Picture it, Tuesday, May 5, 2010, around 1pm
Sitting at my desk reading blogs working, when I get the text:
Friend: Hey, I need your email addy again ASAP, one that you can check RIGHT NOW.
Could it be? From the moment that I heard Top Chef would be filming their next season in DC, I wanted to be a part of it. I’m a bit of a Top Chef STAN and most around me know it. I wasn’t sure how it would happen, but I had confidence that somehow, one of the fabulous people that I knew would help me find a way. I stalked a few DC food blogs, where locals would report Top Chef contestant sightings and possible episode locations. As the days passed, I started to get nervous because although the season seems long as we watch it weekly, I knew those folks would be in and out of DC in less than 5 weeks. Then, April 30 – a teeny bit of heartbreak. Restaurant Wars had been filmed the night before. I’d been hoping that I would have been able to attend that. And, being the STAN that I am, I also realized that there were only 7 contestants left and since the final 3 or 4 contestants usually leave the original city for the finale, I had only 3 more chances to catch the magic. Argh!!
Then, the text above for one of my dearest friends. And 8 minutes after the text, the email appeared:
Dear Top Chef Fan,
Thank you for agreeing to participate in a taping for Season 7. Below you will find all the details for tomorrow’s taping. Please arrive at Nationals Stadium by 11am and taping should last 2-3 hrs. Please respond back to this email with your full name and the names of those attending with you.
Holy ish batman! Tomorrow? During the day? No problem. Guess I’m gonna be calling out sick from my 9-5, because I’m not missing this. Wait, wait, did I just read “names”? I’d assumed that I could only bring one buddy, but that was plural. Aww, shucks now! I did a quick run through of peeps in my head, then sent a text to 5, a BBM to 2 and an email to 3. Something to the effect of, “Yo, Top Chef taping tomorrow, 11am, Nationals Stadium, you down?” The responses rolled in I.M.M.E.D.I.A.T.E.L.Y. A few couldn’t come because they were slaves to the corporate man dedicated employees and had 9-5 job commitments that they couldn’t break, but most were gonna roll “sick” like me. My crew of 6 was set. That part was easy; wearing red, white and blue proved more difficult. (Thanks Ko.hls for my new red t-shirt!)
Anyway, ya’ll know I never rush a story, but to make sure I don’t lose you along the way, I’ll try to speed this up. (not gonna happen *lol*) We had an absolutely wonderful day. Upon arrival, we had to sign confidentiality agreements when we arrived and we were FORBIDDEN from discussing it, posting online about it, etc. This form specifically mentioned faceb.ook and blogs! Whew! How on earth was I gonna keep all that in until our episode aired in late August?????? What a challenge! But, since ya girl wasn’t trying to get sued by Bra.vo, I kept my mouth shut as much as possible. I only told ya’ll that I had done it and would discuss later!
It was much less glamorous than one might imagine, but we didn’t care about that. There was some type of snafu that delayed things by about an hour. We weren’t told, but insider sources say that there was a problem in the kitchen. We sat, talked and waited for the action to begin. And waited. And waited. And waited. Geez! Thank goodness that I know some cool azz women, so although it was all their first time meeting, we talked and laughed like life long friends. Good people know good people, ya know?
Suddenly, people around us starting bee lining to the windows. What, what? We followed the lead and saw the TC contestants exiting their vehicles. YIPPEE!!! It’s happening. Wait, why are they turning around and leaving? **scrunch face** Oh, they’ve got to shoot it again to get a better shot, I understand. They got back in the Toyo.ta Sien.nas, drove around the block and pulled up again. Then they exited and walked toward the stadium again. Then they did it again. And again. Wow. How many different ways can 6 people exit 2 vehicles and walk into a stadium? One million and twelve, it seems. Two lines of 3 people each, gents in front, ladies in back. Two lines again with ladies in front, gents in back. Three groups of 2 each. They shot that thing for about 20 minutes and when I watched on Wednesday night, it was about 5 seconds worth of tv. Woooooow!!
Finally, we got divided in into three groups and were escorted around the stadium, toward the Top Chef Concession stand. TV makes it look there were a ton a people, but there weren’t. There were about 110 to 120 people. We were instructed to told to act as natural as possible, act as if we were there to see a real game, don’t stare at the judges and talk as much about the food as you can.
Oh man, the food! We were told to choose just one dish to start so that everyone could go through the line once. Then, we were free to return for more. We were in the third and final group, so by the time we hit the line, we were all ravenous. I thought my homegirl CW was gonna knock someone out if we didn’t get her a bite of something. We were just about to order, when they stopped the line to let the judges eat. Oh vey!!!
Sidenote: Tom Colicchio is a cutie in person! Not a drop dead handsome kind of dude, but more lovable teddy bear! Eric Ripert is one of the sexiest French dudes I’ve ever seen. Rick Moonen was pretty short and very friendly. I was a little disappointed that Gail Simmons wasn’t present for this episode. is way shorter than you looks on television, her wardrobe people must have been smoking that “ow wee”, smiling should not be optional and makeup is a wonderful thing. And, that’s all I’m gonna say about that.
Finally, it was out turn to grub. The first go round, we tried a few things – the meatball sandwich, the pork sandwich and the crab cake sandwich. The crab cake and the pork were delicious, but that meatball sandwich???? G.O.O.D. G.R.A.C.I.O.U.S!!! That damn sandwich was absolute heaven. The flavors were rich and layered, and it tasted like no meatball sub you’ve ever had before. Since we were all foodies, we analyzed the ingredients and couldn’t wait to hit the line again to quiz the chef that we thought made it. (I told them there was shaved fennel in there, but they didn’t believe me). Three of my peeps went to sit, so CW and I headed back to the line for more. The chicken looked boring and the tuna unappetizing, but we tried everything anyway. The fritters were very yummy, but the texture was a little surprising. The chicken was . . . . . well, it was just chicken. Chicken that I could have easily slapped on my home grill. I like Kevin, but that dish was just blah.
When we saw the tuna on the menu board, nobody was feeling it. When Amanda served it up, it looked even worse than the ingredients sounded. Again, we’re all foodies and CW, RG and I worked together in catering for years. Everyone tasted and the decision was unanimous – if the contestant that made this dish doesn’t go home, reality tv will have pulled a fast one. Everyone sees that little disclaimer at the very end of the show – decisions are solely at the discretion of Brav.o producers with input from judges and on air personalities. Umm hmh. I hear what you’re saying son, but that dish was a serious F.A.I.L.U.R.E. I thought that the meatball sub should have one, but I’m ok with the fritter winning. The recipe for the meatball sub is here. I’ll be trying it this weekend.
Now, for the contestants. They didn’t seem as manic in person as they seemed on camera. The space behind the counter was tight, but they didn’t seem as frantic as the show made them appear. Yes, Angelo is super cute in person. Very personable and it was a good move to have him be the order taker. Tiffany was a sweetheart! Her smile lights up everything around her. When we asking her about her meatballs, she took a few seconds to discuss it with us. (told ya’ll it was shaved fennel!) She was so warm, genuine and humble. Ed didn’t say much, but he did smile and sweat alot. Only caught a few glimpses of Kelly and Kevin. Amanda was too busy in the rear corner making her tuna, so we didn’t get to interact with her either.
After the camera’s stopped rolling, the judges walked through the crowd and we took a few pics. Of course, 3 months later, none of our old, forgetful azz’s can find the pics! LOL! We’ll keep looking. The ladies got to meet my dear friend and give their thanks for hooking us up before we rolled out.
In terms of camera time, I caught a few glimpse of us. Those 3 Nationals players ate right in front of us. If you were watching very closely, as they are ending their commentary on the food, look over the right shoulder of the shortest guy, you’ll see A Hidden Gem (red baseball cap) and me to her left (with my glasses on). Later, right after the judges finish their 6th dish, the camera pans over Eric Ripert’s shoulder, and you can see TravelDiva and A Hidden Gem sitting in the background. Somewhere around the 36 minute mark, there is a an aerial shot of the concession stand and I’m standing next to my girl CW. Collectively? About 9 seconds of air time! *LMAO*
We loved every moment of our day. It’s kind of amazing that we were there for about 4 hours and the entire thing was reduced to about 19 minutes of the episode. I was worried that by knowing who those 6 contestants were, I’d be uninterested in the entire season. Ya know, kind of like someone blowing the end of the movie before you’ve seen it? But, it hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm over the season. Instead, as TravelDiva said, I was actually more curious to see who would get eliminated for what, and I watched these six closely from the beginning in an effort to understand how they got that far. When the television season started, I was shocked that Kenny hadn’t been at the stadium. What happened along the way? Make sense?
So, now, I’m an even bigger Top Chef fan that I was before. My hat goes off to the folks that work in television and movie production because those folks WORK! We’re down to five contestants and I hope that Tiffany goes all the way. She’s got my vote!
Did you watch this episode? How did the tuna look and sound to you? Any burning questions I didn’t answer? Have you been watching the whole season? Who do you like to win?