Thursday, May 13, 2010

White House Chef Sam Kass Will Be On Top Chef: Washington DC, Joined By Notable Politicos

Pelosi, Panetta, Aldrin...inside the competition cookery show
Bravo TV announced the line-up for Top Chef: Washington D.C. today, which has been kept under Def Con 9-level security as it shot here in the District. As many excited local foodies suspected, First Lady Michelle Obama's Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass will join a buffet of local political notables and aspiring cheftestants on the show, which will premiere on Wednesday, June 16.

Look for Kass to challenge the cheftestants to create a delish, healthy dish that's kid friendly...using plenty of fruits and veggies.

Filming was completed last Sunday, and the power players who are showing up to make the Top Cheftestants quake in their crocs are well known in town: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin, fresh off his loss on Dancing With the Stars (and perhaps the oldest celeb to ever take a peek at a Quick-Fire challenge); MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, Congressman Aaron Schock of Illinois, Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, NBC White House Correspondent Savannah Guthrie, and CIA Director Leon Panetta, who may well have been advising the production team on how to keep its secrets. (Above: Kass; large photo is the hosts and contestants)

It's not the the first competition reality show appearance for Kass, but it might be the most fun. Last November, Kass welcomed the cast of NBC hit series The Biggest Loser to the White House Kitchen Garden, and then helped them prepare a salad with their crops, in the kitchen. He's also appeared on the Today Show, cooking with Al Roker, and has his own White House Art Film career going
on, as a frequent host/narrator of videos about the Kitchen Garden.

For those who follow the Top Chef series, DC chef/restaurateur Eric Ripert (Westend Bistro) has been added on as a regularly appearing judge, too, joining Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons. The Washington Hilton served as the production location for Top Chef: Washington D.C., and good use is made of local color. While competing for the grand prize of $125,000, cheftestants take over the concession stands at the Nationals stadium, go inside the CIA headquarters, and "literally receive out of this world direction on one challenge from a NASA astronaut orbiting Earth," according to the press release. (Above: Ripert, posing in a faux Oval Office)

Kass sat with Colicchio, an enormously popular celeb chef and restaurateur (Craft Steak, Witchcraft, among others) at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner.
Colicchio just won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef, and recently told Politico he'd consider opening an outlet of Craft here in DC. Marcus Samuelsson, guest chef for the first Obama administration State Dinner, is currently competing on Top Chef: Masters.

Nicole Boxer, daughter of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is a producer on the show, and she told Politico that the crew celebrated on Sunday with a wrap party at Marvin, in the U Street corridor.

Below are the The Top Chef: Washington D.C. cheftestants. One of these, Kevin Sbraga, has declared himself the “Barack Obama of the cooking game” and wants to prove that “he can.” Kenny Gilbert, another contestant, says that if he could have his last meal with anyone, it would be President Obama, and he would prepare a modern American Southern meal.

Alex Reznik
AGE: 33
HOMETOWN: Brooklyn, NY – currently resides in Hollywood, CA
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Ivan Kane’s Café Was
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas, NV
FAVORITE RECIPE: Avocado panna cotta with pickled ramps and tomato
Growing up in Brooklyn, the son of a first-generation European family, food was an integral part of Alex's early life. Watching his Russian mother and grandmother cooking in preparation for the daily ritual of good food and conversation set Alex on a path towards creative cooking. After travelling extensively throughout Europe, Alex found himself working in Las Vegas at the legendary, five-star restaurant, Lutecé. During his tenure as chef at multiple Bally's/Paris resort restaurants, Alex met famed nightlife entrepreneur, Ivan Kane. The two discovered a shared philosophy for great food and impeccable service. Thus was born Hollywood's Cafe Was. Alex's philosophy is to marry local, seasonal ingredients with classic French techniques to create honest, Californian bistro cuisine. Today, in the kitchen or dining room, Alex's passion for his craft is lauded by loyal customers and critics alike.

Amanda Baumgarten
AGE: 27
HOMETOWN: Los Angeles, CA – currently resides in Los Angeles
PROFESSION: Sous Chef, Ford’s Filling Station
CULINARY EDUCATION: Le Cordon Bleu in London
FAVORITE RECIPE: Roasted baby lamb with pomme cocotte persillade
A Los Angeles native, Amanda attended Le Cordon Bleu in London and went on to work at four different Michelin-starred restaurants including La Tante Claire and Le Gavroche in London and Melisse and Patina in LA. From there, she went onto become Executive Sous Chef of Paperfish before joining Ford’s Filling Station as Executive Chef. A gifted butcher with a distinct sense of flavor and style, Amanda loves to make any meat on the bone, but her favorite dish to prepare is Foie Gras Torohon.

Andrea Curto-Randazzo
AGE: 39
HOMETOWN: Vero Beach, FL – currently resides in Miami, FL
PROFESSION: Chef/Owner, Talula Restaurant and Creative Tastes Catering
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, Culinary Institute of America
FAVORITE RECIPE: Fresh berries with zabaglione
Andrea has been a rising star in the culinary world ever since she graduated from the CIA with honors. After working in the kitchens at Tribeca Grill and Aja in NYC, she returned to Miami where she worked at The Heights and Wish. In 2000, during her tenure at Wish, she was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs.” In 2003, she and her husband, Frank, opened their own restaurant, Talula, which was named “The Place To Be Now” by The New York Times. A mother of three, she counts chocolate pudding, ice cream and popcorn with Raisinettes as some of her favorite indulgences.

Angelo Sosa
AGE: 35
HOMETOWN: Durham, CT
PROFESSION: Chef/Owner, Xie Xie
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, Culinary Institute of America
FAVORITE RECIPE: Steamed madai snapper with lily bulbs
Angelo, who opened his Asian-influenced sandwich restaurant Xie Xie (“thank you” in Mandarin) in July 2009, has worked with some of the best chefs and restaurateurs in the world. Early in his career, he met Jean-Georges Vongerichten who became his mentor, and went on to work for him at Jean Georges, Dune and Spice Market, where he served as Executive Sous Chef. Shortly thereafter, he was invited by Alain Ducasse to create a special seasonal menu at his Paris restaurant Spoon Food & Wine, the first American to receive such an honor. Angelo, who also created the menu for Buddakan, the Stephen Starr hotspot restaurant in NYC, always has salt, Japanese fish sauce, cinnamon, green cardamom and lily bulbs handy in the kitchen.

Arnold Myint
AGE: 32
HOMETOWN: Nashville, TN
PROFESSION: Chef/Owner, Cha Chah
CULINARY EDUCATION: Culinary Arts Diploma, Institute of Culinary Education
FAVORITE RECIPE: Anything with peas
Inspired by his mother who has run a successful restaurant for over 30 years, Arnold is the Executive Chef
and owner of three popular restaurants in Nashville: Cha Chah, which was voted Best New Restaurant by Nashville Scene (2009), Suzy Wong's House of Yum and PM. Once a competitive professional figure skater, Arnold is also an expert mixologist, savvy event planner and has been known to appear as Suzy Wong herself to promote his latest concept. Arnold's culinary approach is mirrored by his colorful life.

Ed Cotton
AGE: 32
HOMETOWN: Boston, MA – currently resides in New York City
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Plein Sud at the Smyth Hotel
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, Culinary Institute of America
FAVORITE RECIPE: Fresh Farm Egg Ravioli with a silky English pea puree, spring onion fondue and crispy pancetta
In high school, Ed got an early start on his culinary career working for acclaimed chef Todd English at Olives where he began to hone his knife and pastry skills before helping open Figs in Wellesley, MA. After culinary school, he rejoined English working at Olives in Boston and Las Vegas. After spending a year out west, he returned to Boston to become the Executive Sous Chef at the award-winning No.9 Park in Beacon Hill where he worked alongside Barbara Lynch. From there, he set his sights on the Big Apple where he landed a job working with Daniel Boulud at db Bistro Moderne and Daniel. For more than five years, he worked with Boulud, helping him open eateries across the country. Before joining Plein Sud earlier this year where he has been cooking up a storm, Ed was the Chef de Cuisine at BLT Market and loves to make any dish with rabbit.

Jacqueline Lombard
AGE: 33
HOMETOWN: Grew up in Boston, MA – currently resides in Brooklyn, NY
PROFESSION: Chef/Owner, Jacqueline Lombard Events
CULINARY EDUCATION: French Culinary Institute, WSET, The Sommelier Society of America
FAVORITE RECIPE: Summer Corn Risotto with Butter-Poached Lobster, Black Truffles and Green Onions
Jacqueline is a private chef, sommelier and event producer whose company, Jacqueline Lombard Events, caters to both private and corporate clients nationwide, including Balenciaga, Glamour, Jil Sander, Miele USA, Osklen, Bergdorf Goodman, Barterhouse Imports, Stella McCartney, Wines of Argentina, ViniPortugal, and Wine Enthusiast Magazine, among many others. Her chic, seasonal and sustainable approach to her work has garnered her praise for both the quality of her food, wine education and business practices. Recently Jacqueline revived the venerable Florent restaurant as Executive Chef of Gansevoort 69. Currently she is working on an exciting new concept, serving as Executive Chef of Leña in New York City. Jacqueline is also the Dining & Wine Editor of the NYHerald.com.

John Somerville
AGE: 42
HOMETOWN: Ohio -- Currently resides in West Bloomfield, MI
PROFESSION: Chef de Cuisine, The Lark
CULINARY EDUCATION: BS In Engineering, University of Michigan
FAVORITE RECIPE: Spiced Spring cucumbers with dill
Growing up in rural Ohio, John developed an appreciation for farm fresh ingredients at a young age. He attended the University of Michigan and earned a degree in Engineering before deciding to pursue his culinary dream. In 1994, he joined The Lark as a Garde Manger, working his way up the ladder to his current position as Chef de Cuisine. He has received two James Beard Nominations for Best Chef: Great Lakes (2008 and 2009) and is recognized as one of the best chefs in the greater Detroit area. His philosophy is “spreading the infectious spirit of cooking!”

Kelly Liken
AGE: 33
HOMETOWN: Pittsburgh, PA – currently resides in Vail, CO
PROFESSION: Chef/Owner, Kelly Liken in Vail and Rick & Kelly’s American Bistro in Edwards, CO
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, Culinary Institute of America
FAVORITE RECIPE: Parmesan-mascarpone tortellini with spring vegetables and crispy artichokes
Graduating first in her class at the Culinary Institute of America, Kelly is one of the country’s most promising female chefs. In 2008, she was featured in Bon Appetit’s “Women Chefs: The Next Generation” and was a 2009 and 2010 James Beard Semi-Finalist for Best Chef Southwest. A small town girl at heart, she has passed up on offers from heavyweight chefs including Charlie Trotter and Daniel Boulud to stay in Colorado where she feels grounded. Kelly cooks seasonal American cuisine with a strong commitment to locally sourced organic ingredients. She loves to make soup, lamb and anything grilled.

Kenny Gilbert
AGE: 36
HOMETOWN: Euclid, OH – currently resides in Telluride, CO
PROFESSION: President/Owner, Passionate Culinary Enterprises LLC; Chef/Partner, G’s Restaurant Group
CULINARY EDUCATION: Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts
FAVORITE RECIPE: A tomato and mozzarella salad with an onion marmalade
Kenny is the President/Owner of Passionate Culinary Enterprises and Chef/Partner for G's Restaurant Group. His cuisine ranges from American Regional, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Native American, Moroccan and African. After graduating from the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute, Kenny went on to become a Chef de Cuisine at the young age of 23 at The Grill at The Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, FL, a AAA Five Diamond Restaurant, and the youngest African-American chef ever to run a Ritz-Carlton Hotel restaurant. An intense and no-nonsense chef, Kenny once split his pants open while cooking a 10-course meal and didn’t even blink an eye. If he could have his last meal with anyone, it would be President Obama, and he would prepare a modern American Southern meal.

Kevin Sbraga
AGE: 31
HOMETOWN: Willingboro, NJ – currently resides in Willingboro, NJ
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Rat’s Restaurant at the Grounds for Sculpture
CULINARY EDUCATION: BS, Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales in Miami, FL
FAVORITE SIMPLE SPRING RECIPE: Asparagus and morels
A self-proclaimed “beast in the kitchen” with unrivaled knife skills, Kevin is currently the Executive Chef at Rat’s at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ, which is managed by Stephen Starr. After earning his BS of Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales in Miami, Kevin went on to become the Chef de Cuisine at The Grill at Philadelphia’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel and was included in the 2007 list of “Top 10 Chefs” by Philadelphia Style magazine. In 2008, Kevin served as the Culinary Director of Garces Restaurant Group and was named winner of Best Meat Presentation at Bocuse d’Or USA. This African American, Italian chef declares he’s the “Barack Obama of the cooking game” and wants to prove that “he can.”

Lynne Gigliotti
AGE: 51
HOMETOWN: Philadelphia, PA– currently resides in Hyde Park, NY
PROFESSION: Assistant Professor, Culinary Institute of America
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, Culinary Institute of America
FAVORITE RECIPE: Anything with peas and asparagus
A Chef for over 30 years, Lynne is looking to break the glass ceiling for female chefs by becoming only the second woman to become a Certified Master Chef. Currently an Assistant Professor at the CIA, where she said she would never step foot after graduation, Lynne previously was the Chef/Owner of Grappa, which was featured in Atlanta Magazine’s “Best of 1999” and named an Outstanding Restaurant in the 2001 Zagat Guide Atlanta. Ice cream is her favorite dish to make and also her favorite junk food.

Stephen Hopcraft
AGE: 40
HOMETOWN: Cleveland, OH – currently resides in Las Vegas, NV
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Seablue at the MGM Grand
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, California Culinary Academy in San Francisco
FAVORITE RECIPE: Agholitti, a small pasta filled with goat cheese tossed in olive oil and tomato water.
Over-the-top and without a filter, Stephen has spent more than 12 years establishing new restaurants nationwide for award-winning chef and restaurateur Michael Mina. Currently the Executive Chef at Mina’s Seablue, the AAA Four Diamond restaurant at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, he has also worked alongside other high-profile chefs including Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter. A proud father of 14-month-old twins, Stephen’s style is all about putting a playful twist on classic dishes to create cutting-edge food.

Tamesha Warren
AGE: 24
HOMETOWN: Christ Church, Barbados – currently resides in Washington, DC
PROFESSION: Sous Chef, The Oval Room
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, The Art Institute of New York City
FAVORITE RECIPE: White asparagus soup
Born and raised in Barbados, Tamesha graduated from The Art Institute of New York City where she was on the President’s List. She went on to work at the world famous Jean Georges restaurant in NYC and was honored with gold and silver medals from the American Culinary Federation. Tamesha is currently the Sous Chef at The Oval Room, one of “Washington’s Power Restaurants,” located next to the White House and owned by Ashok Bajaj, one of the Capital’s biggest restaurateurs. Interested in playing with molecular elements, Tamesha cooks modern American food with French and Asian influences and is sure to bring a youthful, modern edge to the competition.

Tiffany Derry
AGE: 26
HOMETOWN: Beaumont, TX – currently resides in Dallas
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Go Fish Ocean Club
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, The Art Institute of Houston
FAVORITE RECIPE: Spring risotto
Tiffany, a native Texan, definitely flaunts the “Don’t Mess with Texas” attitude. She began working in the kitchen when she was 15 at IHOP where she learned speed, and by 17, her leadership skills in the business were evident as she became the youngest person to ever be in management there. She competed in ACF competitions to help pay for culinary school where she finished in the top of her class. In addition, she received her seafood
training from Houston’s Pesce Restaurant while still in school. Shortly after graduation, she went on to become the Executive Sous Chef of Grotto Cucina. Next, she returned to the Art Institute of Houston to do her other passion, teach culinary. In 2008, she was named Executive Chef of the Dallas hotspot Go Fish Ocean Club, which has received many accolades. Dijon, Creole mustard, champagne vinegar, kosher salt and Creole seasoning are the five ingredients she always has on hand.

Timothy Dean
AGE: 39
HOMETOWN: Washington D.C. – currently resides in Baltimore, MD
PROFESSION: Chef/Owner, Prime Steak House
CULINARY EDUCATION: Howard University
FAVORITE RECIPE: Soft Shell Crab Tempura with Virginia Ramps, Morel Mushroom and Garlic Confit Emulsion
Timothy spent 12 years working on and off with the late, great chef, Jean-Louis Palladin, first at Jean-Louis in the famed Watergate Hotel, and later as Chef de Cuisine at Palladin in New York City. Currently the Chef and owner of Prime Steak House in Baltimore and Prime Steak House by Timothy Dean, which is slated to open this summer in Washington, DC, his first job in a kitchen was a dishwasher. He has worked alongside other notable chefs including Alain Ducasse, Roberto Donna, Guenter Seeger and Patrick Clark. A graduate of Howard University, he was named the university’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000. His favorite dishes are Maine lobster with mac & cheese and shaved black truffles and pan seared Hudson Valley foie gras with rhubarb and 20-year-old Port wine sauce.


Tracey Bloom
AGE: 33
HOMETOWN: Shortsville, NY – currently resides in Atlanta, GA
PROFESSION: Executive Chef, Table 1280
CULINARY EDUCATION: AOS, Culinary Institute of America
FAVORITE RECIPE: English pea salad
Named one of 2008’s “Top 25 Chefs in Atlanta” by The Sunday Paper, Tracey is well known in the Atlanta culinary scene and is currently the Executive Chef at Table 1280, where she shows off her expertise in both the sweet and savory side of culinary arts. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, she decided to go down South to launch her culinary career as the opening Pastry Chef at the award winning Sia’s Restaurant in Duluth, GA. Tracey then joined the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group spending most of her time at 103 West under Chef Gary Donlick, before moving on to work as Sous Chef at Asher Restaurant in Roswell, GA, Oscar’s Restaurant in College Park, GA, and Luma in Winter Park, FL. She would have her last meal with Stevie Nicks and she would prepare Turkey salad sandwiches and homemade lemonade.
*Kass photo by Obama Foodorama; Top Chef photos from Bravo TV