Top Chef tagged posts

Checking in with Chef Mike Isabella

With a new season of Top Chef well underway it is easy to lose yourself in a roster of new cheftestants. With so many former winners and finalists opening restaurants, we decided to check in on one of the most memorable contestants the show has ever seen, Chef Mike Isabella. Isabella is remembered not just for his big smile and personality, but because he had one of the best runs in show history when he emerged as a dark horse during the All-Stars season and narrowly lost to favorite Richard Blaze in the finals.

CnC: What was the most difficult challenge during your time on Top Chef? Recently, we talked to Isabella about his new restaurant venture, the hardest part about being on Top Chef and his guilty pleasure foods.

Chef Isabella: The challenge at Target on the Top Chef All-Stars season because we had to run around and buy equipment and then assemble it before we even start cooking.

CnC: Where did the decision to call the restaurant Graffiato, which means scratchy or ragged in Italian, come from?

Chef Isabella: Graffiato means scratched or etched and it came from Roman soldiers using their swords to carve into stone. It was an original form of art, and expression. Graffiato is my expression of childhood flavors.

CnC: Do you have a favorite dish or something on the menu you would call Graffiato’s signature?

Chef Isabella: Hand cut spaghetti with olive oil poached cherry tomatoes and basil

CnC: What are your guilty pleasure foods? What sort of dishes do you like to make for yourself when you are alone?

Chef Isabella: I eat a lot of pasta and my favorite junk food is Reese’s peanut butter cups.

CnC: Is there anything that you love to eat, but don’t know how to make or refuse to make and prefer to get elsewhere?

Chef Isabella: Graffiato is located in Chinatown so I go to New Big Wong for Salt & Pepper Shrimp.

Back when Top Chef 8 began, we wrote that Isabella didn’t have “it” and would merely be one of the chefs that would hang around for a while before being dispatched in favor of the more accomplished and better chefs. That sentiment was probably written more than once about Isabella, and boy were we all very wrong. You won’t catch us underestimating Chef Isabella or his restaurant Graffiato anytime soon, and neither should anyone else.

(photo from

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Top Chef Just Desserts 2.1 Recap: Little Red Riding Hood and the Thrown Under the Bus

Remember when I had Wednesday nights free because Top Chef was finally off the air for the first time in months? Well, all was fine and dandy until I remembered at the last possible minute that Top Chef Just Desserts started last night. So I grabbed my ginger beer and rum and made a nice big Dark ‘N Stormy to get through it.

Just like every first episode of Top Chef, there are far too many people to even care about and all the chef’testants pretty much mix together. There’s sassy black woman, poised to be the villain Orlando and grossly incompetent Craig who can’t seem to do anything but sully the good name of Harry Potter. So the ever lovely Gail and Johnny show up with the first quick fire before anything has really begun.

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Top Chef Masters Finale Recap: Going out with a Whimper

The pain is finally over after months of watching Top Chef Masters. Remarkably, this was the most boring, least stressful finale I’ve ever seen on Top Chef (I blacked out during Just Desserts, so maybe that was worse). No games, no hoops to jump through, just an abundance of time to make three courses for twelve people.

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Top Chef Masters Recap: Do you even know your own family?

We’re finally here – the second to last episode of Top Chef Masters! Then the show looks to be going on break for awhile until Top Chef Something-or-Other debuts and makes me want to gouge my eyes our or drink heavily (if it’s Top Chef Just Desserts, it will be both).

With Curtis welcoming the chefs into the kitchen while wearing an outfit I’m 99% sure I own, the chefs are tasked with the final Quickfire. Each station was partitioned and the chefs would have to make a dish and the person on the other side would have to make the same dish with only verbal instruction.

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Top Chef Masters Recap: No seriously, I think the gas main is broken guys

After a week of glorious freedom, it was weird sitting back down to watch the chef’testants in Top Chef Masters dwindle once more. But with so few chefs and barely any drama, the show is running full steam ahead and jumps straight into the challenge.

Seeing the chefs scoff at commoner appliances and ingredients is nothing new, but this Quickfire challenge was cruel, unusual and delightful to watch. With only 10 minutes on the clock, the chefs had to make a breakfast using only a microwave to cook.

And the dish has to be served warm. And the dish has to be actually cooked in the microwave.

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Top Chef Masters Recap: Taste Test & Date Night

The final six chef’testants are still battling it out to earn the title of Top Chef Master. And since there are so few of them now, I might actually start remembering names! Jumping straight into the action, the chefs learn two harsh realities about the Quickfire.

a)      Immunity is off the table

b)      There is no cooking in this challenge

The taste test is always a fascinating challenge, but since this is Masters the dastardly Magical Elves decided that a blind taste test wasn’t enough – it was also deaf and odorless! Wearing masks, ear muffs and nose plugs, the six chefs had to identify five ingredients by taste alone.

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Top Chef Masters Recap: Seven Minutes in Heaven

I didn’t even realize it that last week started with the final 8 chef’testants. Or maybe I did and I just didn’t care because it’s taken way too many episodes for me to remember who any of these people are. Well, besides Hugh-ibrow. But thankfully, the streamlined version of Top Chef Masters seems to know that people want to see challenges and food.

It’s got to be tough on the chefs since they never have any idea what is in store for them when they get to the kitchen. One day it could be jars of bugs and another it could be the penny farmer market. But this time, the table of ingredients was heavenly – caviar, truffles, foie gras, etc. So the chefs got to make anything they wanted using these ingredients with one rule: they only have 7 minutes to do it. Inspired by Tom Colicchio’s astounding performance last season when he prepared an excellent fish dish in 8 minutes and 37 seconds.

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Top Chef Masters Recap: Drive-Thru Failure

I’m still confused at what Magic Elves are trying to do with the intro-recap at the beginning of each episode, it kind of works but if you just tuned in a minute earlier, you would see it too. But it now means the show is jumping right into challenges. It really makes me realize how much time in Top Chef is wasted with drama and people hanging out in the apartment.

The Quickfire was genius with its forced scarcity of ingredients. The chefs were presented with a table of ingredients, proteins and veggies but everything had a price tag on it. So with only 20 minutes to cook and a single dollar, everyone struggled to craft an appetizer.

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Top Chef Masters Recap: Who isn’t the Biggest Loser?

Top Chef Masters continues its streak of making fake drama out of things that don’t matter and then covering everything with cheese. How else do you explain the Quickfire Challenge of making a dish with cheese in only 12 minutes?

With the owner of the Cheese Store guest judging, Norbert Wabnig (sounds like a wizard’s name to me) was looking for dishes that balanced the cheese and non-cheese elements. Floyd got shot down for making classic Mexican street food of steamed corn on the cob rolled in crème fraiche, cojita cheese and cayenne pepper. Supposedly he went a little too heavy with the pepper, so maybe Hugh helped him dust it? George was also told that his onion and grana padano gratin was too onion-y. Yeah, the dish made of onions had onions in it… big surprise.

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Top Chef Masters Recap: Bugs & Curve Balls Galore

It looks like the Magic Elves realized that people have no idea who anyone is and crafted some new version of the intro that mashes it up a summary of last week’s episode. So not only does no one know who these chefs are, I guess they don’t know what happened last week either. Top Chef Masters: the show for goldfish.

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