Just when it began to look as if cable television's top rated food show had vanished from the streets of Chicago, Top Chef is wheeling a 48-foot semi-trailer with a full kitchen to the city that hosted its fourth and most recent season. I confess, as someone who has made a minor sub-specialty of observing culinary competitions and competitors, I am not the demographic that made the Chicago season of Top Chef its most viewed ever.
Still, as a booster of the city's gastronomic prowess, it's hard not to get excited by the prospect of Top Chef pulling its show truck into Chicago for two days of cooking demonstrations and inside chatter with two of the show's most successful contestants, home-towners Stephanie Izard and Dale Levitski. Earlier this summer, Izard vanquished chefs from New York and Atlanta to take top honors, the first woman to capture the spot. A year earlier, Levitski, the first Chicagoan to appear on the show, made it as far as the finale.
The two veterans of Chicago's fine dining scene will be making the rounds of vendors at Chicago's Green City Market in Lincoln Park to pick up ingredients for their demos, which will take place on September 3rd and 4th. It won't exactly be at the pace of the show's fiery timed challenges, but Levitski and Izard will decide on the spot what they're making after surveying the market offerings. Levitski told me that the emphasis will continue to be on "good seasonal food that is approachable and can be done at home."
Izard is still making media appearances after her victory - she was headed to the Rachael Ray Show when I caught up with her - and Levitski is about ready to start construction on a new restaurant to be opened later this year in the West Loop, so neither seems unhappy about the slower pace at the Green Market. It will give them time to mix up the cooking with some behind the scenes gossip about their respective seasons. Izard said she still gets asked regularly what Lisa, one of her finale challengers, is really like.
Top Chef first came to Chicago to film the finale of Levitski's season in 2007. "They just threw us in a van, and we were off," he said, admitting he wasn't even certain where they had taken him. The show went on to shoot the entire following season in Chicago, hauling contestants around the city in its trademark style from places like Izard's own Lakeview neighborhood to Ravenswood Manor on the Northwest Side. Chicago was only the second city outside California to host the popular reality show.
The Green City Market stop is part of a 20-city cross-country tour kicked off in June and will be broadcast live to market shoppers. Lyle Allen, executive director of the market, the city's only market dedicated to local and sustainably-produced products, said that the market will open for an additional day to accommodate interest in the Bravo tour. The market typically operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but will add a Thursday opening for the Top Chef stop.