Finally, at long last, we have a new Top Chef. And he’s not just any Top Chef. He’s a Top Chef amongst all-stars.

Yes, Top Chef: All Stars wrapped up its stellar season with a nail-biting finale that had me guessing until the very last minute. The producers and editors did a phenomenal job of not just ramping up the suspense but setting up this epic showdown over the course of the entire season. And epic it was. In one corner we had Richard Blais: the humble, shockingly insecure inventive chef. He dominated his original season and this one too with his creativity and flavors. It seemed like he’d be on the odds-on favorite to win.

But in the other corner was lumbering, crude, ethically dubious Mike Isabella, who despite incurring the wrath of many Top Chef fans was coming on strong in the end. Every since the competition moved to the Bahamas, Mike has dominated, and it’s hard to take that away from him. Sure, we can grouse about certain things going his way, but truth be told, the big lug prepared intensively for the finale stage, and it seemed to be paying off in spades. That didn’t mean we had to dislike him any less. Every time I saw his arrogant mug grinning on screen I wanted to slap the braised leeks out of him.

So there we were: Richard vs. Mike; good vs. evil; spiky hair vs. a little less spiky hair.

Who would win?? Continue reading




I love Top Chef: All Stars, but I’m not happy with the direction it’s headed in. With just three finalists left, the show is thisclose to crowning a winner amongst losers, and I’m not sure I can deal with the stress anymore. The latest episode saw the final trio cook “last suppers” for three culinary giants: Iron Chef Morimoto, Michelle Bernstein, and Wolfgang Puck. No easy feat. Continue reading



It’s getting down to the wire on Top Chef: All Stars, and I’m most dismayed to report that Mike Isabella has been coming on strong so far. How did this happen? Coming in to this week’s episode, he had already beaten out a Voltaggio in one challenge and taken home the big prize for another. He’s suddenly unstoppable. That’s hard for me to say though. I can’t even say “coming on strong” in association with Mike. It’s more like the others are just coming on weak. Whatever it is, somebody’s gotta stop Mike before he somehow takes home the big prize.

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Our five finalists on Top Chef: All-Stars headed down to the Bahamas Wednesday night for the first of several final challenges. After last week’s strong showing, it was hard to imagine who might go home next. But alas, a new country brought on new challenges, and whereas once these chefs soared, they now seemed barely able to put anything edible on the plate. It didn’t help that they nearly burned down their kitchen in the process. Continue reading



I’m seriously still loving Top Chef: Just Desserts, and even though we didn’t get an epic meltdown like Seth’s Red Hot fiasco last week, we still had plenty of emotion and plenty of drama. This time around, the gang had to assemble a wedding cake in the miniscule time frame of ninety minutes. Some people managed to put together fine offerings, but others, like poor Malika, failed utterly. The beleaguered pastry chef, who always looks in dire need of a hug, not only failed to add tiers to her cake, but part of her final product simply plopped off the stand like some sort of sugary mudslide. This led to flowing tears; although, to Malika’s credit, she refrained from full-on sobbing and/or uttering some regressive statement about her mommy.

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TOP CHEF JUST DESSERTS PHOTOCAP: The Red Hots Are For Everyone’s Mommy


Anyone who watched Top Chef: Just Desserts and Survivor last night found themselves knee-deep in perhaps two of the most entertaining hours of reality TV in months and months. Both shows were absolutely hilarious and amazing on Wednesday, with Just Desserts delivering perhaps the strangest mental breakdown in Bravo history. Now listen — I adored Top Chef: DC, and I felt extremely guilty about not having phtoocapped the last third of the season — but that being said, as much as I enjoyed that installment of the franchise, Just Desserts is kind of kicking its ass in the entertainment department. Why? Well, as Gail Simmons noted, this cast is just full-on kooky. And I love them. This, my friends, is what happens when you take a handful of tightly-wound women, a smattering of catty gays, one or two mentally unstable alpha males, and throw them together in a kitchen.

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Gail Simmons Talks To B-Side Blog: “There are very few things in the edible world that I will not eat.”

Last week, I took part in a conference call with Gail Simmons, judge of Top Chef and host of Bravo’s new series, Top Chef: Just Desserts. As you can imagine, this was a total joy because despite what some people may think, I truly adore Ms. Simmons and everything she says. In fact, the call was rather amazing in that it afforded me thirty-five minutes of pure, unadulterated Gail. No surprise that she was articulate, engaging, and totally sweet. I could have stayed on for another hour or two.

Nevertheless, Gail answered questions from various members of the media, informing us on both the upcoming season of Just Desserts as well as some of her own personal foodie likes and dislikes. For instance, when asked about her favorite dessert, Gail noted that she couldn’t quite name one but that she was currently going through a pudding phase. She also made everyone on the call salivate as she described the simple perfection of a great cookie (seriously, I almost hung up and ran off to a bakery).

As far as Just Desserts is concerned, Gail seemed very excited about the show; although, she did admit a certain bias. The personalities of the contestants, she claimed, were totally different than what we’ve seen before: more bookish, fastidious, and kind of crazier. After all, to be a pastry chef requires a certain concentration that a fast-acting, improvising savory chef might not need. And oh yeah, none of these chefs could use recipes, and in the precision-based world of pastry, that’s no easy feat.

Needless to say, I certainly emerged from the call hungry and intrigued.

My three questions with Gail after the jump…

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TOP CHEF PHOTOCAP: Those Bastards!


Hands down, Wednesday’s episode of Top Chef: DC was the best of the season, and perhaps the best in a few seasons. And it’s not just because of Nancy Pelosi (the secret crush of my friend IndianJones). The episode brought out all the big guns: the always crazy blindfold relay, restaurant wars, Pelosi, and even Frank Bruni. This was one heavy hitting episode, and we haven’t even talked about the drama.

OH the drama.

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I lurve Top Chef: DC, and not just because we have a fun cast full of colorful characters. I’m really digging the challenges, which seem to truly mine local DC traditions. This week, the gang had to serve up a toothpick-sized hors d’oeuvre for the Quick Fire and then a meaty power lunch for the Elimination. It was all fun and the usual stuff; although, adding some sizzle into the proceedings was a noteworthy pea scandal that almost rattled the competition to its core. The grimy details: Ed, the resident sourpuss, had made a pea purée for his lobster power lunch, but the next day, it had mysteriously vanished. Meanwhile, the scatterbrained Alex had mysteriously appeared with his very own pea purée, seemingly out of nowhere. Had he stolen the verdant mixture from his rival? Or was it merely a coincidence? Most people seemed to think some shenanigans were at play, but I actually felt that Alex was innocent. I don’t know why. I just like the goofy guy. Clearly though the producers are pouncing on this drama because if next week is any indication, he’s about to go through the character assassination wringer.

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PADMA TO GAIL: “I Know You Eat A Lot.”

When my friend Dan sent me a spartan email featuring the line “This is all you” followed by a solitary link, I had to admit: I was intrigued. Maybe I should have looked at his email subject, “Bless her heart,” because that would have tipped me off to the amazing tidbit that followed. You see, Dan had sent me a link about Gail Simmons and the nutritional woes she faced while hosting her new show, Top Chef: Just Desserts.. The headline alone had me chuckling:

“Gail Simmons’s All-Butter, All-Sugar Top Chef Diet”

Yes, it was almost as if my Padma/Gail parody dynamic had come to life. Perhaps this was truly life imitating art. To boot:

Simmons — who hosted a book party for the paperback release of Frank Bruni’s Born Round at Dumbo’s Powerhouse Arena on Wednesday — sought advice from the pro, Padma Lakshmi [about tasting all the food]. “Padma always was like, ‘Just pace yourself, Gail. I know you eat a lot, but this is [different].'”

I die. What more can I add to that?

To read the full item, click here.