Rick Bayless

Top Chef: Masters

The second season of Top Chef: Masters is taking some flack for the seeming lack of “Masters” in the competition. Tonight’s episode “It’s My Party” is no exception. Of the five contestants I am only familiar with one, the remarkably talented Marcus Samuelsson.  That is not to say that the other contestants are not great chefs.  There are any number of talented chefs who fly under the radar because they do not live in a large media market or have avoided the limelight.

The other four Carmen Gonzalez, David Burke, Monica Pope and Thierry Tautureau I needed to learn more about. Here’s what I found:

Carmen Gonzalez is the owner of Carmen the Restaurant in Miami. A native of Puerto Rico, she opened her namesake restaurant in 2003 and has received a notable amount of fanfare including Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence from 2004-2006; AAA’s coveted 4 Diamond Award in 2004 and 2005; a 2006 mention in Zagat’s America’s Top Restaurants.

David Burke owns David Burke Townhouse, David Burke at Bloomingdales, Fishtail by David Burke, Burke in the Box, David Burke Prime, David Burke’s Primehouse, David Burke Las Vegas, and Fromagerie, Burke.  With as many restaurants as he has with his name in the title it is a wonder I have never heard of the guy.  He was named the first ever recipient of France’s Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Diplome d’Honneur for excellence in American cuisine.  He has also been inducted into the 2009 James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.

Monica Pope, that name sounds familiar, is the owner of t’afia in Houston, TX.  Pope was the 2009 Best Chef at the Houston Culinary Awards and a James Beard Award Nominee.  She is a sustainable foods advocate and hosts a local food talk show on Houston’s 1560 AM.

Thierry Rautureau is a native of France and is known as the “The Chef in the Hat.”  He is the owner of Rover’s Restaurant in Seattle and the only chef on tonight other than Samuelsson to actually win a James Beard Award in a any category in Rautureau’s case for Best Chef in The Pacific Northwest.  His French pedigree is stout.

Which brings us to Marcus Samuelsson.  Truly one of the most talented young chefs in America, Marcus was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and trained in Europe.  He is the youngest chef to ever receive two three-star ratings from The New York Times and he is a two-time James Beard Award winner.  He is a food activist, TV show host and best selling author.  His restaurant, Aquavit is consistently one of the most popular in the uber-competitive NYC market.

Tonight the chefs throw a birthday party for actor Mehki Phifer.  Please, Bravo, enough with the stupid “challenges.”  Just put a bunch of talented chefs in a well stocked kitchen and let them cook.

Tweeting Top Chef Masters WK 1

I have to admit that I’m not the biggest Top Chef fan. I don’t watch cooking shows for drama; I watch for food. Top Chef Masters is a different story altogether. I loved last season won by Rick Bayless. Top Chef is one of the most Tweeted shows on TV. Often the Tweets are better than the show itself. So each week I’ll share some of the best 140 or less. Let the snarking begin:

@lillyj fair warning: I will be live-tweeting #topchefmasters. It can be annoying & can have spoilers. xo lillyj

JeffHouck: Feels great to be back in the warm bosom of #topchef. Froggy love daddy? :::squeaky squeaky:::

floridagirlindc: If you are a Top Chef fan in any way shape or form, you’re gonna wanna follow  @lillyj and@JeffHouck. Who are your fave #TopChef tweeters?

AlwaysLegITGirL: #TopChefMasters is back last season

@RealSkipBayless‘ brother was the winner. They’re polar opposites but u can tell they’re brothers

culinarypirate: I want Govind Armstrong on my team <3 #topchefmasters

nSquib: Some of the chefs on #TopChefMasters aren’t exactly masters… *cough*Govind*cough*

lillyj: Susan’s the crazy lesbian-version of Danny DeVito, I’m certain of this. #topchef

tnoe27: Yes! Gas station ingredients on topchefmasters

tifftwin: I would totally eat flaming hot cheeto mac & cheese. But not grilled slim jims. #topchefmasters

friedrice599: #TopChefMasters, Kelly I am glad to have you back in my life again

LanceSturg: I have a problem with #topchefmasters. Why is the $100,000 NOT furnished by the makers of the Glad Family of Products TM ?

JeffHouck: So embarassed. I can’t believe my natual human instinct for sleep got in the way of watching a TV cooking show. #topchefmasters

mlj78: OH Govind Armstrong is H-O-T. #topchefmasters #yummy

vitanga: Cool.

@thebravery are guest judges on #topchefmasters right now.

JeffHouck: :::rubbing eyes:::: What did I miss? Did Kelly Choi swallow a carb?  #topchefmasters

JeffHouck: The Bravery looks unaccustomed to eating food, much less not slouching. #topchefmasters

lillyj: We should drink every time someone says, “I want to win.” Well no crap, Why bother being here otherwise.  topchef

JeffHouck: If I had called for “Obama” mentions in the #topchef Masters drinking game, I’d be drunker than Charlie Sheen by now.

JeffHouck: Math quiz: If #topchefmasters is on at 11. and you sleep through the first 14 minutes, how many Prius commercials did you miss?

culinarypirate: Oooh, Govind knows how to talk some culinary sh*t.  #topchef

JeffHouck: Carpaccio was my favorite Ninja Turtle. #topchef

patrickjd: Gael Greene would break her own hip to ride that stallion aka Govind Armstrong #topchef

thebookpolice: God, am I hoping for a total flameout from Ludo. What a tool. #TopChefMasters

lillyj: I could never be with a vegan. Or vegetarian. It would be too… annoying. #topchef

culinarypirate: Tony, you will NEVER steal Obama’s heart from Rick Bayless! #topchef

arosey: My wife cooked chicken marsala when we first started dating. Last meal she ever cooked for me. 5 years ago. I hope they do better! #topchef

lillyj: “Mac and cheese is an exploration of bland”? OH REALLY? Sit your hipster ass down, who do you think you are? Yelp Elite? (burn!) #topchef

culinarypirate: Wait, who are these guys? #topchef

JeffHouck: I think the gardenia goiter is slowly swallowing Kelly Choi. #topchef

lillyj: What weighs more.. the flower in her hair or her? #topchef

stephmarch: Why is Govind such an ass? #topchefmasters

thesupermikey: what have we learned on tonight’s #topchefmasters – Govind Armstrong is an asshole.

kittenwithawhip: Noting that I’ve been as much looking forward to @jeffhouck‘s #topchefmasters coverage as I have the actual show.

lillyj: Susan’s the crazy lesbian-version of Danny DeVito, I’m certain of this. #topchef

Funfearlessbean: Ana can make her duck dish for me anytime! #topchef

JeffHouck: What a shock. The Obama chef won his first show. Just like last season. We’re gonna run out of Obama chefs at this rate. #topchef

lillyj: Would you rather have dinner with: gourmet hats, pretentious editor, moley critics or the hungry? I vote hats. #topchef

ActsofFaithblog: Aww Govind was bringing the pretty to the table. Bye. #topchefmasters

lillyj: OMGOMGOMGOMG Hank Azaria is gonna be a guest judge?! “C’mon Gloria!” #topchef

@culinarypirate Thx for all the fun #TopChef ppl! Tune in to @JeffHouck‘s & my TopChef Podcast tomorrow! http://afx.cc/d7p

Next Wednesday you can follow for yourself by going HERE or HERE but you’re probably better off letting me do all the grunt work.

7 Questions with Beverly Hills Chef Sasha Perl-Raver

7 Questions is a series of interviews with the culinary movers and shakers you want or ought to know better.

On Friday April 9th Food Network premieres one of it’s most highly anticipated and hyped series in quite some time.  Taking a cue from Bravo’s Real House Wives franchise they have developed Private Chefs of Beverly Hills – an inside look at Tinsel Town shindigs from the point of view of the culinary teams that put them together.

At age 16 Sasha Perl-Raver started her own catering business.  Since then she has graduated from USC with a minor in cinema, guest starred on the Lifetime drama Strong Medicine, was crowned Miss San Francisco, baked Lindsay Lohan’s 18th birthday cupcakes, been a senior writer for a Hollywood gossip web site and been named “funniest in LA” by a newspaper in New York.  Designer Randolph Duke once called Sasha a chubbier Angelina Jolie.  A year from now people might be referring to Jolie as an emaciated Sasha Perl-Raver.

Today Sasha combines show business and the culinary arts as a member of the team at Big City Chefs.  Big City is a private chef operation that caters to the whims of demanding and eclectic stars.  It is also the subject of Food Network’s latest venture into reality programming.

Chef Sasha was nice enough to answer 7 Questions:

1. How old were you when you first started to cook?

Chef SashaSasha: I took my first foray into cooking when I was 7. I was latchkey kid in Manhattan who took the bus home from school. My bus stop was in front of this amazing pizza parlor and it always smelled insanely good but I only had enough money for the bus, not a snack. So I would go home and make pizza from scratch. I made the dough, the sauce, everything. I got all kinds of Wolfgang Puck! Those early pizzas were usually unbelievably delicious, but one time my dad cracked a tooth on the crust. You live and learn.

2. When did you decide that you could make food your career?

Sasha:  I was 16 when I graduated from high school and I didn’t have any marketable skills except my obsession with food. I’d been in charge of Thanksgiving dinner since I was 11, read cookbooks out loud constantly to my parents, fixated on things like how to make roasted garlic flan. A family friend who’d eaten my food for years offered me a job as her personal chef. Word of mouth spread really quickly about this 16 year old wunderkind and soon I had a roster of clients and my obsession became my profession.

3. Which chefs have influenced you the most?

Sasha:  Alice Waters is my road dawg! I love her more than words can say and my food philosophy is entirely based on hers. And who doesn’t bow at the feet of Thomas Keller? When I was a kid, I was all about The Frugal Gourmet, Martin Yan and Two Hot Tamales. Nowadays, I would do just about anything to sit down at a table with Rick Bayless, but mainly because I have a big ol’ crush on him.

4. If you hadn’t followed this career path, what other career could you see yourself in?

Sasha:  Well, I always really wanted to be a dancer but I fear that will never happen. The truth is my passions have always been food, film and writing and I’ve been lucky enough to work in all those fields whether it’s been cooking for or interviewing celebrities, writing film and food reviews or doing this show. But I still think it would be pretty rad to be a ballerina.

5. What’s the highlight of your career so far?

Sasha:  Being on “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills” is pretty major and up at the top but I think it was actually a party I catered a few years ago. With less than 36 hours notice, I catered the US Weekly Young Hot Hollywood Party for 1500 people. I did all the prep alone, had just two line cooks to help me out the night of, slept maybe two hours before the party, there were reporters there from every major entertainment news organization and the whole place was VIP.

About two hours into the party, my boss comes in and kisses me on the face because everyone was so thrilled with the food. I walk out of the kitchen and there’s Jessica Alba eating my tuna tartar and Justin Timberlake stuffing a piece of my cotton candy into his mouth. As my mother would say, I was kvelling.

6. Of all the crazy things you’ve seen at Big City Chefs what’s the craziest?

Sasha:  The cast. I kid, I kid!

Every time we do an event, it’s pretty nuts but I have to say, the event Chef Brian Hill and I did, which I believe is in the first episode, was completely insane.

We had to go “Glamping,” which is glamorous camping, and cook a gourmet meal for these millionaires. First of all, I hate camping! My parents are major hippies and took me camping all the time when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I love nature. I just don’t like cooking, sleeping and showering in nature. I haven’t gone camping in years but, there we were, at this beautiful camp site, just off a lake, so picturesque, but all we had was a spigot and a fire pit.  No fire, no burners, no oven, no warm water, no prep area; just logs and really high expectations. It was madness.

7. What’s next for Chef Sasha?

Sasha:  For about a year and a half I’ve been working on my first book, Hungry for Love. It’s a foodoir (part memoir, part food book), and my agent is sending it out to publishers on Wednesday so I’ve got my fingers majorly crossed for that. Big money, no whammies! And, of course I’m very excited for Private Chefs of Beverly Hills to premiere on April 9th. I’ve dreamed of being on Food Network for as long as I’ve known about it and now I can say that Paula Deen, Tyler Florence and I are one big happy family.

Private Chefs of Beverly Hills airs Fridays at 10p/9c on the Food Network.

Can’t get enough Sasha?  At the beginning of season two, Sasha was nice enough to give me an inside look at the Private Chefs of Beverly Hills.  Check it out HERE.

Check out Chef Sasha on Fox News’ Strategy Room where she discusses the show, Jamie Oliver, diets and Michelle Obama.

View my complete catalog of interviews and bios for the Private Chefs of Beverly Hills by clinking HERE.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up

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