When you watch this past episode of Top Chef: Texas, notice the faces of the final five contestants as Pee-wee Herman rides into the kitchen on his bike, honking his horn (and I’m not being euphemistic here). The chefs have strained smiles, that tinge of consternation as they no doubt wondered what was happening. Indeed, during previous Quickfire challenges, the chefs often walked into the kitchen to see Padma standing next to, say, Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, or Eric Ripert. But Pee-wee Herman?
“Okay, that’s fun,” was the first thought that went through the head of Grayson Schmitz. This was followed by, “But he better not be one of our f—g judges.” Oh yes, he was. You can read the rest of my take on this latest episode here.
Before ending my conversation with Grayson this afternoon, the New York-based chef wanted to make sure I mention her debt of gratitude to Washington chef Fabio Trabocchi, who is currently at Fiola. Grayson considers him her mentor and added, “The man taught me how to make pasta,” which is like having Eric Ripert teach you how to debone a fish. Fiola is an elegant Italian restaurant tucked inside D.C.’s Penn Quarter. Unfortunately it is so tucked in it’s almost impossible to find. In fact, his restaurant stands where Yannick Cam’s Le Paradou and Alan Stillman’s Maloney & Porcelli once stood. (I think this is also where Flight 19 was last seen before it disappeared from radar.) The spot is cursed, as Anthony Bourdain would say. But I do wish Signor Trabocchi the best of luck in breaking this curse (try the veal … chop).