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The Chicago Traveler

"Top Chef: Chicago" Premieres

by Matt B on March 13th, 2008

Fans of the American reality competition show Top Chef on the Bravo network had to know that there was no way I could not write about this season. The show was/is filmed in Chicago this season, much to my delight. The competition premiered last night, but if you missed it, don't worry; Bravo airs the show several times throughout the week. Check your local listings.

Now, I'm not here to discuss the details of the premiere episode, per se. (For a more in-depth look at the episode, check out a fellow b5media site, Foodie Obsessed.) Rather, keeping true to The Chicago Traveler, I will try to only cover the Chicago aspects of this season of Top Chef.

The show features 16 chefs this season from all over the country with different backgrounds and styles. All those culinary artists have to sleep somewhere though, right? Well, word has it that their beautiful accommodations were the biggest house on the 2600 block of North Paulina Street. Quite a few neighborhoods merge here, including Roscoe Village, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, and (by a stretch) Bucktown.

uno chicago grill pizzeria unoEvery episode (except for the finale) consists of two challenges: one 'Quickfire' and one Elimination. In the Quickfire challenge, chefs are asked to create a dish with specific requirements, e.g. cooking method, certain ingredients, etc. They are usually given one hour or less to complete the task. In last night's episode, the contestants had a meet-and-greet at Uno Chicago Grill (a.k.a. Pizzeria Uno). Afterward, they did their best to create their own signature deep-dish pizza. I have to say, many of the chefs used some very interesting ingredients. And if you think pizza is easy to make, you'd be sorely mistaken, seeing some of the disastrous results that came out of their kitchen. Deep-dish is definitely an acquired skill.

If you want to try cooking like the contestants, you'll need some of their key ingredients. Top Chef is sponsored by Wild Oats, recently acquired by Whole Foods, so it makes sense that the competitors are often sent shopping at the chain's natural-foods stores. In the Elimination Challenge (wherein four judges eliminate from the competition the individual with the worst dish), the chefs took over the aisles of Whole Foods at 3640 N Halsted St, a brand-new location that opened just under a year ago in the heart of Boystown, Chicago's gay and lesbian neighborhood.

Finally, a few of the contestants themselves are from Chicago. Valerie Bolon was approached by casting directors after Hot Chocolate owner (and former co-worker) Mindy Segal recommended her. Stephanie Izard actually was a sous chef under Dale Levitski before opening her own seafood-focused restaurant in Bucktown. And both of them had worked in the same restaurant (Spring) with Dale Talde, another (former) Chicagoan.

If you'd like to try your own hand at deep-dish pizza, check out the links below. Or just visit one of the many places already covered by The Chicago Traveler!

http://www.foodnetwork.com/ (from Emeril Laggase)

Photo credit:'christina.hope

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POSTED IN: Entertainment, Pizza, Restaurants

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