In its 13th season, Bravo's popular cooking competition, Top Chef, did a tour of California, hauling vans full of stressed chefs all over the state. From San Diego to Santa Barbara to Los Angeles and San Francisco, the talented contestants (often referred to as "cheftestants") navigated a variety of challenges, followed by swift judgement from the show's judges, including the usual crew (Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons) and special celebrity guest judges (like Emeril Lagasse).
After many moons in the Southern regions of the state, Top Chef took the dog and pony show to the Bay Area for two episodes. The first (which aired 2/25) started out in Oakland with a quickfire judged by MC Hammer,and progressing to a dinner at the Bentley Reserve. There, a table full of top SF chefs (Mourad Lahlou, Thomas McNaughton, Christopher Kostow, Joshua Skenes and more) tasted the tremulous chefs' food and bestowed judgement. It was an anti-climactic beginning to the SF portion of things, since none of it really had to do with San Francisco's food scene.
Luckily, last night's show (aired 3/3) dove headfirst into some really "local" stuff. Here are the highlights:
- The first challenge was a quickfire at The Commissary, chef Traci des Jardins Spanish-influenced restaurant in the Presidio. It was, wait for it, an "artisanal toast" quickfire, something Padma said is "a craze that actually ignited here in San Francisco and has taken the whole nation by storm." The chefs weren't impressed by the toast challenge, but managed to present some interesting options for what des Jardins described as "a classic San Francisco dish...now."
- Hubert Keller, acclaimed chef of the now-closed Fleur de Lys, popped in to thoroughly freak out the chefs by inviting them to dinner at the restaurant, cooked by Keller himself. Oh, and also to cook the FINAL dinner to ever take place in the 28-year-old, landmark dining establishment. No big deal. (Just kidding, it was a huge deal and everyone was shaking and sweating throughout the preparation, which isn't very appetizing).
- Dinner guests at this epic event included: Hubert Keller, Nancy Oakes (Boulevard), Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn), former Top Chef contestant Melissa King, Michael Chiarello (Bottega), Chris Cosentino (Cockscomb), the Foodie Chap Liam Mayclem, James Syhabout (Commis, Hawker Fare), Mourad Lahlou (Mourad, Aziza) and more. There may have been more hilariously accomplished chefs lurking in the shadows, but that crew was enough to make any chef weak in the knees.