Top Chef is on in less than four hours…


…and zomg, there’s a brown girl among this season’s contestants! Squeee!

Yes, you read right, someone Desi is competing on one of the most addictive reality shows out there. Her name is Radhika Desai and I’m twitching with excitement, because as of last season, I love that show–despite the number of faux-hawks its contestants sport. Ms. Desai, thankfully, does not have a faux-hawk. Yet. (Stay strong, gf!)

Radhika, a 28-year old Execuitve Chef (at the Between Boutique Café & Lounge) from Chicago, loves the show as much as I do:

Known to friends as “Rad”, Desai is the first Indian-American chef to compete on the show. She’s a hardcore fan of “TC”: “I’ve seen every episode at least three times, if not more,” Desai told Chicago Magazine in October. [metromix]

Bravo makes it easy to be that dedicated. They seem to have all of four shows on at a time, so each episode of that meager roster of programs gets trotted out repeatedly. Por ejemplo, if you miss tonight’s season premier, don’t fret, because it’s on again at 11:15pm…and 1:30am…2:45am…9pm on Thursday…etc. But back to why you should DVR one of those offerings:

Radhika currently works as the Executive Chef at Between Boutique Café & Lounge in Chicago. A first generation Indian American, Radhika was born in Ohio and raised in an eclectic Indian-tradition home. Trained in classic French and Indian cuisine, she has worked alongside notable chef Vikas Khanna and has staged at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. She has traveled the world over learning new techniques and flavor profiles and brings spice and bold flavors to the table combined with grace and restraint. Her favorite dish to prepare is spicy chicken and potato curry with cumin scented rice with clarified butter and mint. She describes her cooking style as globally eclectic with a huge spoonful of love. [BravoTV]

Born in Ohio? I’d call her second-generation, not first, but potato, urulai kizhangu. I’ve often muttered to myself about how a Desi contestant might respond to certain quick-fire challenges or TC assignments, since other chefs have drawn on their respective ethnic backgrounds to create dishes. I cannot WAIT to see if Radhika might get down with some brown. Judging from the menu at tonight’s viewing party at her restaurant, I think we’re in for an interesting season:

Between’s flown mostly under the radar until now; with chef Desai’s star on the rise, the unassuming neighborhood restaurant is sure to benefit from the Bravo bump. What better time to try out the globally inspired spot than at the “Top Chef” premiere viewing party on Nov. 12 from 9 p.m. until midnight? Desai created a special tasting menu for the occasion featuring some of her favorite dishes, including grilled vegetable terrine with Rad’s herbed goat cheese, curried lobster bisque, spice-rubbed butterfish with spinach and chorizo, braised duck samosa and ginger-chocolate mousse in a chocolate tart. Sure sounds like a winner to us. [NBC]

Before Between, Radhika worked as a sous chef at Chicago’s Vermilion. Here’s what her boss had to say about her skillz:

According to Vermilion executive chef Maneet Chauhan, Desai is quite the kitchen star. “She is extremely dedicated,” says Chauhan. “It was great to have her in the kitchen because she was really creative and had this amazing sense of dedication.” Quick Fire challenges won’t be a problem, says Chauhan, because Desai “thrives under pressure.” Chauhan adds, “Knowing Radhika, she probably carried herself with a lot of grace.” [metromix]

Aside for our Chicagoist-mutineers: have any of you been to either Between or Vermilion? Thoughts?

After a less-than-stellar brown showing on another, way suckier Bravo Reality show, and after reading some of your Facebook status messages, I know I’m not the only mutineer who’s got high hopes for Obama, I mean, Radhika. Sorry, it’s like a tic, every time I type “hope” I…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go primp. I may not be able to celebrate Radhika’s big debut at her own restaurant, but I can do the next best thing; I’m going to try to go to Season 4 contestant Spike’s Good Stuff Eatery here in D.C., to watch the premier with him and his awesome parents (and a few hundred other rabid TC groupies, I’m sure). If I make it in, I’ll try and live-microblog it via our Twitter. Holla back at us, either there or below!

23 thoughts on “Top Chef is on in less than four hours…

  1. Thank you, Anna, for posting this. And thank you to TC for having a desi contestant that gives me high hopes. I hope she has enough attitude to make an interesting character and I can’t wait for her recipes to be posted on Bravo online!

  2. I wanted to eat at Vermilion the last time I was in Chi-town but I heard such mixed reviews and didn’t want to waste a precious dining experience on possible suckage. The place she is an executive chef at I’ve heard is more a lounge where you get drinks and small plates/tapas. I think you have to be really creative yet really precise with tapas, it’s easy to go overboard and overwhelm with that.

    I’m looking forward to watching her throw in some of her Indian and French expertise!

    Color me jealous about you going to a viewing party at Spike’s. Have some frites and a milkshake for your readers!

    I’ll be looking for twitter updates!

    And lastly….

    …potato, urulai kizhangu

    you slay me!

  3. First time commenting here..I’ve been to Vermillion…and it was awesome. Its a fusion of Indian and Latin American food. Especially great drinks. Their lobster vindaloo was special.

  4. she looks terrified the entire episode. team brown is not looking promising at all:/ why are we only doomed to kick ass at mathlete competitions and spelling bees!?

  5. Argh, missed it. Actually, from the picture, I think she could get away with a pony hawk. So much better than a chef’s toque, and it would be more fun for her.

  6. So it just happens that I’m going to be in Chicago for my birthday…I had wanted to do something really cool, but didn’t know what. I’m sad that Between Boutique is so far from where we’re staying, but Vermilion is like a six minute walk!

    Any other places in Chi-town that might be worth birthday-ing?

  7. I went to Vrmilion a few years ago, shortly after it had opened. I don’t remember the specifics of the meal except that it was outstanding. Great ambiance and decor as well. I have no idea whether it has maintained its quality.

  8. After having been to Vermillion twice I do not understand what all the hype is about. The food is not seasoned well. It is bland! I’m surprised when Padma was on Oprah a few months ago she said this was her favorite restaurant in Chicago. Anyway, it is just me or did Rad look like a deer caught in headlights on tonight’s episode?

  9. 1 · Fuerza Dulce said

    Thank you, Anna, for posting this.

    You are most welcome!

    2 · Scorps1027 said

    Color me jealous about you going to a viewing party at Spike’s. Have some frites and a milkshake for your readers!

    I had a black and white milkshake and it was outstanding. Hope you’re all happy. ;) Spike was a total sweetheart, btw.

    I’ll be looking for twitter updates!

    Well then I’m glad I updated our Twitter (instead of my own)!

    And lastly….
    …potato, urulai kizhangu
    you slay me!

    I’m ecstatic SOMEBODY caught that. :D Do you know how hard that was to spell (and thus find on google, for fact-checking purposes)?

    3 · curly said

    How I wish I had Bravo….*sigh* will have to watch online…Thanks for the heads up Anna!!

    My pleasure! Let me know what you think, once you see it. :)

    4 · Abhi said

    My favorite show! (except for Dexter)

    I don’t watch the Dexter. I am the fraidy-cat. ;)

    7 · Cherian said

    oof…rough start for team brown. hopefully she’ll bounce back.

    ITA! It was rough.


    Also, thanks for all the Vermilion reviews, mutineers. :)

  10. I’m with Sam; the menu sounded more exciting than the food ended up being. But I may give it another shot, and I’m looking forward to trying Between.

  11. I really hope she has a rebound in the second episode. The production behind the scenes at Bravo seemed to show consistent angry shots of Radhika— wrinkled brow, big eyes, generally quiet. She had a few happy moments, apparently, but a perfectly timed, raised wine glass blocked her smile.

  12. The best part is Padma being able to say her name correctly. I swoon when people say Indian names correctly.

  13. 16 · inothernews said

    The best part is Padma being able to say her name correctly. I swoon when people say Indian names correctly.

    totally agree! it made me smile.

  14. And we’ll finally have someone saying Padma’s name correctly, too!

    I was hoping to see more of Radhika, but I’m not discouraged. Yeaaah for apple chutney, boyeee. Did anyone notice how someone (I can’t remember who now) used apple chutney in the elimination challenge? They can’t stop hijacking our stuff, yo. I was also impressed that Eugene made his food more desi (woohoo curd-rice!)than his opponent without even trying. I think he’ll be someone else to watch.

  15. She doesn’t seem long for the show, which is a bummer. It’s nice to see them in New York though. I’m hoping the challenges there will be more on par with the first season.

    p.s. Does anyone really understand what Padma Lakshmi was talking about when she told the aggressively tattooed dude that he had unwittingly made a classic South Indian dish? I’m not aware of classic South Indian dishes involving lamb, but that might just be because I’m Guju. Enlighten please!

  16. Was at Vermilion earlier this year and loved it! A couple of my cousins live closer to the place and are regulars there. Maybe that was the reason, but we were treated very well, and came out stuffed but happy.

  17. I’ll say it: What a HUGE disappointment! I don’t think she lasts more than a few weeks at the most. She doesn’t seem like she even feels she deserves to be there. I’m no chef but I would have made a more interesting contestant even :)

  18. For the philes:

    This is what BravoTV is describing as Gene’s dish: Dry rub lamb with basmati sweet rice, tzatziki with tandoori glaze. While I’m familiar with all sorts of South Indian lamb preparations, I’m not sure what Padma meant by classic South Indian staple nor can I piece it together from the description. Rice, yogurt, and lamb do seem simplistically staple, however, as that’s how mom makes it. :)

  19. Cherian, I’m first-generation but still need the yogurt-rice combination as a finish to any Indian meal. Doesn’t matter if the meal is veg or non-veg, we South Indians need “thayir-chatham” to feel the meal is complete! :) I totally got what Padma meant.