How I Almost Appeared on Top Chef


At this point, you’re probably well aware that last night’s episode of Top Chef Miami featured Andrea Strong as the top-secret food blogger “plant” in the highly dramatic restaurant episode. What you probably don’t know is that I too auditioned to be there at that table with Andrea. I was called in last winter to audition and, obviously, didn’t make the cut. What follows is the story of that process and maybe you can help me figure out what I did wrong and why they didn’t cast me.

The e-mail came from a Top Chef producer on February 23rd. It said: “I am contacting you because we are interested in the possibility of including you on this season of the show.”

I ran into the living room to tell Diana and Craig who were excited for me and we immediately started debating what they wanted me for. “They can’t want me to be a contestant, can they?” I asked. “I mean I’m The Amateur Gourmet, for crying out loud, that’s rhetorically the OPPOSITE of ‘Top Chef.'”

We all agreed that it must be for something else and sure enough, after a few more e-mails, it became clear: they were going to do a food blog episode and they would want me to be one of the food blogging judges. Could I come in to audition on such-and-such a date? “Sure,” I said and told everyone I knew in the world that I was going to audition to be a judge on “Top Chef.” (“But they already have ONE Ted Allen,” one of my friends quipped.)

The audition was held in the Bravo offices at 30 Rock (yes, like the TV show) and I was elated to get a special security pass to sweep past the tourists (I used to be one of those tourists, taking the NBC Studios tour) into a private elevator up to Bravo. I learned later that Bravo’s offices are on the same floor as Saturday Night Live which made me laugh because for the large bulk of my adolescence I wanted nothing more than to audition for SNL–I watched it religiously. If you would’ve told the younger me that the older me would one day be auditioning on Saturday Night Live’s hallway to be the on-air food blogger for a reality show about cooking the younger me would’ve called you a liar and challenged you to a fight only to run away when you put up your dukes.

The audition is now all a blur. I remember sitting in the little waiting area where they were playing Bravo shows on a TV. Then a young woman called me into a glassed-in room where another young woman (they were both my age) was manipulating a camera on a tripod. They had me sit in a chair in front of the camera and the first woman explained, “Ok, we’re just going to ask you a few questions about food and just answer them into the camera.”

It would be hard to recall exactly what they asked. I think they asked, “What do you look for in a restaurant?” And I think I gave my standard answer “One: waiters who sing an ORIGINAL RESTAURANT SONG on your birthday and put candles in the cake. Two: crayons on the table with WHITE paper placemats, don’t give me that brown s**t. And Three: Instead of a men’s room and a women’s room, the bathrooms should be marked #1 and #2 because no one wants to smell a stinky when you’re eating out.”

When they asked me “What makes a great chef?” I answered, “inverted nipples” based on Brillat-Savarin’s classic essay, “Inverted Nipples Make a Great Chef.” When they asked which five people alive or dead I’d want to eat a meal with I said: “Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and John Stamos.” When they said I could invite two more I yelled out: “No! I don’t want any more. I’m tired of DJ and Michelle getting all the attention.”

At that point, the two women turned off the camera and pressed a button on the desk. I heard very dramatic music and then in walked Padma. “Adam,” she said. “Pack your knives and go…really really far away and never come back.”

And that’s what I did and I never heard from them again.

[Thanks to James Felder for doctoring the picture.]

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