Jacob Katel Prospective Top Chef contestants shoot the shit while they wait their turn to see the casting director.
So what does it take to get on the show through a casting call? Applicants must create a home tape, fill out an entry form, have their picture taken, and meet the casting department. If they like you, they'll call.
Clean Plate Charlie asked Top Chef season 7 casting director Hunter Braun about the most outrageous home tape he's seen. "Last year, believe it or not, we had two people put octopus on their heads. It was like a running motif. Neither of them knew each other, they were just... I don't know, it was really bizarre. One of them almost made it on the show."
Here are some of the folks who tried out for Top Chef season 7.
Shashank Agtey "The Sidewalk Chef." We've been telling you about this character for months; click here, here, and here, for a great backstory. He told us, "I'm here, I'm ready. I can't wait for the opportunity."
Chef "Superdave" Gordon. Clean Plate Charlie first met Superdave in the kitchen of 5300 Chophouse in Doral, where he was cooking for a dinner paired with wines made by Sunbox Eleven Winery, a boutique, limited-production label he co-owns. Superdave said, "A couple of years ago, I tried out for Hell's Kitchen. They said I was overqualified. I wanna get on Top Chef and compete, not for the money but for myself. I put my video together at 2:30 a.m., so I don't even know what's on there, but it's exciting."
Chef Sean Bernal, executive chef of Oceanaire Seafood Room in Brickell, is a certified Miami-Dade County representer and, according to us, a Swordfish Samurai. He said, "My IT department sent me an email about the casting call, said they thought I'd be good for it. I'm like, wow, I can actually do this. It's gonna be awesome to represent the MIA and to represent my island, Puerto Rico. This show is cool because it exposes people who don't usually get recognized. It's not just about the core chefs you always hear about."
Joyce Simons drove down from Tampa to try out for Top Chef 7. She works there as the food and beverage director and executive chef of the Embassy Suites. She said, "Top Chef is the best show ever!"
Chef Gene Upshaw drove from Orlando to Miami the day of the casting call and was set to drive right back when he was done so he could be to work at 5 p.m. in the kitchen at Maggiano's. He told us, "This is my thing -- I've been doing it 17 years."
Future chef Brittany Eaden is currently a full-time culinary student at Johnson & Wales University. She told us, "I've been cooking all my life, since I was 6 years old. I love food, and I have an infatuation with Latin culture -- that's why I moved to Miami."
Tim Heitz, Chef 2 Go, is a private chef running his own business with his wife, Jodie Heitz, in Broward County. He says, "I moved here about nine years ago from Baton Rouge. I've been cooking for 25 years, and the first thing I ever made was Duncan Hines pancakes and cookies. My wife said I was crazy for trying to get on Top Chef 7. I said I'm crazy not to. This is my one day off, and I got nothing better to do."
Joaquin Ortiz, managing partner Segafredo South Miami. Joaquin said: "I own Segafredo, the one that's opening in December in South Miami. I went to Johnson & Wales got into the kitchen at Café Tu Tu Tango around 2004. Then I worked for Norman Van Aken, at Mundo in Merrick Park, and his restaurants in Orlando, and Los Angeles as a development consultant. I've also been on MTV's Room Raiders."
Oji Jaja, executive culinary artiste/consult and director. Chef Oji hails from Kingston, Jamaica, where he operates a catering company, Jaja Culinary Services. He attended Johnson & Wales in Miami as well as school in Jamaica. He worked for six years in Ritz-Carlton kitchens in Jamaica and the States and assures us that Top Chef plays on Kingston TV signal boxes.
David Fisher, executive chef for the Miami Dolphins. "They eat good but nothing too crazy. Low fats, two proteins, pastas, some fruits and vegetables. We do the menu and then get it cleared with the trainer. We feed about 100 people a day, and it's a lot of food. If I get on Top Chef, I plan to just be myself and have fun with it, keep it simple."
Future chef Amber Plecha. "I just moved to Miami a couple of months ago. I'm a culinary student at Johnson & Wales. Before this, I was a lawyer in New York City. I'm originally from Croatia. I'm really into healthy eating and saving the environment and creating awareness for that. I try to use all organic as much as possible, and I'm not against meat, but I'm not into the whole factory farming."
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Executive chef Brian Rutherford, Bistro Mezzaluna in Fort Lauderdale. "I'm not a diehard fan of Top Chef. I mean, I know about it, but I don't watch a lot of TV. I know the prize is $100,000 toward opening your own restaurant. If I won, I would open a neighborhood cafe where people would wanna go two or three times a week who could afford it."
Gina B, owner, Fresh Catering and Events. "I've always been interested in doing the show. I was down in Miami visiting anyway, and I just felt like it was meant to be. Cooking is what I do. If I won, I would expand my business. I've cooked professionally for about nine years. I'm excited and nervous."
Alexis Carrasquillo, Line Cook, Houston's Coral Gables. "My girlfriend brought me out here." She says, "I worked with him at Houston's. He's real quiet but intense, and he's very good at what he does." "If I win the show, I save the money," said Alexis.
The view from the 50th floor.