The IFA is pleased as punch to learn that our favorite show started taping their next season in the IFA’s home town today. Here’s a discussion we had when the news was first confirmed that Top Chef would be taping in D.C., with a few additional nuggets we’ve learned since. Join us as we debate how “D.C.” the D.C. season will be.
Amanda: Let the challenge speculation begin!
Ezra: White House garden, for sure.
Kriston: We are surely doomed to at least one challenge that involves feeding pork to members of Congress.
Spencer: Half-smoke challenge at the Chili Bowl. Immunity awarded for inedible, soggy fries.
Ezra: Would that there actually was a quickfire with donkey and elephant meat. Instead, I bet we’re going to get a steak challenge, as the lobbyist steakhouse is a DC institution or some such crap.
Kriston: A prep challenge at CulinAerie hosted by Carla. Remember how bad Casey was at chopping onions?
Amanda: Oh, totally. And you just know something’s gonna happen at Good Stuff Eatery.
Spencer: Instead of speculating, why don’t we just ask Jose Andres which episode he’ll be in, and which of his restaurants he’ll host it at?
Kriston: I’m looking forward to the episode with special celebrity guest judge Matthew Yglesias.
Amanda: I hope they have to set up food carts and sell fancy jumbo slice in Adams Morgan late night. And a trip to Eden Center. Maybe SW fish market?
Ezra: If it’s Eden Center, then it should be special guest judge Tyler Cowen.
Ben: If they did the fish market I assume they would stock different stuff there entirely. But I would certainly hope for something involving crabs.
Yglesias: I would love to see a jumbo slice challenge. First you tell the contestants they’re going to make pizza. They’re all thinking “oh, this’ll be easy.” But then you tell them “THE PIZZA HAS TO BE ENORMOUS!!!!”
Ezra: I think a challenge where the contestants whine about how things are better in New York would be fitting.
Kay: I think we might be overestimating how much they’re going to tailor the show to the city. In the past, they didn’t really go down the road of “local favorites” in much other than a quickfire challenge.
Spencer: I don’t know if that’s really true. In every season they’ve given local flavor and always featured favorite-son chefs of the city that hosts them. They don’t go crazy with it, but it’s not baseless to think we’ll see places we enjoy.
Of course, I just learned that they filmed The Real World DC at the gym in my office building and I never once noticed.
Kay: Maaaaaybe. But color me officially skeptical.
Amanda: I don’t think that every single challenge will be DC-focused or anything, but like Spencer said, they do always make some kind of connection to the location — whether it’s through local food or institutions or events. I think something in Michelle Obama’s garden, something in a Jose Andres restaurant and something at Ben’s are inevitable.
Ben Miller: It always strikes me that local chefs tend to get featured the most. After that it seems to come down to where they can get available locations/functions that pair with what they want to do. For example, if they wanted a street food thing I could see them picking one of the street festivals in the summer or maybe a Nats game. But the somewhat generic smaller dinners will probably not feature much local flavor beyond maybe who is guest judging.
Spencer: OK, I want to revise and extend my prediction. The half-smoke episode will feature a half-smoke cookoff at Ben’s, followed by catering a FedEx Field tailgate. Cooch Shanahan will stop by. Dan Snyder will be the guest judge. The wrong contestant will win.
Kriston: If it’s a cooking challenge at FedEx Field, the Redskins will find a way to lose it. [ed note: shut it, Kriston]
I bet that’s as much as we’ll get of DC, though. DC has a ton of Salvadoran and Peruvian chicken spots but none of those read as particularly DC. Same with Eden Center—it’s very good for DC, but it just doesn’t scan in a pat narrative about what makes Washington Washington.
Ben’s // White House garden // Jaleo or Oyamel
plus a CulinAerie quick flash with Carla.
Spencer: Yeah, it’s a good point — this is TV, not a travel section or a local website. It’s got to say DC to people who reduce DC to the Capitol Dome or the Mall or the White House. There’s usually one episode per season that goes surface-deep about actual local traditions (think asian-fusion street food in San Francisco) but that’s about it. And my guess is that’ll be the Half-Smoke Challenge episode.
Ben Miller: I would also really like to see them somehow involve the Ray’s guys/chain. Their stuff is great and I really like their general philosophy of high quality stuff at a reasonable price. But Ray’s Hell Burger doesn’t carry the same local attention as Ben’s.
Also, what grocery store will become their typical shopping point? P Street Whole Foods? The Harris Teeter by Eastern Market? Somewhere else?
An Eastern Market challenge would also be awesome.
Spencer: Got to be the P Street Whole Foods.
Anyone think they’ll ever shop at Eastern Market?
Ben Miller: It would make sense if they did something based on a farmer’s market, as I think they have in the past since the farmer’s market is there on the weekends plus all the solid meat and fish options.
Kriston: I’m looking forward to good chefs seeing D.C. and deciding to open new restaurants here. Even if it means more burger joints or wine bars.
I wonder if we’ll see any chefs from D.C. in this lineup. Someone with the locals’ knowledge of the P Street Whole Foods.
I bet against Eastern Market if only because there will definitely be a White House farmer’s market episode and that will be the Farmer’s Market Episode.
Yglesias: Maybe they’ll recognize that every bar in DC is crowded all the time and decide to quit cheffing and just open bars.
Spencer: DCist says the Quickfire Kitchen is going to be at the Hinckley Hilton, meaning that my office’s weird location finally comes in handy.
Kay: are they definitely going to be situated in the city — or could they — gasp — but them in the burbs somewhere?
Kriston: Top Chef: Manassas
Mandy: Top Chef: Glen Burnie
Amanda: With the quick fire kitchen in the city proper, and just because I don’t recall them ever being in the burbs before, I imagine they’ll be in DC. They wouldn’t have chosen to set up shop here if they weren’t going to feature the city.
Ben Miller: Isn’t the most important question here when and where they are going to film the Quaker Oats challenge?
Kay: Perhaps to add local flavor the can have an Utz potato chip challenge.
Kate: I’m wondering which restaurant/bar that hasn’t been ruined by publicity/the byt crowd so far will be ruined by TC.
Ben Miller: I feel like that’s usually not as much of a concern because they usually deal with expensive gourmet dining and those kinds of places could get more crowded, but you probably would have needed a reservation for them anyway. On the other hand, if there is a local contestant, I would imagine that would probably get super crowded—think of what happened to Volt apparently.
Amanda: So Restaurant Wars will be in Jaleo & Atlantico, right?
A little birdie told us today that the Top Chef folks are looking for hungry interns to feed for one dinner taping, and that the first camera crews were spotted on the roof of the Newseum. So while it’s still not totally clear how much D.C. cuisine will play into this season, the odds on a fair amount of D.C. culture are looking pretty high. There are few things more true to D.C. eating than the free intern lunch. Maybe they’ve been reading the IFA for inspiration?