Top Chef casting producers will be in a tent in Marion Square next weekend during the BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival looking for the stars of the next seasons of Top Chef and Top Chef: Just Desserts.
The open call is the first time the team from Magical Elves, the production company behind Top Chef, has ever been to Charleston (could a Real Housewives of Charleston be next?).
I can't help but be excited at the prospect of some local talent making the cut (I could live-blog!). We gave casting producer Donna Lee a couple of names this morning, and she says she hopes a lot of people come out for the casting. It doesn't seem like they recruit, per se, but they do research the town so they know who to keep an eye out for.
"We would definitely love to get a Southeast regional chef in the mix, and it's a fantastic opportunity to get them on the show," she says. "There's no harm in applying."
If you think you've got the chops, visit bravotv.com/casting for the application. Fill out the form, make a short video, and drop it off at the tent where producers will be hosting a casual meet and greet.
"We meet with them in groups," says Donna. "It's a good way to put a face with a name. We go back home and look at applications and we remember meeting them. It’s quick, but we have no idea what the turnout will be."
As for who we think should apply, here's our list:
The Dream Team
Mike Lata of FIG and Sean Brock of Husk/McCrady's
They're already rock star chefs with TV-ready personalities. They've done Iron Chef. Why not Top Chef?
The Dream Boats
Jeremiah Bacon of Oak Steakhouse
He's got movie star looks, serious kitchen skills, the best name in the business, and an articulate, philosophical side. He's the son of a motivational speaker too, which would probably come in handy during restaurant wars.
Ken Vedrinski of Trattoria Lucca
Charm just drips off this one with his big smile and twinkling eyes. Plus, his food is simply astounding. He's got a fiery side and a way with the ladies. Could make for excellent TV. But he's probably better suited to Top Chef Masters. It'd be unfair for a guy with his skills and experience to compete against a bunch of snot-nosed kids.
Ready for Prime Time
Brett McKee of Roadside Kitchen
This one's personality is so big, I'm not sure prime time would be able to handle him. But he's surely a good candidate for reality television. He'd be a hoot to watch.
Jimihatt of Guerrilla Cuisine
This journeyman chef who worked with Sean Brock at McCrady's before embarking on his underground supper club venture is another larger-than-life personality, but they might require his real name and that could be a deal breaker.
Craig Deihl of Cypress
Deihl is in the Beard semifinals once again, and Top Chef exposure could be just the thing to bump him into the full spotlight. Besides, his sense of humor is sick (and I mean that in a good way). He'd be hilarious in those private confessionals because he would say exactly what was on his mind. The more I think about this one, the more I like it.
Matt Bolus, currently of FIG/formerly of Red Sky
Bolus is talented, of that there's no question. Had his last restaurant venture been downtown instead of Seabrook Island, he'd probably be one of our rock star chefs. He's got a brash, funny personality and the respect of chefs across town. I think he'd be one to beat.
Michelle Weaver of Charleston Grill and JIll Mathias of Carolina's
We can barely afford to give up even one of the very few female chefs we have in this town, and the Top Chef competition tends to favor dudes, but we'd put these gals up against any talent, anywhere. Weaver is quiet and was content to toil away in her mentor Bob Waggoner's kitchen for years while he worked the dining room, but it's her time now. She ought to make the most of it. But I get the feeling that being on a TV show would make her squirm in discomfort. As for Mathias, I don't know much about her except that Jeremiah Bacon thinks she's great, and that's good enough for me.
Destined for Just Desserts
Emily Cookson, Charleston Grill
A fine pastry chef with clever ideas and delicious execution. She even sends out dessert amuse bouches.
Jeffery Alexander, Culinary Institute of Charleston
He's an artisan baker, first and foremost, with a love of yeast and bread. But he's also an accomplished pastry chef who teaches and consults. I think his calm demeanor would allow him to dominate the high-strung pastry chefs he might encounter.
Christophe Paum, Christophe Artisan Chocolatier
He's French, but he's still a Charlestonian and his chocolate creations are amazing. He's a third generation pastry chef, so he's got to have some mad baking skills too.
Lauren Mitterer, WildFlour
She's got the best sticky buns in town, and is a Beard semifinalist. Charleston already loves you Lauren, why not take it to the next level?
Winburn Carmack, McCrady's
She turns out creative and delicious desserts that are equal to what Sean Brock and his team are doing on the savory side at McCrady's. I think she might be able to kick some ass.
I'm ending my list here (I'm tired, it's bedtime), but there are more chefs out there who'd be great. What about you? Who do you think would be great to see on the next season of Top Chef?