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Top Chef DC Preview

Jun 16, 2010 07:25PM ● By Anonymous

For those who’ve never watched the show, it’s pretty much your standard, talent-based reality show format. Contestants (annoying referred to as “cheftestants” in this case) are eliminated one-by-one on a weekly basis by a panel of judges with varying expertise in the field. Celebrity chefs Tom Colicchio and Eric Rippert and FOOD & WINE magazine editor Gail Simmons are the regular judges, with other celebrities and/or renowned chefs making appearances at the judges’ table.

In years past, semi-local contestants have included Baltimore’s Jill Snyder, Red Maple’s former chef who was eliminated during the second episode of season five by an ostrich-egg quiche said to have tasted like paste; Glen Burnie High alumna and former chef of Abacrombie Fine Food & Dining Jesse Sandlin, whose self-defeating attitude punched her early exit in season six; meathead extraordinaire Mike Isabella of Zaytinya in DC, who nearly made the finals in season six; self-satisfied, douchey-hat-wearing Spike Mendelsohn, who doubled down on his fifteen minutes of fame after season four by opening DC burger joint Good Stuff Eatery, apparently a favorite of the Obamas; Carla Hall of DC-based Alchemy Caterers, who unexpectedly fought her way to the finals of season four; and the pair of brothers born and raised in Frederick, Brian and Michael Voltaggio, who were the final two contestants last year. Michael, executive chef at L.A.’s Bazaar by Jose Andres, was eventually named the winner. Since the season aired, trying to get a reservation at Brian’s Frederick restaurant, Volt, has been as futile as B.P.’s attempts to stem the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

This season’s group of chefs includes another Baltimore chef, Timothy Dean of Prime Steak House in Baltimore and soon-to-open Prime Steak House by Timothy Dean in DC. He’s a Howard University alumnus who grew up in DC, so I imagine they’ll play him up as the hometown hero. Sadly, his wife died of breast cancer three years ago; expect the producers to inject that tragedy into the show as a bit of manufactured drama and backstory during whichever episode he ends up getting eliminated. I’m sure avid watchers of the show can imagine the T-Mobile product placement now: his emotional phone call home will kick off the episode, with the camera zoomed in on the T-Mobile logo on his phone the entire time.

Washingtonian has been keeping a map of all the places the Top Chef contestants have been spotted around the city.

In seasons past, there’s usually been at least one “field trip” episode in which the contestants are taken to a rural area near the host city for some sort of themed challenge. The NYC season brought the chefs to an organic and sustainable farm in upstate New York to see what they could do with a selection of incomparably fresh ingredients; the Vegas season brought the contestants to the middle of the Mojave desert to see what they could create without an over, stove, or refrigerator, cooking only on an open flame. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if one of those episodes took place on the Eastern Shore or in southern Maryland. Just speculating here, but maybe the challenge would force the chefs to stage their own traditional Maryland crab feast for local watermen. It would offer the built-in drama of local watermen being unlikely to appreciate a fussy reinterpretation of a crab cake.