I so wish that the title of my post was "The Day I was a Top Chef Judge" without the Tour in parenthesis, but what the heck, it was still a few hours well spent. So what was the Top Chef Tour? Basically, it was a 22 city tour that took place from April 15 to June 21 where two former Top Chef contestants would go head to head in a 15 minute Quickfire Challenge. Lucky for me, I got asked to be a judge for one of those challenges when the tour came to Los Angeles and who were the two chefs in this particular competition? Why, it was none other than Chef Antonia Lofaso and Chef Jamie Lauren.
However, when I got there, I was amused to see a standing cardboard cut out of Season 8 Winner, Richard Blais. Done just right, you could probably pose with him for a photo and have people actually think that you actually met him, but I resisted the urge.
I found out later that it was too late to include him on the Truck Graphic that showcased other Top Chef Winners so the cutout was the best solution at the time. Still, there's always next year's Top Chef Tour to add his image directly next to Season 7 winner, Kevin Sbraga.
Anyway, soon the competition was going to start and our host came up and through a series of trivia questions was able to pick two other judges to join me. He also went on to explain some of the parameters of the Quickfire. First, he talked about how Top Chef Facebook fans got to choose the main ingredient for each Quickfire and for Los Angeles, fish was the most popular choice and from there, cod became the fish that both chefs were going to work with.
Along with the cod, both chefs were also given 10 other ingredients plus 1 secret ingredient of their own choosing that they could use for their dish. They also had only 15 minutes to cook and believe me, they were timed. You can see the ingredients on Antonia's station below.
There was a lot of fun banter between the two of them and while they were cooking, they also took questions from the audience like one where someone had asked if it was true that Padma actually had different sized dresses to accommodate weight gained while filming the show. Antonia jokingly replied, "Well, Padma does eat like a horse," but if you want to get the real scoop, click here to read this article.
Another question had to do with the temperature of the food itself after it's been prepared for a Quickfire or an Elmination Challenge. Apparently, by the time some of the dishes get to the judges, the food may be lukewarm or even cold. Judges have to focus just on the flavors of the ingredients and are told not to take the temperature of the food into consideration.
Both Antonia and Jamie also talked about what they're doing now. Antonia is currently the Executive Chef of Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City and you can read more about her diverse and playful menu on LAIST as well as get a recipe for her Crispy Parmesan Cauliflower, a popular dish at Black Market, by reading this article here. Jamie has been consulting on the menu for the just opened Vodvil LA restaurant and you can take a look at her fun take on food on the Vodvil website.
Finally, the 15 minutes were up and it was time for the food to be presented to the judges. Antonia's creation was a Crispy Cod with Lemon Capered Mayo, Canteloupe-Jicama Salad and Pumpkin Seeds while Jamie's dish was a Crispy Cod Lettuce Cups, Pickled Chile Mayo, Jicama and Corn Salad. Finally, it was time for the judges and while there was some back and forth, a unanimous vote gave Antonia the win.
|Chef Antonia's Crispy Cod with Lemon Capered Mayo, Canteloupe-Jicama Salad and Pumpkin Seeds|
|Chef Jamie's Crispy Cod Lettuce Cups, Pickled Chile Mayo, Jicama and Corn Salad|
If you have a sweet tooth, Top Chef Just Desserts, Season 2, premieres on August 24 and I already know that I'm rooting for Executive Pastry Chef, Sally Camacho, who I briefly met at a WP24 Media Dinner. Doesn't her Calamansi Vacherin with calamansi curd, Szechuan peppercorn meringue, macadamia crumble, vanilla bean ice cream and Thai basil below look delicious?
Although it hasn't been officially announced on Bravo TV, it looks like Top Chef Texas is now filming, so that's something to look forward to and I'm sure when it finally airs, there will be many a Top Chef fan(atic) glued to the screen. I know I will.