Best Reality TV Chefs' Restaurants
OK, admit it. You’ve watched them. You know Padma’s catchphrase (“Pack your knives and go”), and you wonder how the contestants will ever make something edible out of that secret ingredient. Reality cooking shows on networks such as Bravo (Top Chef, Top Chef Masters) and the Food Network (Next Iron Chef) are addictive, but they do more than just entertain—they give up-and-comers an opportunity to open their own restaurants or take over the kitchen of an established spot. And shows like Top Chef Masters and Next Iron Chef, where the chefs are already established, gives existing restaurants higher visibility. If you’ve ever secretly (or not-so-secretly) hungered to sample cuisine by chefs who’ve appeared on reality shows, book a table at the following restaurants.
San Diego, California
611 Fifth Avenue 619-233-7327, searsucker.com
Season three Top Chef finalist Brian Malarkey, who formerly manned the kitchen at Oceanaire Seafood Room, has opened his first restaurant in the trendy Gaslamp Quarter, close to downtown’s business district. This 7,000-square-foot space with exposed brick walls, rustic wooden tables, comfy couches and an exhibition kitchen has a modern American menu that changes daily. Starters might include small plates of spicy Baja shrimp with bacon grits and short ribs with fried onions, while entrées range from scallops with foie gras and figs to rib-eye steak with cognac and horseradish—not to mention a pear-and-huckleberry crumb for dessert. There’s a private dining room upstairs for up to 50 guests.
1 Bennett Street, Harvard Square, 617-661-5050, rialto-restaurant.com
Cambridge’s Rialto, helmed by James Beard Award winner Jody Adams, has long been one of the Boston area’s top restaurants. Adams’ appearance on season two of Top Chef Masters has only helped to keep her celebrated Charles Hotel eatery in the spotlight. The chef puts her own twist on classic Italian dishes, such as risotto with saffron and crisp marrow, ricotta gnocchi with black truffles and butter-poached lobster with cauliflower, golden raisins and capers. The interiors are elegant, with a neutral color scheme, and patrons can take advantage of several private dining rooms: The Francis Room holds 24 people, and the larger Parker Room can accommodate up to 72.
New York, New York
9 Jones Street, 212-929-6868, perillanyc.com
This downtown restaurant with just 18 tables and minimalist decor (hardwood floors, white walls, industrial-chic lighting fixtures) is co-owned by Harold Dieterle, the very first Top Chef winner. The Culinary Institute of America graduate honed his skills in the kitchen of Harrison, a chic bistro in TriBeCa, and a cooking sabbatical in Thailand; his restaurant is very much a neighborhood spot where people feel at home eating at the bar. The seasonal menu might include spicy duck meatballs, pan-seared scallops in a black plum sauce, coconut-crusted cod with bok choy and roasted game hen in a roasted-date purée. Many dishes are flavored with perilla, an anise-type Asian herb. Be sure to check out Dieterle’s latest restaurant, Kin Shop, which serves up Thai cuisine on Sixth Avenue.
2600 Travis Street, 713-526-8282, reefhouston.com
Located in midtown, Reef is a seafood restaurant from native Houstonian Bryan Caswell, who has trained with the iconic Jean-Georges Vongerichten and is the current darling of the city’s foodie scene. He was eliminated in season three of Next Iron Chef, but his culinary star is on the rise (Little Bigs and Stella Sola are his most recent restaurants). On Reef’s Gulf Coast–, Mediterranean- and Asian-influenced menu, you’ll find roasted grouper with corn pudding and a grilled peach, as well as crispy-skin snapper with sweet-and-sour chard. The wine list has 1,500 bottles hand-picked by co-owner Bill Floyd, and the private dining room can accommodate up to 45 people.