For “Top Chef,” a Local Connection


Last night was heaven for a reality-TV junkie like me. Bravo broadcast back-to-back episodes of my favorite competitive cooking shows: “Top Chef Masters” and “Top Chef.”

On the season finale of “Masters,” Chicago’s Rick Bayless beat out the California boys, Hubert Keller of San Francisco and Michael Chiarello of Napa, with a flawless four-course meal that included a knockout Oaxacan mole. Thanks to the high caliber of the cooking and the sheer professionalism of all three finalists, I would have been happy if any of them had won (although Chiarello’s rustic Italian cooking most appeals to me).

The sixth-season premiere of “Top Chef” introduced us to the 17 cheftestants. None is from Sacramento, but one does have a very loose local connection: Kevin Gillespie of Atlanta once worked for Michael Tuohy, executive chef at Grange. When he moved to Sacramento a year ago, Tuohy sold his Atlanta restaurant, Woodfire Grill, to his former protégé.

Tuohy recently told me he’s heard through the grapevine that Gillespie did very well on “Top Chef.” The rumor is that he made it to the finals.

“Top Chef” junkies know that three of the five previous “Top Chef” winners triumphed in their season’s first elimination challenge. Last night, Gillespie won the challenge, which was to create a dish based on the chef’s biggest personal vice. (Gillespie, saying his biggest vice is procrastination, made slow-cooked arctic char with turnip salsa verde.) That win bodes well for Tuohy’s former employee.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be watching what happens.