How to Be On Top Chef

I’ve been a fan of Top Chef on Bravo since the beginning and season 10 in Seattle is no different. I’m pulling for Sheldon Simeon of Maui who is the top chef at our favorite island restaurant, Star Noodle (a must visit if you are near Lahaina).
A couple years ago Top Chef filmed an episode at Sandy Valley Ranch and we had an opportunity to participate in the episode by eating and hopefully enjoying the food. Unfortunately this wasn’t the greatest performance by the chefs who were given the challenge of cooking over an open fire in 100 degree weather. You’d think baked beans, steaks and other cowboy type foods, but most went with fish and salads which didn’t fare to well.
Top Chef has a formal application and interview process for aspiring chefs to complete but their production team has full control over where they shoot each episode and unless you are a celebrity chef
Laura did a great recap of the episode and our first-hand experience on Top Chef which I’ve shared below.
I hope y’all were able to tune into Top Chef last night to see their Western Adventure go down in all it’s glory at our very own Sandy Valley Ranch. I think it was quite a successful episode (certainly it was memorable) and we all had a great time being a part of it.
For those of you who missed it, here are a few stills from the show. I guess Matthew isn’t the only kid in the family who can call himself a T.V. star now.
I’ve been biting my cheek trying not to spill the proverbial beans about the episode before it aired in fear of being hanged. A tough task for a chatty gal like myself. So, with huge relief, and a clear conscious, I can finally reveal a few behind-the-scenes tidbits of our experience with Top Chef.
The Production Team – is amazing! My mom and I were completely impressed with their professionalism, clear direction, relentless energy and overall awesomeness. Literally a hundred people comprised of producers, assistants, assistants of assistants, grips, craft services, stylists and photographers descended upon the Ranch the day before the challenge to make our rustic location camera-ready. It seemed as though there were busy little elves everywhere. They came, they conquered and they left the place in the same condition as they found it.
The Rooster – We were requested to cage and relocate a rooster from the ranch property to the campsite so the cameras could get that iconic shot of the chefs being awakened by the sound of crowing. We did as we were asked but somehow, once the production team got to the location, the rooster got out of the cage. Now, I wasn’t around to see it first hand but onlookers were eager to recount the happenings. As with most cowboy stories, the tale gets taller with every telling, so here are the facts, as straight as I can tell them. The rooster “escapes”. A frantic chase went down. People are flailing about trying to outsmart the bird. A brilliant human throws a blanket onto the rooster. A struggle ensues, feathers go flying, and the rooster kicks the bucket. Though no one is admitting to the murder, my sleuthing narrows the culprit down to one of two people. An experienced ranch-hand who relocated the bird originally and cares for all our animals on the property, and a production guy from Los Angeles. Only the rooster will know the real truth, but I did make everyone promise that rooster wouldn’t be served the next day.
The Chefs – The way they were protected from the madness of preparation and encouraged to stay on task, you never would have known they were even on property. I did walk into a round-table meeting they were having at the ranch house, but they were herded in and out with no time for dilly-dallying. I never spoke to a single chef until the moment they passed me their, now infamous, plate of sandy ceviche. I’m happy to report that the contestants do all their own cooking without the help of any prep chefs or food stylists. The competition is real, fair and completely as we see on T.V.
The “Cowboy” Guests – When Tom recapped the challenge at the judges table in the last scene, he made the diners out to be Tim Love’s invited friends. Ashley was quoted as saying the “The ranchers are a motley crew. They’ve probably been cowboys their entire lives. And, they’ve been growing their beards since they were 14″. The truth? Besides a few of our staff who are the real deal, the guests were all our friends. None of them have ever been ranchers and most of them have only been horseback riding at our ranch with the supervision of our genuine cowboys. They hail from New York, D.C., Las Vegas and Los Angeles. By trade they are artists, designers, attorneys, lobbyists and pilots. I have to admit that I was sort of worried that they couldn’t pull off the part of “cowboy” but I’m relieved that they were able to so easily trick the contestants – no “movie magic” needed.
Craft Services – If the craft service chefs had competed in the challenge instead of the Top Chefs, it would have been a delicious competition. These people really know how to prepare a diverse spread that’s hearty and ranch appropriate.
Heat – The chefs don’t exaggerate. It was literally 112 freakin’ degrees the day of the challenge. The traditional metal chuck-wagon plates provided by the show were burning our hands and melting the food. No one could get enough shade or water to be even a little bit comfortable. Everyone was dripping sweat and trying to put on a pretty face.
Wind – The night before the challenge, while the contestants were camping in their cute little teepees, a violent wind storm hit. I was inside our house playing pool, totally protected from the weather, and I kept expecting for the chefs to bang down the door looking for relief from the elements. They didn’t, and I was impressed. Truly, no one would have wanted to camp in that storm. Much less fancy-pants City chefs.
Tom – is super hot – literally and figuratively. I’ve always known he’s a good looking man but in person he’s beautiful, in a manly way of course. Perfectly styled, perfectly friendly and perfectly gracious. Most impressive was when he refused an umbrella for shade and swatted make-up away every time they tried to powder his sweaty brow.
Padma – Was sweet. She had her make-up team at her beck and call, probably out of the very real fear that her face might actually melt off. I’ve been around T.V. shows before but rarely have I seen make-up caked on like that. Better safe than sorry I suppose, and she does come across as picture perfect on T.V.
Gail – I’m pretty sure she was courteous enough to say “hello” when we were introduced but I can’t say for sure. I have no idea what her stylists was thinking by putting her in wedges in the sandy desert. I guess she needs more height when standing next to Padma? Anyway, she negotiated the terrain without incident and all was well.
Tim Love – Such a gentleman. He’s welcome at the ranch any time.
Silly Stuff – Robin recommended that I blend my iced tea with lemonade, creating an Arnold Palmer. Refreshing. Someone asked Tom if Ashley was a guy or a girl. Ron’s mojito really wasn’t that bad. One, or maybe both, of the Voltaggio brothers was moody and very off-putting. I didn’t know that the cup in the middle of Mattin’s plate was a margarita and I dipped the disgusting ceviche in it.

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