Tag Archives: top chef

2 Local Chefs on Upcoming ‘Top Chef Masters’

Jennifer Jasinski & Richard Sandoval among the 2013 “Top Cheftestants”

TopChefMasters-logoI know I’ll be watching the fifth season of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” beginning on July 24, because two of the 13 new award-winning contenders have Colorado connections. Jennifer Jasinski is the chef/partner in three acclaimed Denver restaurants (Rioja, Euclid Hall and Bistro Vendôme) and Richard Sandoval (Richard Sandoval Restaurants with seven restaurants of different names in the Denver area, the mountains and overseas). They are competing for the title of ‘Top Chef Master’ and $100,000 for a charity of their choice. Jennifer’s is Work Options for Women and Richard’s is Careers Through Culinary Arts. It seems that both Colorado-connected chefs are eager to help train people for the business.

Another new wrinkle is that each Master has his or her sous-chef competing in a separate online competition, “Battle of the Sous Chefs.”  Jenn’s sous is Jorel Pierce of Euclid Hall, who competed but didn’t get too far on last season’s “Top Chef.” Richard’s is Greg Howe, but I’m not sure where he cooks. The results of each online episode directly impacts the Masters, awarding such advantages as immunity (the winner of each battle earns immunity for his or her boss) and sometimes, disadvantages, depending on their sous-chef’s performance (the poorest-performing sous-chefs who perform “earn” obstacles for their Top Chef Masters). Each “Battle of the Sous Chefs” episode precedes the next episode of “Top Chef Masters” and explores the uniquely interdependent relationship between a Master chef and his or her sous. To get an idea of this The series is already in the can, the they know who won what, but it’s a secret to the rest of the world. Continue reading 2 Local Chefs on Upcoming ‘Top Chef Masters’

‘Top Chef': I Can’t Believe I Watched the Whole Thing

After oh-so-dramatic ups and downs, Kristin Kish anointed Top Chef

TopChef-Season10-logoI really don’t care for the unreal (or surreal?) realm of reality telvision, but I tend to make an exception when a Colorado chef is a cooking show contestant. Then, my “state-riotism” kicks in and I start watching. With three Colorado chefs on season 10 of “Top Chef,” I became regular viewer. The locals were eliminated one by one, but I kept watching the program — but not the “Last Chance Kitchen” online spinoff.

By the beginning of the final episode telecast yesterday, the initial field of 21 “cheftestants” had been whittled down to two — and by the end of the program, just one remained to be crowned Top Chef. In the meantime, I had watched interesting moments of cooking and plating, plus soap opera-style interviews with the contenders (fierce and determined, or disappointed and resigned — much like the “Kiss and Cry” bench in every figure skating competition), processions of plated dishes being brought out to judges and audiences as small as those who could fit around the dining table in the Alaska governor’s mansion (Episode 15, I think) or as large as the studio audience in the finale, Episode 17.

Thinking back, I feel that the judges make their decisions using flexible and arbitrary parameters. Sometimes cheftestants are praised for being creative and thinking/cooking outside the box and sometimes they are eliminated for having strayed from what they know and do well — and what the judges suddenly say they “expected.” This was particularly evident in Finale Part I (Episode 16), in which Sheldon Simeon, a kid from Hilo who worked his way up, way up from dishwasher to one of Hawaii’s leading kitchenmeisters, was eliminated for going beyond his expected style of cooking. Only Emeril Lagasse, a kid from Fall River, Massachusetts, who himself started working in a Portuguese bakery as a teenager, identified with and praised Sheldon’s remarkable climb.

Kristen Kish, the eventual Top Chef , loaded down with ingredients during one of the elimination challenges.
Kristen Kish, the eventual Top Chef , loaded down with ingredients during one of the elimination challenges.

The finale pitted two talented women, Kristen Kish and Brooke Williamson. Kristin went on to win the title of “Top Chef.” She had been eliminated earlier triumped over other cheftestants people in the “Last Chance Kitchen” series and faced Brooke in the finale, an episode playing off the Iron Chefformat that involved cooking in front of the show’s judges, past winners (includinr Boulder’s Hosea Rosenberg, Season 5 winner) and others. Co-host Tom Colicchio  was underwhelmed with this gimmick, tweeting: “I hear you out there you didn’t like the format well neither did I and I doubt we will do that again.”

Hawaiian Food on my Mind

One “Top Chef finalist, Hawaiian cuisine class in Denver and a new near-Waikiki restaurant revs up

Hawaii is all over my culinary consciousness these days. Here are three reasons:

Hawaiian Chef Rising on “Top Chef”

Co-host Tom Colicchio and Sheldon Simeon in his signature red hat on
Co-host Tom Colicchio and Sheldon Simeon in his signature red hat on “Top Chef.”

Sheldon Simeon, the congenial “cheftestant” who grew up in Hilo and is now the honored executive chef at Star Noodle in Lahaina on Maui, is a finalist on Season 10 of “Top Chef.” Or at least I think he is anyway  –unless the second-chance curves the producers are now throwing at the two finalists by inserting some who had been told to “pack your knives” appear appear to compete again. There’s also an online second-chance competetion that I’ve never watched and some kind of people’s choice contest too in the increasingly convoluted “Top Chef” format. On camera, Sheldon says he started out as a dishwasher, but the show’s website identifies him as having attended the Culinary Institute of the Pacific and Maui Culinary Academy. He’s a two-time James Bear Award semi-finalist.

Hawaii-Born Troy Guard’s Island Influenced Cooking Class

Chef Troy Guard who is schedule to teach a Hawaii-heavy class at The Seasoned Chef.
Chef Troy Guard who is schedule to teach a Hawaii-heavy class at The Seasoned Chef.

Troy Guard, chef/owner of Denver’s TAG Restaurant, TAG Raw Bar and most recently TAG Burger Bar, is returning to his Hawaiian roots with a tropically inspired class called “Continental Social Food” (which is TAG’s slogan, having little to do with the class) at The Seasoned Chef cooking school on Saturday, February 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is part of the Denver’s Best Chefs series — and indeed he is. He’ll demonstrate Hawaiian Butterfish; Smashed Shrimp Shui Mai; Braised Veal Cheek; Thai Chicken; Maui Sunrise Shortcake and TAG’s signature “Palisade Peach Fizz” cocktail. Register online or call 303-377-3222.

Pre-Pèppoli Pop-Ups Near Waikiki

Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, California, a forerunnner of the new Hawaiian location.
Pèppoli at Pebble Beach, California, a forerunnner of the new Hawaiian location.

There are a lot of restaurants in Honolulu and the most touristy ones are on Waikiki. In truth, the vast majority are, to put it kindly, uninspired. Coming this summer, a new Italian restaurant is poised to join the gourmet parade. Pèppoli, a Tuscan restaurant from the renowned Antinori family of Italy, opens in the Lotus Honolulu, occupying space that was previously home to such notable restaurants as David Paul’s Diamond Head Grill and Bobby Magees. Prior to the Pèppoli launch, Lotus Honolulu is hosting a series of “pop-up” restaurants from two of today’s most renowned chefs during limited engagements in February and March. The series features the cuisines of chef Greg Profeta, former chef at Restaurant Marc Forgione, and Chef Koji Tanaka, executive chef of Hiroyuki Sakai’s highly anticipated Sakai of Hawaii. If Sakai’s name sounds familiar, you probably watched some of the original, made in Japan “Iron Chef.” Allez cuisine!

Knife Knowledge on ‘Top Chef’

Master Bladesmith Bob Kramer and his extraodinary kitchen knives

Bob Kramer Carbon Steel Knives by Zwilling J.A. Henckels, one of three Kramer signature lines that are affordable for regular folks.
Bob Kramer Carbon Steel Knives by Zwilling J.A. Henckels, one of three Kramer signature lines that are affordable for regular folks.

Until I watched Wednesday’s episode of “Top Chef” (Season 10, Episode 9), I never knew there was such a thing as a Master Bladesmith, that there are only 120 who have achieved such honors or that a certain Bob Kramer is the only one in this country to specialize in kitchen knives. He traces his craft back to royal sword-makers when the sharpness of the blade as well as the skill of its user could change history. Call it educational television.

Quality knives are amazing instruments in the right culinary hands. Kramer’s custom knives are very expensive  ($500 an inch!) and therefore are used by select very deep-pocketed chefs and extremely wealthy home cooks — the sorts of people that I imagine have a Rolls and/or a Ferrari in the garage. Kramer was the judge of this week’s “Quickfire Challenge” and evaluated the Cheftestants’ knife sharpening skills.

After three rounds, sharp-looking Micah Fields was the winner and received an exemplar from Kramer Knives. In looking for a photo of some Kramer knives, I learned that the Master Bladesmith has entered into a relationship with one of Germany’s leading knife manufacturers and offers a line marketed as Bob Kramer Knives by Zwilling J.A. Henckels. These appear to be made in Seki City, Japan, rather than in Solingen, Germany, but my own knife rack holds several Zwilling J.A. Henckels Five Star knives from Germany.

Top Chef ‘Cheftestants’ Unfazed by Foil

Kristen Kish triumphs in bizarre ‘Quick Fire Challenge’

I’m now officially hooked on “Top Chef” Season 10. The challenges have gotten so strange as to be compelling. Take this evening’s telecast, for instance. The latest Quick Fire Challenge, the portion in which Cheftestants try to gain immunity from elimination, looked like one major product placement segment for Reynolds Wrap.

I’ve done my share of cooking with foil wrap — but always either garlic bread or some sort of packet of fish atop julienned vegetables, but nothing like Cheftestants’ foil challenge times two. First, they had to select ingredients wrapped in foil, both refrigerated and not, and cook dishes in foil too — no pots, no pans, and naturally, no microwave. Some of them evn created cooking vessels from foil.

Kristen grabbing her foil-wrapped ingredients.

Everything they cooked was astonishing, given the necessity to think on their feet and the constraints of what amounted to secret ingredients and the restrictions of the cooking process itself. The winner was Kristen Kish, who somehow managed to make an Almond & Chocolate Sponge Cake in foil. The judges praised the texture and moistness of the cake, but I still have no idea how she did it.  Kristen won $10,000, which she planned to use for a trip to Korea where she was born. And Reynolds Wrap got an impressive amount of exposure.

German Bread Dumplings on ‘Top Chef’

Semmelknödel, a childhood favorite, on TV culinary competition

In Episode 6 of this season’s “Top Chef,” the ‘Cheftestants’ were asked to make a sweet and savory holiday dish that reflected their heritage. Imagine my surprise when Stefan Richter came up with a multi-component dish that included Semmelknödel, tennis ball-sized dumplings made from dried-out rolls. I have made them. My mother made them. My grandmothers made them, and I’m sure that previous generations of family cooks made them too. They not only are delicious, but they address our new sensibilities about avoiding waste.

When I moved into my first apartment and was starting to cook, my mother went through tattered, well-used recipes written in old-fashioned German handwriting that I was unable to decipher. She neatly transcribed them onto index cards and lovingly découpaged a small wooden box to hold them.

Continue reading German Bread Dumplings on ‘Top Chef’

One Colorado Chef Out, Two Remain in Top Chef

Trio of Colorado chefs started on Bravo TV food competition

I have started a number of blog posts indicating that I hate reality TV, an unreal sham if there ever was one, but indicating when local talent is involved, I make it a point to watch. Case in point: I faithfully saw every episode of “Top Chef” Season Five, cheering mightily when Hosea Rosenberg, then executive chef at Jax Fish House in Boulder, took top honors.

Of course, I watched the first episode of Season 10 that began last night. Twenty-one hopeful “cheftestants” auditioned for star chefs in their own restaurants for a chance to move on to Seattle for the the remainder of the season, when the hopefuls will be whittled to one winner. Three Colorado chefs started out of the gates: Eliza Gavin (221 South Oak, Telluride); Jorel Pierce (Euclid Hall, Denver) and Tyler Wiard (Elway’s Cherry Creek).

By the time the credits rolled, Gavin and Wiard were among those moving on to Seattle, but Pierce did not. The master of butchery and advocate or nose-to-tail dining was dismissed on account of over-salting. I’m sorry to see him go, but next week, I’ll be rooting for the two remaining Coloradans.