Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson is in Israel this week, attending to important food business, but he fielded a few of our questions about Top Chef Seattle before he left the country. The new season starts on Bravo one week from tonight (and if you didn't already know that, it might also be useful to know Acheson's the one with the unibrow.) Let the countdown begin.
On the secrecy surrounding the Seattle shoot:
"Top Chef, for obvious reasons, likes to keep the location a secret until the show lineup is announced. Though rumors get spread, and people start chatting, the location is really not known to most of the viewers, just readers of Eater and relentless followers of the food world.
In this day and age I think it's really hard to keep it totally under wraps unless we dress up Padma as a nurse and Tom as Kojak, and claim we are doing a new detective movie. I would play the evil, well dressed, mysterious, and brooding guy with one eyebrow.
The sets were no more restricted than other cities, it's just really hard to hide a large crew at Pike Place Market. Next time we will dress up like flying salmon, and you will never know we were there."
On the differences between Seattle and Texas, which hosted the last season of Top Chef:
"Showcasing the area and the culinary culture of a city is what it's all about! Texas was big and hot and fun and I think the season really showed off some of the core of Texas cooking. Seattle was fun but completely different. Really focused food town with such amazing ingredients to work with. You have the amazing abundance of Pike Place, the pristine luxury of Canlis, smart new places like Walrus & Carpenter, Sitka & Spruce, Madison Park Conservatory, all of Ethan (Stowell)'s places, great bars... the list is very long of places I thought were just awesome expressions of the region's serious love of food."
On contestants' favorite ingredients in the Seattle larder:
"Locality was very focused on. It's hard to find better salmon and foraged stuff anywhere in the country. Yes, (the other judges) probably ate enough geoduck for a year or two, but not me... I love the stuff."
On the nexus between political messaging and reality television:
"I think we are making America aware of the concepts of great food cooked from local ingredients. That's the first step in improving our food culture. (Head judge) Tom (Colicchio) and I have a lot of food policy ideas that we work very hard on but the show is probably not the best soapbox for our thoughts. At the end of the day, Tom and I blathering on about the Farm Bill would make kind of boring TV."
On what to expect this season:
"Salmon flying through the air, tears of rage, tears of freedom! And blue chef coats. It is a fun season full of some real characters, and they can cook."