The announcement at Bravo's website sounds pretty sweet huh? Prizes, food, meeting chefs in person? Meet the Kansas City Tour stop.
OK so 10:30 AM on an overcast Friday in downtown Kansas City is not the most rocking place. Still enough folks interested in Top Chef showed up to fill up the 64 seats for the first show of 4 "dining experiences". What kinds of Top Chef interactions did they get to experience?
There was the Guess the Ingredient station.
Top Chef Putt Putt Golf, only one hole. Why putt putt golf? No idea what so ever.
Photos with Tom and Padma. Sadly no bears in sight to pose with Tom. There were also plenty of TVs set up with googly eyed NY Housewives bursting forth with their mindless chattering. At any moment I expect them to throw poop at the people watching them. Hint to the Tour Folks, Housewife promos and food don't really mix unless you want to have a Top Chef Vomitorium Station set up back behind the tour bus.
And who were the chefs everyone was here to see?
That would be Eli Kirshtien of Season 6 and Nikki Cascone of Season 4. Now if you notice in the Bravo TV announcement they trumpet the fact that you're going to get a chance to eat the chef's food. If you come expecting to taste Nikki's Purple Depressed Bacon dish or Eli's Fried Egg Reuben Benedict, you're out of luck. If you really want to try the chef's food, go to their restaurants (Nikki - 24 Prince Eli - Solo). That's where Nikki is actually serving the version of Purple Depressed Bacon/Pork Loin with Sweet Potatoes, Grape Sauce, Jus and Brussel Sprouts. Today Nikki and Eli demonstrated how to make your own sausage. Now you know me, if I can link you to the relevant recipe it's in the post. Claims that the recipes they made were on Bravo's recipe website are crap. Honestly, it's just as well, writing accurate and concise recipes is not really Bravo's forté. Basically Eli demoed a pork meatball with sauerkraut, a mustard sauce and some chopped apples.
How was it? Heavy on the garlic and really simplistic flavor-wise. Stranger still was the fact that one of the sponsors for the KC Stop was Scimeca's Sausages, a local company that's been making great sausage since 1935. Nice touch to tell the gathered fans to screw the store bought sausage and make your own. But did I get to really eat the chef's food or did I eat a Bravo assistant producer supplied recipe that local chefs hired for the day actually make behind the curtain? Cue up Over the Rainbow please. Shout out to the Culinary Center of Kansas City chefs for their hard work cooking for the day.
Of course it wasn't just about the food. It was about the gossip. It's the behind the scenes chatter of Top Chef that folks want to hear about. Or at least what's contractually allowable (yes, the tour handler made a point of mentioning that little disclaimer). Did I learn anything new? Not really except that the one constant question tour chefs get is How long do you wait in the Stew Room. Answer: Usually 6 to 7 hours if you're lucky. Yes they get drunk and yes they abuse Glad Products stored there. Now when I heard who the tour stop chefs were going to be, I inwardly groaned. Eli was not exactly my fav during the season but I went with an open mind knowing that the pressure of this kind of show exerts on people will make them act out in bizarre ways. What Eli seems to be trying to reform is not so much his image but the people who receive his image. "Get to know me" is Eli's current theme with an undercurrent of his being right all along about Robin being the worst chef and unworthy of being in the Top Chef Fraternity. At some point you hope that Eli will stop trying to convince the world that Robin is horrible and work on being a bit more mature.
Nikki, on the other hand, seems like someone who would be a pleasure to sit down and chat with. Most likely because when she was asked who her favorite guest judge was she responded with Tony Bourdain, not to mention knowing enough to hit the best bbq while in KC, Oklahoma Joe's. When asked what was the most surprising aspect of the show going from viewer to contestant? The pressure. Most of the contestants deal with crushing pressure as it is working in a restaurant but the pressure of your own expectations of your own performance multiplied by the pressure of a time clock and judges table? No wonder these people have nightmares.
So if you're a Top Chef Crack Monkey by all means, hit the tour when it comes to your town. Buy some t-shirts or cook books, play putt putt golf. But if you really want to taste a chef's food and support your Top Chef favorites, seek out their restaurants and put some coin in their pockets. That's the best way you can really get to know a chef.