and a bold combination with olives and blackberries.

Not to sound too sappy, but even though Richard technically lost, he's is a winner in my book in many ways. He impressed me all season long with his avant-garde technique, whimsical style, creativity, and grace under pressure. I enjoyed watching him cook and found him to be an inspiring and excellent competitor, and I am sure we'll be hearing great success stories from him as his career evolves.

It's been a great season on Top Chef and I'm already looking forward to Season Five. I'd like to use this space to make an argument for New Orleans as the next Top Chef city. I travel down to the Big Easy about twice a year now, as my fiance's family lives there, and there's no place like NOLA. There's some wild culinary talent down there (read more here), like Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski at Cochon, Scott Boswell at Stella, Bob Iacovone at Cuvee, Jon Besh at August, Susan Spicer at Bayona, and on and on. There's also a huge need for an influx of positive energy, tourism, and dollars into this still-healing city. There could be a Jazz Fest challenge, where chefs cooked up traditional NOLA dishes and go head to head with local restaurants at the Jazz Fest food booths. They could have Po Boy and Muffaletta Quickfire Challenges, an Elimination Challenge using local seafood and sausages with maybe surprise ingredients like alligator. They could cook for a Saints game, or whip up an al fresco lunch for Habitat for Humanity volunteers working to rebuild. It's a city that would be prime real estate for Top Chef. So if anyone out there's listening, how bout it? Top Chef New Orleans for Season Five? I hope so.

While this season of Top Chef is over, I'll still be here every week, writing about food form here in New York, so I hope you'll keep checking in and that you'll also make some time to visit my regular blog,