The new season of Top Chef starts tomorrow night, and Seattle's supplied an impressive four cheftestants. To help you get your rooting plans in order before Padma announces "your time starts now," Voracious put the same probing questions to each of our hometown reps. Now up, Nina Vicente.
Name: Nina Vicente
Current job: Executive sous chef, The Coterie Room
Culinary background: Vicente dropped out of culinary school at South Seattle Community College to cook professionally at TASTE. Dana Tough invited her to join the opening team at Spur Gastropub as a pantry cook; she was serving as a sous chef there before transferring to The Coterie Room.
SW: What's your signature ingredient?
NV: I would say it would be signature ingredients. It's important to me to have balanced seasoning and flavors. You can really elevate a dish just by adding salt, fresh ground pepper and the right amount of acid.
SW: What was your favorite childhood restaurant?
NV: Hing Loon in the ID.
SW: What's your favorite meal in Seattle?
NV: Shiro's Sushi, but when Shiro is working, and you have to sit at the bar. It's really amazing when someone seasons every little bite for you, and you feel satisfied with every piece.
SW: What's your favorite place to eat outside of Seattle?
NV: Mirak in Federal Way, that's where I grew up. They have a lot of good Korean restaurants in Federal Way.
SW: Drink of choice?
NV: Shot of Corrido tequila, and a Rainier. I can't drink cocktails anymore, I'm quite allergic. I get the Asian red face, or I can't breathe. I'd rather not take the chance.
SW: What can the rest of the country learn from Seattle chefs?
NV: I can't speak for all the chefs in Seattle, but from what I know and see, I think we have a lot to offer the rest of the country when they come eat here. They keep it simple with the ingredients that the Northwest has to offer.
SW: If you had to gauge chefs' skills using a challenge that didn't involve cooking, which activity would you use?
NV: I usually ask where they see themselves.
SW: What were your impressions of Texas before being cast on Top Chef?
NV: I never had any, just to expect a place different than my own, and for it to be uncomfortably hot.
SW: Who's your reality show role model?
NV: Umm...I don't have one. People who are on TV are not my role models. Just saying.