Here are two reasons to tune in to the new season of “Top Chef.”
Among the 16 “cheftestants” competing in the Bravo reality show are a couple NYC chefs.
The 14th season, which filmed in Charleston, South Carolina, and premieres Dec. 1, puts a twist on the series with a mix of rookies and veteran “Top Chef” contestants.
Among the eight rookies is Silvia Barban, the executive chef of Aita in Clinton Hill and the executive chef and owner of LaRina Pastificio e Vino in Fort Greene.
And returning to the show is Sam Talbot, who was a semifinalist and voted “Fan Favorite” in season 2 of “Top Chef.” He is opening a new restaurant in Brooklyn this fall, Pretty Southern.
Here’s everything you need to know about the NYC chefs, who are vying for the title of Top Chef — and the $125,000 prize.
Hometown: Northern Italy
Neighborhood: Fort Greene
Culinary cred: Barban studied at the Italian culinary institute E.Maggia Stresa and studied under the Italian chefs Gualtiero Marchesi and Giancarlo Perbellini before moving to New York to help open Giovanni Rana Pastificio e Cucina in Chelsea Market. She is the executive chef at Aita and the co-owner and executive of LaRina Pastificio & Vino, which opened in August.
What to expect from LaRina: “Because I learned a lot about fresh pasta in my past jobs, my and my business partner were thinking about how in this neighborhood — Fort Greene — there was nothing like a real Italian restaurant or market with fresh ingredients. We make fresh pasta every day — 17 different types of pasta. The pasta is the main thing; there is another section of the menu — before or after — for other stuff. In the market we sell fresh pasta and products from Italy. One of the traditional dishes we have in Italy is spaghetti aglio e olio, with garlic, olive oil and chilies. Because my experience in the States — everyone likes barbecue, I had the idea to smoke the spaghetti and mix it all with garlic and cheese. So it’s a traditional dish with a little sauce.”
What she brings to the competition: “Because I’m Italian, I think I brought my Italian accent, as well as Italian food — the traditional Italian food. It’s different from Italian food in America. Some dishes people weren’t familiar with — I brought those to the competition.”
What she can share about the season: “It’s a great season, nothing like this has happened in ‘Top Chef.’ I’ve always liked to work with other chefs — you always learn something. As a chef, you always want to know more things as possible about food. Because there are different types of chefs, you learn different cultures, different food, different ways to use utensils. It was a great experience, it let me grow as a chef and a person.”
Why to root for her: Barban is vying to be the first Italian top chef. “I’ve always been a big fan of ‘Top Chef,’ I watched in Italy from season 1,” she says. “It was always one of my dreams.”
Culinary cred: Since appearing on the second season of “Top Chef,” Talbot helmed the kitchens at The Surf Lodge in Montauk and Imperial No. Nine at the Mondrian SoHo. His new restaurant, Pretty Southern, is slated to open in December in Williamsburg.
What to expect from Pretty Southern: “Pretty Southern is based on a lot of the lore that surrounds Southern food — it’s heavy, has a lot of sodium, a lot of fatty products. Pretty Southern takes that and hacks it all up. We do clean fried chicken, we have 11 or 12 vegetable sides. There are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free [options]. We’re organic and as sustainable as possible. It’s just a really fun, clean, delicious concept.”
What he brings to the competition: “In situations like this, where however many different personalities are in the room, sometimes there’s a need for like a moderator or the glue, and I think that I naturally fell into that position. And going on ‘Top Chef’ this time, I was a little more braced and ready for if someone were to say something that is passionate. You see people cut down, but until you’re actually in the moment and hear someone call you a crack head on national TV, you don’t know what that feels like. It gives you a level of Kevlar.”
What he can share about the season: “There’s a lot of fun, crazy, quirky challenges, on top of the drama. It’s wacky, like it always is. I think it’s just a great platform for chefs. It takes you out of your comfort zone.”
Why to root for him: Talbot, who has type 1 diabetes, is hoping to draw attention to his organization, Beyond Type 1, which inspires people living with diabetes. “Every time I’m cooking, my tattoo is showing — our logo, a blood drop — on my little finger,” he says. “If me being on TV gives one kid or one parent a bigger hope, that I’m doing so well at my age and thriving, maybe they can get attached to that.”