The countdown for Bravo’s Top Chef Season 10 (TC10) has begun.That’s right foodies, in seven days, twenty-one cheftestants will whip, sear, bake, broil and grill their way to win the coveted position of Top Chef.
Only one cheftestant will become Bravo’s TC10, and it looks like it’ll be hot in the kitchen.
Seattle, in foodie terms, equals seafood.Razor and geoduck clams, hama hama oysters, black mussels, wild Pacific salmon, dungeness crab, halibut, and black cod are just a few of the seafood species the chefs will work with this season.
I chatted with Taylor Shellfish Farms, a shellfish grower in WA, about TC10. Its hope is the cheftestants take home a little bit of Seattle seafood knowledge.
“We're excited to see Top Chef come to Seattle and hope they challenge the chefs to work with some of our world class clams, oysters, mussels, and geoduck.” (photo courtesy of TSF)
Collectively, the cheftestants appear to be a recipe for success.But how will they fare in the kitchen, alone, with say, a whole halibut, a flat of oysters, or a goeduck clam that resembles a cow tongue?
As we wait for the sizzling drama that complements each week of TC10, I created a mini profile of the cheftestants, to give you a little seafood amuse-bouche, so to speak, of what’s to come.The Cheftestants, with a seafoodie twist.
Does San Francisco Elizabeth Bender have an edge? She learned to fish with her father, an angler, and she’s been cheffing at top California restaurants for the last several years. Eater San Francisco dubbed Lizzie, “adorable.” Lately though, she’s been a stay-at-home mom. Will Lizzie find it easier to satisfy her hungry children, or the impressive panel of seasoned celebrity chefs?Tina Bourbeau hails from NYC, where she’s worked at five, three star restaurants and currently uses her savvy business creds to manage an online gourmet grocer. Tina boasts her favorite dish is Celeriac ravioli, Roasted Peconic Bay scallops. Will she need to dig a little deeper to master the seafood challenges ahead?
Chrissy Camba from Chicago has staged at some of the finest restaurants in the nation. She can peel an orange with a clam knife, but can she cut a geoduck clam with a paring knife? Maybe those pre-med anatomy classes will finally pay off. We’ll sea.
Stephanie Cmar is the youngest cheftestant this season. She loves pumpkin spiced donuts so much, she’s got a donut shop in the works, according to Eater Boston. But what does this former wild child know about seafood? The jury is out on that one. Also, Kirsten Kris, her BFF, is a cheftestant this season. Is that a recipe for disaster?
Micah Fields, a hipster from LA can roll basil, “just like a doobie,” and didn’t eat shellfish until he was eighteen, just ten years ago. Now, he’s a serious seafood aficionado. He’s reeling in the sustainable seafood biz now as co-founder of Chefs Who Surf, an organization that promotes sustainability and ocean conservation. Brah, now we’re talking.
Eliza Gavin, cookbook author, restaurateur, Le Cordon Blue Paris graduate, world traveler and modern chef doesn’t mince saccharine-laced, love-dovey words with what it takes to manage a kitchen. She’s prepared to work. Okay Eliza, you can dice a pineapple, but can you shuck an oyster?
Anthony Gray knows how to shoot it, cook it and eat it. Anthony doesn’t need his shotgun in Seattle. However, his farm-to-table approach will be a bonus when he has to dig for clams. Anthony knows a few things about seafood, having worked in South Carolina’s famous High Cotton. We’ll keep our eyes on this “Atlanta Rising Star Chef.”
Jeffery Jew. This DC-based Army brat graduated first in his class at the CIA. A world-class traveler and chef, Jeffery’s Mediterranean culinary background might just prove to be his biggest asset in the seafood department. Worth keeping close tabs on.
Gina Keatley is an award-wining chef and nutritionist. Gina’s got her game on. She’s no stranger to television, culinary associations or humanitarian organizations. They love her, it seems. Gina has over ten thousand Twitter followers, a sizable leap over most of her competitors. Her favorite last meal includes blue crabs with her family. Aw, sweet. But will the judges love her cooking?
Kristen Kish is a young, savvy chef. She’ll be comfy in front of the other cheftestants-she’s a demonstration chef who works seven nights a week. With a mix of contemporary French and Italian influences, the benefits of youth at her back, and her BFF at her side, she’s got an edge going forward. She has the patience and skill needed to bake French macaroons, but are her hands and backbone tough enough for the shellfish and the fiercely competitive cheftestants she’ll encounter?
Danyele McPherson is fresh, ambitious and funny. She likes to work with seasonal, local fare and is a culinary techie. She knows old school tricks too, like peeling ginger thumbs with a spoon. Will she master the basics of oyster shucking, peeling and deveining prawns, and steaming mussels?
Daniel O’Brien. This NY homeboy, now hails from DC where he's an ambitious chef/owner. Daniel’s speciality? Country rustic. A few of his “must-have” foods, pair well with seafood. Let’s see what he brings to the table with capers, olive oil and, hmm, duck fat? Let’s hope this talented, creative cheftestant brings his fillet knife to the party, too.
Carla Pellegrino is no stranger to the culinary world. This Brazilian, chef/owner, Las Vegas-based aspiring cookbook author, whew, that’s a mouthful, has cooked at The James Beard House, drum roll please, five times. With over fifty thousand Twitter followers, she has a lot to tweet about. She can roll a meatball, but can she remove the pin bones from a side of salmon? Let’s watch and see what she brings to TC10 kitchen.
Jorel Pierce has a knack for carving meat. This Colorado mountain man was taught butchering early in life, by his mama. Jorel persevered and worked to become a James Beard finalist. He can butcher an antelope in less than twenty minutes. He brings creativity, along with his blades, to TC10. How long will it take you to fillet a wild salmon, dude? I give you less than two minutes.
Sheldon Simeon may have the biggest seafood edge, he was born and raised on the Big Island in Hawaii. Sheldon, sounds like he should be from England, right? is no stranger to fresh seafood. This two-time James Beard finalist and Hawaiian native will bring his carefree, island vibe to the amped up TC10. He first sharpened his blades at Disneyland. He brings his fun, unique cuisine to the table. Mahalo dude.
John Tesar, this revered, feared chef brings twenty-plus years of food industry experience to the table. And I gotta admit, I’m hooked by his playful, ahem, mature attitude, not to mention, okay, I just did, the food porn on his web site. Uni and clams over black squid ink pasta, salmon Carpaccio and octopus. Somebody pick me up off the floor, I did a Carey Ann Inaba. John’s modernist cuisine paired with a traditional European influence, along with his experience working with two of my favorite celebrity chefs, Moonen and Bourdain, make him the most prized catch, IMHO.
Joshua Valentine is good with a blowtorch. As long as he keeps the flame away from his funky beard and his upturned Dali-like ‘stach. He loves cats. Not. Joshua’s Twitter handle, @chefporkbelly, might give us a clue to his passions. Me thinks, this Oklahoma native might be a fish out of water. Lucky for him, his love of cookbooks and his diverse culinary experience garnish him, “Most likely to succeed.”
Bart Vandaele is chef and owner of DC’s inspiring Belgian eatery. Bart has a sexy Belgium accent and a fondness for eclectic socks. Bart has been sharpening his knives since he was twelve. With a regal name like Vandaele, a pedigree of awards, and a playful attitude, I’ll bet this Euro-chef knows a thing or two about seafood. Look out TC10 cheftestants.
Tyler Wiard is a self-made Corporate Executive Chef in Colorado. His experience counts for everything, from numerous James Beard events, to a multiple location dining director. His culinary direction is bold and simple. Bravo Chef, a perfect match for fresh seafood. Tyler is primed for working grueling hours and is full of energy. We should see big things from Tyler.
Brooke Williamson. This CA chef has worked her way up from a teacher’s assistant to become one of LA’s premier restaurateur’s. She cooks, she hikes, she runs, she loves to play with food, I’ll bet some of that is seafood. She’s the youngest cheftestant to have cooked at the James Beard house. We’ll see if she’s brings her playful attitude when she’s digging in the mud for clams.
Kuniko Yagi. This young, Japanese, former financier, found her way into the kitchen in the most unusual way, as a server in a noodle bar. It didn’t take her long to add her charm, talents and passion to become one of LA’s rising star chefs. It’s no surprise that her Japanese upbringing will have prepared her to use laser-like focus when seafood is on the chopping block. Look out cheftestants, Kuniko wields a mighty mallet.
TC10. Twenty-one cheftestants. Nov 7 @10/9