UPDATE: My AMA is over, but I'll check back later to see if you've added any new questions. Thanks for joining me!

I'm a food reporter with the Courier Journal in Louisville, and last year I was invited to watch the production of 5 challenges on Top Chef season 16. (I even got to be a guest at the early-season Restaurant Wars.)

I've documented some of what I saw and ate at www.courier-journal.com, but there's always more to share. Ask Me Anything!

Some background: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/entertainment/television/2018/12/03/top-chef-16-behind-scenes-look-kentucky-season/1748932002/



Proof: https://i.redd.it/h6icxyk4l2821.jpg

Comments: 73 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

gothpixy15 karma

What happens if you are asked to taste/eat something you dislike or are allergic to or is too spicy for you?

courierjournal22 karma

From an email for the first dining experience I attended: "We cannot accommodate food allergies or dietary restrictions." Basically, if you can't eat it, you're out of luck. And if you don't like it, well, hopefully you'll get to say what you dislike on national TV.

renfield196912 karma

Do you know where those servers in Restaurant Wars were hired from? Did they have as little experience as it seemed on TV?

courierjournal17 karma

I *believe* they were employed by the catering company that hosted the challenge. Which means they probably didn't have the same experience with a table system that a restaurant server would have.

AndrewWolford2611 karma

Hi, I am from Columbus, Ohio and I have heard about a restraunt in Louisville called "Shenanigans" did Top Chef stop there and if not, why?

courierjournal4 karma

A Courier Journal food critic gave that restaurant a pretty negative review a while back, so they probably avoided it. (Also, hi, Wolf. How's it going?)

courierjournal3 karma

Did you make a Reddit account just to ask that question? Bravo

Shaysdays10 karma

How much of the meals do the judges eat, percentage-wise?

courierjournal17 karma

I didn't really get a good look at the finished plates, so I can't throw out a percent. But a crew member did tell one of my co-workers who attended a challenge that Padma gains a few pounds each season. I'd say they're eating quite a bit of the food.

Smertullus10 karma

Do you have a link to a website that will let people read what you've written?

courierjournal6 karma

Sure do! All of our Top Chef content is here: https://www.courier-journal.com/search/top%20chef/

[deleted]7 karma


courierjournal9 karma

I could eat scallops every day of my life if they weren't so damn expensive - and if I knew how to cook them well.

balancedinsanity6 karma

I've always wondered how they manage timing for appropriately temperatured food; hot food hot, cold food cold. Do you have any insight as to how they achieve this?

courierjournal5 karma

From what I saw, the judges ate the food pretty quickly. (From a previous answer: At the Maker's Mark challenge, for instance, I watched the chefs finish cooking then immediately carry their plates out to the judges' table. The chefs also make an extra dish for the "food porn" camera, so it's not like the food is waiting while the crew gets photos.)

At a catering-type challenge like in the first episode, it might be harder to keep dishes hot or cold. But the chefs would know what was expected of them in advance and could prepare.

ExposedTamponString5 karma

How many takes did it take to get a typical Top Chef scene?

What was the biggest difference between filming and watching Top Chef?

courierjournal22 karma

The takes varied greatly based on what was being shot. For instance, there's just one take for each quickfire. The chefs really only get the set time to cook. There are no do-overs. But Padma might have a couple takes to explain the challenge and to count down the remaining minutes. At one quickfire I saw, she walked back into the kitchen after all the contestants had left to do "pick-ups," where she said "Five minutes, chefs, five minutes" a couple times. It was kind of funny to watch her talk to an empty room.

I think the biggest difference between watching the production and the final episodes is all the down time. On TV, it looks like the chefs have just seconds to decide what dish they're going to make, but they really have a few minutes to debrief on the challenge before starting it. They also have to wait in a "stew room" before and after receiving quickfire challenges. It really is an all-day effort.

NovaPrime11249-443965 karma

Where would you most want to get sent for work?

courierjournal15 karma

I'm a reporter in Louisville, Kentucky, and my primary job is to cover our local food scene. So I've never actually covered Top Chef until this season - and I likely won't get to again. BUT, I would love to see the show go to Philadelphia, which is represented by two chefs this season. I personally like the city's vibe, and I'd love to learn more about it.

Chickens-dont-clap5 karma

What’s your favorite restaurant in Louisville?

Follow-up: what’s your favorite restaurant in Louisville that I can afford?

courierjournal5 karma

Bandido Taqueria

hoplias4 karma

How does one become a food reporter? Is it a well paid job?

courierjournal9 karma

I honestly have no idea how one becomes a food reporter. I feel like I fell into this position randomly. But food is something everyone has opinions and memories of, and I love getting to learn about the people and traditions that exist in our city.

cheese_burger184 karma

Do you agree with the judges choice for best restaurant?

courierjournal19 karma

I only got to personally eat at one restaurant, Thistle. But I think I agree with the judges' pick. Third Coast seemed like an absolute mess, and Thistle had a lot of inconsistencies. My table ordered two of each dish, and one of our appetizers came out without its sauce. Our two short ribs were cooked completely differently. And the puree on the scallop dish was, as the judges said, sickeningly sweet. So I see why Pablo was sent home. Also, my god, anyone who spends all night creating a server manual needs to be rewarded, so I was glad to see Brian win.

Chtorrr4 karma

What are your feelings on pineapple as a pizza topping?

courierjournal8 karma

Ya know, I can't say I'm a fan. I like my pizza with just pepperoni, no sweetness to cut the salt.

Smertullus5 karma

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who like pineapple on pizza and those eat lesser pizzas.

courierjournal7 karma

Welp, put me down as lesser.

shakeyjake3 karma

The time to completion of a dish and filming the judging has to take a fair amount of time. How to they keep the food warm and edible for the judges to evaluate?

courierjournal6 karma

I actually don't think it does take that much time between finishing the challenge and presenting their dishes. Though it may vary. At the Maker's Mark challenge, for instance, I watched the chefs finish cooking then immediately carry their plates out to the judges' table. I'd think the food was still warm at that point. The chefs also make an extra dish for the "food porn" camera, so it's not like the food is waiting while the crew gets photos.

CrazyDuck1233 karma

Hello! what did you ate for New Years Eve?

courierjournal3 karma

Hi! Funny enough, I had pepperoni pizza from Turoni's in Evansville, Indiana. It's a tradition with my friends there.

actuarally3 karma

Hellow, fellow Louisvillian with Evansville ties!

Turoni's is always a solid bet back home, but man I miss Kipplee's strombolis and GD Ritzy's burgers & ice cream.

courierjournal2 karma

GD Ritzy's is a classic. So good.

ehle20083 karma

Cool to see another redditor from Louisville. What is your favorite restaurant here in our city?

courierjournal5 karma

That's very tough; there are so many that do different things well. I'm going to say something potentially blasphemous here, though, and go with Portage House in New Albany. But it is owned by a Louisville chef!

VelvetElvis1 karma

Two questions:

1) Is a hotdog a sandwich? (obligatory for culinary related AMAs) 2) How many hours of footage would you guess they shoot to get enough to edit down to a single episode?

ehle20081 karma

I’ve actually never heard of that place, I’ll have to give it a shot here soon. Anything in particular that I should try?

courierjournal2 karma

The menu there changes frequently, but the last thing I got was shrimp & grits - and it was delicious. https://www.eatportagehouse.com/

Riki19961 karma

Did you invent any absolutely new recipe?If so..share with us.

courierjournal3 karma

I'm much better at putting words together than ingredients, so I have no personal recipes to share. But I did get four recipes that chef Newman Miller used in his Kentucky family dinner on the second episode. You can find them here: https://www.courier-journal.com/story/entertainment/television/2018/12/13/makers-mark-chef-behind-kentucky-meal-top-chef-season-16-episode-2/1748963002/.

hujhax1 karma

When I moved away from Louisville in the late 90s, the food scene was pretty 'meh', but I hear it's gotten really good. What has that improvement looked like over time? Has it gradually gotten better year by year, or (say) was there a year where things suddenly and markedly improved?

courierjournal3 karma

I think the improvement was more gradual, but I've only lived here 5 years, so I didn't experience the whole shift. I think a part of what happened is that coastal cities got too expensive to open restaurants in, so local chefs who trained in other cities returned to Louisville to start their places. Sara Bradley from this season is one example (though she's in Paducah).

As we get more national attention, outside restaurateurs have started looking to open places in Louisville (again, where they can get cheaper real estate), and I think we'll still see more of a rise in the number and quality of restaurants before there's a decline.