TV ‘Top Chef’ wins appearance in Aspen
January 31, 2007
ASPEN New York cook Ilan D. Hall was crowned TV’s “Top Chef” Wednesday on Bravo’s hit reality show of the same name, earning a chance to showcase his skills at the annual Aspen Food & Wine Classic in June.The pre-taped competition between finalists Hall and Marcel Vigneron aired Wednesday night, capping a 13-episode competition that narrowed a field of 15 contestants through a series of cooking competitions until all but two had been dismissed with a curt: “Please, pack your knives and go.”
Hall will pack his knives and come to Aspen to participate in the Food & Wine Classic as part of a prize package that also includes $100,000 in cash, presumably to further his culinary career, kitchen appliances and a write-up in Food & Wine magazine, sponsor of the Aspen event.The 24-year-old line cook at Casa Mono in New York outcooked Vigneron in part 2 of a finale in Hawaii, where each chose two sous chefs from among the already eliminated competitors and prepared a five-course meal using ingredients from a Hawaii produce market. Vigneron, 26, is a master cook at Joel Robuchon at the Mansion, a French restaurant at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.”I think that was the best meal I’ve ever cooked,” Hall said during the show. “I cook with more of my soul than Marcel does.”
“I thought it was going to take more than (bleep) saffron and paprika to beat me. Surprisingly, not,” said a surprised Vigneron, who was less than popular with many of his co-contestants but praised for his inventive cuisine.”Top Chef,” in its second season, was cable’s most popular prime-time series in January.Actress Padma Lakshmi hosted the show, and sat at the table with a judging panel that featured a guest chef each week along with head judge Tom Colicchio, chef/owner of Craft Restaurants, and Gail Simmons of Food & Wine magazine. The finale brought in a panel of renowned chefs to help judge the last supper.
Rabid “Top Chef” fans thought Hall had been fingered as the winner earlier this week, when Eater LA, a weblog devoted to Los Angeles’ restaurant and nightlife scene, said that for about 15 minutes Monday afternoon, a Food & Wine story identifying Hall as the winner appeared on the magazine’s website.A magazine representative said profiles of both finalists had been prepared in advance. The Hall profile hadn’t actually been posted, but an intrepid fan managed to find it on the website’s server. A profile of Vigneron, identifying him as the “surprise winner,” was supposedly also prepared, leaving Associated Press television writer David Bauder to muse: “An honest mistake? A nasty hacker? Or could this all be a publicity stunt designed to hype a magazine and a television show?”Whatever. It worked.