As I've noted before, the Top Chef: Seattle judges didn't spend much time hobnobbing with folks in their host city: In a recent telephone interview, Wolfgang Puck copped to never eating here. While his colleagues visited many of the city's boldfaced names, their hunt-and-peck approach to the Pacific Northwest resulted in a scattered understanding of the region: When Padma Lakshmi promoted the season on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, she griped about the rain. During the month she spent in Seattle, it rained 1.54 inches. By way of comparison, back in New York during the same month, it rained 3.22 inches. Hope she's wrung out from her Washington stay.
But did the production team do a better job of familiarizing themselves with what makes Seattle Seattle? In this recurring column, we'll gauge how fairly the previous night's episode represented the city - and correct misconceptions viewers elsewhere might form based on the show.
1. The Space Needle isn't usually orange on top.
The Needle was painted Galaxy Gold this summer, so the show certainly represented our landmark accurately. But the paint job was a temporary celebration of the 50th anniversary of the tower, the surrounding Seattle Center and World's Fair which compelled its creation. The Galaxy Gold is true to the Needle's original paint scheme, but it's since worn various colors. Starting this fall, the dome will be redone in green.
2. Seattle Center is not a ghost town.
The shot of the contestants approaching the Space Needle was eerily vacant of other people. Unless you have a television crew to hold the tourists back, plan for a less lonely experience when you visit the park. (And if you're looking to escape the hoards, the newish Collections Cafe provides a lovely oasis in the midst of the madness.)
3. Tom Douglas isn't Seattle's only restaurateur.
Top Chef knows this, as evidenced by the preview shot of Thierry Ratreau in an upcoming episode. Still, many eaters beyond Seattle share Tom Colicchio's opinion, expressed in last night's episode, that Douglas owns "half the restaurants" in town. He owns 13, which is a very big number in the restaurant biz, but he doesn't dominate local restaurant culture as thoroughly as visitors might suspect. Should you pay Seattle a visit, you'll want make sure to stray beyond the Douglas empire.
But it's also worth noting that Douglas isn't the typical restaurant mogul: His restaurants are reliably very good. There are, not surprisingly, Douglas detractors, but I'd defy them to express their reservations in the face of a Seatown Dungeness crab fried egg sandwich, Serious Pie pizza or Brave Horse Tavern pretzel. Douglas is also a generous community supporter and a refreshingly candid interview, so most everyone in town was pretty excited about his James Beard win this year.
Anything else you want the nation to know? Throw it in the comments section.