Perhaps one of the only major flaws of Top Chef: All Stars, one of the best foodie reality shows out there, is that no matter how HD your TV is, you can't actually taste the food at home. You'd probably be surprised to learn many former chefestants are helming their own restaurants or serving as executive chefs in fine-dining establishments where they showcase the talents that earned them a spot on the show.
I've eaten at a number of my favorite cheftestants restaurants when swinging through their towns. I think it gives me a better understanding of a chef's perspective and the decisions they made while on Top Chef. Plus, I like to stalk reality "stars."
However, sometimes my wallet can't afford a fine-dining experience. Fortunately, a few former Top Chef contestants, many of them All Stars, have used their post-show momentum to open more casual restaurants, where you can dig into tasty grub in a laid-back atmosphere.
- Name a burger joint that offers duck confit nuggets or sweetbreads as a side. Current All Stars front-runner Richard Blais' place does. He opened three locations of Flip Burger Boutique, two in Atlanta and one in Birmingham, Alabama, that feature new, housemade interpretations of burgers, sides, and condiments. I've been to the original Flip, the food was delicious and we'd return the next time we're in the area. Save room for dessert. I still dream about the nutella and burnt marshmallow milkshake, but they also have a foie gras milkshake (!) I was too chicken to try.
- Current All Star Jamie Lauren took over the kitchen of Ventura, California's Beechwood Restaurant, renovating the gastropub menu by mixing approachable, yet upscale, appetizers and small plates with comfort-inspired main dishes like braised beef cheeks, burgers, and pierogies. I wouldn't turn down their housemade ding-dong, that's for sure.
- Current All Star Spike Mendelsohn has opened not one, but two casual restaurants in our nation's capitol. Good Stuff Eatery, another burger joint, opened on Capitol Hill in July 2008. My husband and I visited not long after and enjoyed our burgers, fries, and shakes while Spike himself worked the register. I particularly enjoyed the "cottage fries" seasoned with thyme and rosemary. This year, Spike followed Good Stuff's success by opening We, The Pizza, an Italian-American place featuring pizza, sandwiches, and wings.
- Season Seven star Kenny Gilbert is opening Nippers Beach Grille in Jacksonville, Florida, this January. The laid-back waterfront restaurant will showcase local seafood with both Southern and Bahamian flavors and is so casual you can even float-in; Nippers will feature boat slips for diners who want to travel by sea. Word is there will be both a tiki bar and a raw bar. I can see myself sipping an umbrella-laden drink and eating conch fritters as I watch boats sail by the next time I'm in North Florida.
What about you? Have you dined at a Top Chef's restaurant?
Image via BravoTV