Saturday, May 10, 2008

Top Scoop

Looks like an upcoming episode of Top Chef will feature Gale Gand and Rick Tramonto's Cenitare Restaurants as a location for one of the elimination challenges. Cenitare is made up of four restaurants offering different dining experiences and price points, so a little something for everyone. It's located on the first level of the Westin Chicago North Shore in Buffalo Grove, IL (a north west suburb of Chicago). No word on what the challenge will be, but former Cenitare Executive Sous Chef Ian Swope had this to say on his blog, in an entry dated Oct. 31, 2007:

"Our kitchens were taken over this week by the producers of Top Chef to film an episode. Pretty chaotic but all in all pretty fun. The restaurants looked beautiful made up for television and the kitchens shined after staying up all night polishing everything. Met Tom Colicchio and thanked him for the wonderful meal. Nancy and I had on our honeymoon at Gramercy Tavern. That was way back when he was still actually in the kitchen there. I also set up a demo for Gail Simmons to film and now my knife is famous. Oh well."

Update: Ian also reports that the episode specifically used Osteria di Tramonto and Tramonto's Steak and Seafood, which I believe are the two nicest restaurants in the complex. He also reports that SURPRISE! Rick Tramonto is the guest judge for the episode. Thanks, Ian!

Swope also writes about how he auditioned for this season of Top Chef, but didn't make it past the first round because "the initial interview with the producers is way more about personality and how you would work on television and has nothing to do with cooking experience or your resume." Casting people for personality over skills? How Bravo.

But perhaps Swope is most famous for creating this Top Chef Drinking Game, which has consequently spread across the internet. Enjoy:

The Premise: There are two teams, although more are likely. One team are the Judges, i.e. Tom Collichio, Gale Simmons, Ted Allen and whomever the guest judge is. I am also grouping the host, Padma Lakshmi, in with this since although she’s not a judge, nor qualified to be one, she nonetheless offers up plenty of fodder for the game.

The second team are the contestants. These are the actual “chefs” in the competition. The season starts out with 15 contestants and week by week they are whittled away until the final chef remains.

The Rules: Here is where we start the game. Any alcoholic beverage could be used but for the sake of simplicity we will consider one drink to be one ounce of spirits, i.e. vodka, tequila, gin, etc… Everybody picked their sides? Okay, let’s go.The Game:

For the Judges, take one drink …
Whenever the host, Padma, says anything that she is totally unqualified to talk about. This usually ends up being anything that comes out of her mouth so be careful here. You might want to leave this one out of the game or you could end up passing out before the first commercial break.

Whenever head judge Tom Colicchio makes a remark along the lines of “This is Top Chef not Top (whatever)”.

Whenever the guest judge happens to be a chef who’s probably not very well known outside of his cooking region. Take two drinks if he thinks he’s famous now that he’s a guest judge on Top Chef and feels the need to act like a dick.

Whenever judge Gale Simmons mentions Food and Wine magazine, her real employer.

Whenever the guest judge is Anthony Bourdain. Take one additional drink for every pithy comment he says that the other judges are merely thinking.

Whenever head judge Tom Colicchio remarks about how he only cares about the food and not about whatever drama happens to be ensuing.

Whenever any judge asks a contestant what their inspiration was for the dish they’ve prepared.

For the Contestants, take one drink …

Whenever a contestant says something along the lines of “I don’t care if others don’t like me because I’m here to compete, not make friends”.

Whenever a contestant says they should have no problem with a particular challenge because it’s in their area of expertise. Two drinks if they fail the challenge.

Whenever a contestant attributes their poor performance to being so far away from family and friends. Two drinks when the show is filmed in LA and they happen to live in Santa Monica.

Whenever a contestant expresses concern that they’ve never had experience with an ingredient or applience that anyone who’s worked in a restaurant should know how to use… like a charcoal grill.

Whenever a contestant makes a “trio” of something. Two drinks if it’s a “duo” or “quartet”.

Whenever a contestant gets excessive with the adjectives in describing their dish. Two drinks if the adjectives sound like they came from a mid 1950’s copy of RedBook, such as “succulent”.

Whenever a contestant accuses another of stealing their ideas, style, ingredient, etc…

Whenever a contestant completely misses the entire point of the challenge. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: Serving poached lobster as your dish in a grilling challenge, creating an amuse for an entree challenge or using the featured ingredient as a garnish at best.

Whenever any plate garnish is purely decorative and inedible.

For both Contestants and Judges take one drink …

Whenever the product placement reaches obscene levels. Just like including Padma in the hosts, this might be dangerous… Apply at your own risk.

Whenever all contestants express complete shock at finding out what a particular challenge will be. Two drinks if it’s completely unwarranted; “This challenge is cooking shrimp?! No!! I’ve never done that before!”

These are just the most obvious. I’m sure there will be more and we will all thank Bravo for keeping us inebriated.

For this season, I would also add:
Whenever there's a gratuitous shot or mention of "the Glad family of products".

Whenever Padma appears to be drunk.

Whenver Spike changes his hat.

Whenever a lesbian chef gets angry.

Whenever Nikki talks about or makes pasta.

Whenever there's a cut to Stephanie to intro some Chicago restaurant or chef.


Nanc Twop said...

Thanks for posting the Cenitare scoop!

That should be fun show for all of us Top Chef bloggers, if not the chefs... now I'll go check out the rest of your TC posts.

My Top Chef posts

Tricia said...

The drinking game should also include: whenever a chef is asked to describe their dish and they say, "What we've done is..."; two drinks when they include the word 'little': "What we've done is put together a little saute of (whatever) and added a little (this or that)". Bugs me to no end.

Ian Swope said...

Thanks for the shout out. Great blog.