Friday, May 7, 2010

Top Chef Tour!

I haven't talked at all about my love of Top Chef because it hasn't been on since I started this blog. Top Chef Masters is currently on, which I do really like...but it's just not the same. So I was watching the local news last night and they did a piece about how the Top Chef Tour was in Chicago that day doing demonstrations with Kevin Gillespie and Mike Isabella, two of the contestants from the last season. WHAT?! Why didn't I know about this? I missed it??!! Luckily at the end of the story they said - they'll be back again tomorrow. Phew.

So that's what I did today. I showed up for the noon demonstration nice and early since I knew I would have to be on the waiting list (I missed the online registration period).

That's the set up. The big tent in the back is for the demonstration, and in the front area there's merchandise for sale, a table for autograph signing, and a quickfire-like game where you are blindfolded and have to guess what's in the canister (three different canisters) by smelling it. Would have been fun, but my allergies are so bad I can barely smell right now, plus it would have creeped me out to put on a blindfold that probably 200 other people have had on their face.

So, I got into the noon show! The demonstration was 20 minutes of cooking and 20 minutes of questions. Here's Kevin and Mike at the beginning of the cooking part:

Mike really did all the cooking. He made olive oil poached shrimp with a fava purée, capers, and pickled onions. Then we all got to taste it!

I guess they do a different dish at each demonstration, because I heard some guy leaving the 10:30 demo saying "Wow, I've never had raw meat before, it was good!" And on the news last night it looked like they had some kind of raw tuna. Darn, tuna's my favorite. But the shrimp was great, and the fava purée was excellent. Mike explained that they aren't really fava beans - they were Santorini golden lentils and only in Santorini do they call these kind of lentils "favas".

Next came the questions.

First question - some guy asked about Kevin's beard. Lots of questions about what it's really like being on the show, and about culinary school. I finally thought of a good question - what restaurants have you been to and are you going to while you're here in Chicago? Then the girl before me asked it. Ugh! They said they went to the Publican and Big Star, and that Mike's other favorites here in town are Spiaggia and Blackbird.

I ended up asking what they like to make at home when they're not working. Mike said nothing, his wife cooks. Kevin said he likes to make a plan to go out to eat. Ok then.... But then Kevin said he likes to make really classic southern food that his granny used to make and that's hard to find anywhere these days.

Another question - what are the best foods to buy organic? Both answered - everything. There are a few things where there's not much difference, for example onions. But really everything, especially meat, is better organic. And what would they eat for their last meals? Kevin said bbq, Mike said a bacon cheeseburger with everything on it and fries. After the demo they signed autographs.

What a fun way to spend an hour on a dreary Friday afternoon! They said the next season of Top Chef is filming right now, so I guess it will start sometime late summer or fall, not sure. And the Top Chef Tour still has lots of cities to visit so check out the website. FYI - Kevin's restaurant is Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, and Mike's restaurant is Zaytinya in Washington, DC.

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