Top Chef Tour Receives a Round of Applause
By Nicholas Pentabona prospective PCP '12
[May 23, 2012] For two action-packed days, Faneuil Hall was garnished by a tent and trailer announcing the presence of Bravo’s Top Chef Tour. This tour pits two “chef-testants” from any of various seasons against each other in “quickfire”-style challenges. At each stop along the way, two new chef-testants compete. For Tuesday, May 22nd, and Wednesday, May 23rd, Bravo brought Hosea Rosenberg, Season 5 winner, and, a native to our area, Tiffani Faison, chef/owner of Sweet Cheeks Q — a Texas BBQ joint in the Fenway — to Boston.
The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, as a sponsor and supporter of the tour, was asked to provide three to four students to “sous chef” alongside these heavyweights each day, prepping and cooking the chefs’ cuisines. Jasper Hoitsma, Josh Stephano, Nicholas Pentabona, and Megan Sullivan rose to the occasion for Tuesday; Josh returned the second day to work with peers Betsy Proom and Phil Beverly.
Despite the rain on Tuesday, audience turnout was quite lively and voluminous. The CSCA students were asked to prepare inside the Top Chef trailer four 60–75 plate teaser batches, small bites of what was being made for the judges outside under the tent. Space and equipment was provided for prep, frying, dish washing, baking, and even a small gas range was available for sauté. Working in a structured line, Jasper, Josh, Megan, and Nicholas lined up large sections of plates around the long work surfaces and beautifully plated out nearly 300 dishes of Polenta-crusted Littleneck PoBoys with red pepper, asparagus, arugula, radicchio remoulade atop puréed sweet peas for Hosea and Broth Poached Littlenecks filled with bacon stock foam, black pepper, dressed by pea, leek, and asparagus in brodo for Tiffani. These dishes were brought from the trailer by Top Chef T-shirt-wearing back waiters who served the bounty to curious viewers.
Camaraderie was at a zenith inside the trailer. Jokes were abundant, teamwork was efficient, but most importantly, the groups worked to keep the van clean and organized despite the speed needed to push out food for each short service. Luckily, Hosea and Tiffani were great sports, joining in with the humor and taking their respective wins and losses from the quickfire matches with poise. Few changes were made to the recipes between rounds or from one day to the next, which helped The CSCA students to become that much more nimble for each successive round. “The producers said we were the best bunch of students all tour,” mused Pentabona, “I’m taking that as a good thing.” Stephano’s reprisal on Wednesday helped ease the learning process for the new arrivals, according to Betsy.
The final set of shows had clearer weather than the day prior. Little changed in the way of how things would move forward. Spirits were equally as high and Betsy, Phil, and Josh kept up with the busy pace of 18-wheeler cookery. “It was certainly interesting getting used to [that] kitchen after being used to the kitchens at the CSCA,” remarked Betsy.
As the last day closed and the final challenge was called, students broke down the kitchen and helped put things away. “I am glad that we had the opportunity to experience what happens behind the scenes on a Top Chef tour,” said Phil. Fun was rumored to be had across the board, and experience taken for the better. Free T-shirts were given out by Top Chef producers, a nice finishing touch, and everyone left behind what was to be a positive, enjoyable outing overall.
caption (top image): CSCA students pose with Top Chef contestants at the Top Chef Tour event on Tuesday, May 22nd. From left to right, front row: Megan Sullivan, Tara Kulas (intern at Sweet Cheeks Q), Tiffani Faison (Seasons 1 & 8), Hosea Rosenberg (Season 5 winner), and Nicholas Pentabona. Back row, left to right: Jasper Hoitsma and Josh Stephano.
caption (second image: Jasper Hoitsma and Nicholas Pentabona set up one of the demo stations for the Top Chef quickfire.
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