Hi Top Chef Lovers! Sorry I’ve been gone for so long, but traveling takes a lot out of a girl! I spent the first half of the year on the road for Top Chef; New Orleans in January for finale, then straight to Los Angeles for two months for Masters, and then over the Vegas for another two months to film what I consider to be the best ever, and sadly my last season of TC. Definitely bittersweet for me, but the decision to go back to being a chef feels good in my bones. I’ll be producing the finale for Season 6 this fall, and then onto some other adventures (check out www.zenosupperclub.com for my latest project!)
Two months in Vegas was tough. It was also a return to the scene of the crime. The first time I ever spent in Vegas was during the Season 1 finale. Several booze-fueled days with no sleep, a lot of cooking, and a hazy Judges' Table for a victorious win by my friend Harold. What you don’t know is that we pulled ANOTHER all-nighter that evening and then collectively as a group, Harold, Miguel, and myself all missed our flight back to NY the next afternoon (not on purpose) and the production company had to pick our asses back up from McCarran and bring us back to the MGM until they could put us on a later flight that night. We met back up with Stephen and Dave and the good times recommenced until we were all dragged out of an obscenely good dinner at Craftsteak to catch our flight. That’s Vegas. These days, I’m older, and creakier; and while I did have some late nights in Vegas, thankfully most of them were not spent in a casino. I’ve been to Vegas many times since then, and craps is no longer my friend, though I still enjoy the game.
With much relief, we (the crew) did not stay on the strip, but by the airport at the humble Hilton Homewood Suites. An extended stay hotel, each suite had two small glass burners and a microwave, with which I would cook many meals for my crew and my immediate neighbors, the lighting boys. The outdoor pool and Jacuzzi became the centerpieces for decompression for the very hardworking Elves. The cast house was located in far East Vegas on the side of a mountain. It was roughly 90-100 degrees out every day, and my drug store humidifier totally sucked. Yes, Vegas would be hard.
But it would be spectacular!!!! Look at the judges we have this season! We’re making food television history!!! Wait’ll you see the last episode before finale! Jeebus, yes, I can leave in peace, knowing the show has finally reached a pinnacle level this season. It’s what I’ve always wanted for it, and I am very proud of TC. And we’re just GIVING away money left and right. $15,000 here, another $15,000 there. My fellow Season 1 pals used to joke about this ALL the time.
I’ve spent the past four years since I signed on trying to build the ultimate kitchen for the chefs. I had to dance around trade-outs, sponsors, and other legal mumbo jumbo to slowly start piecing together the appliances and equipment that would ensure these chefs could cook anything! It took the newest baby, Masters, to convince the higher-ups that I needed to build a tech corner. With that I turned to some great partners in the culinary field: Multivac for our cryovac machine; Irinox for the blast freezer; Polyscience for the recirculators, antigriddle, and smoking guns; Advanced Gourmet for the Paco Jets; iSi for the syphons; Terra Spice, National Starch, Ajinomoto, and TIC Gums for the food powders and tech ingredients; and of course, that giant tank of liquid nitrogen. I put together this amazing tech corner for Masters, which was amusing because chefs like Jonathan Waxman would glance over at it, snort, and walk in the other direction while chefs such as Michael Cimarusti, Wylie Dufresne, and Nils Noren were quite stunned at the fact that they had absolutely everything they would need should they choose to engage in that style of cooking. (Blais and Marcel would have enjoyed cooking in this kitchen very much). So while most of this did not get utilized for Masters, I was able to keep all of the equipment, knowing full well it would get some use for Season 6, which we filmed almost immediately after. I had Team Culinary with me to help make TV magic; Angie "The Fox" Ketterman, Louise "Weezy" Leonard, and our culinary PAs, Cirstan and Barrett.
The talent this season is scary. I can’t tell you just how excited I was to try some of the food this time around! As you can see by now, we have some pretty bad-ass contenders, far and away the best I’ve ever seen on the show. The food porn didn’t last long, that’s for sure. In addition to some great food, we’ve got some great personalities. Our chefs are from all over America, each with different style in and out of the kitchen. Frenchie, and chatterbox Mike Isabella. Ashley Merriman and Jennifer Carroll! Ash Fulk and Ron Duprat. The Voltaggio Brothers are reality TV gold. So are Eli and Kevin! What a cast of characters! And they can actually cook! There is so much to talk about this season and so I am staying in this Friday evening, to write about each episode, and give you the behind-the-scenes.