Where Should Top Chef Film Next?

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Seattle is on the short list of places for the next season of Top Chef. Seattle is really overshadowed by San Francisco and LA as a culinary mecca, but you have some really cutting edge stuff coming out of here (the Modernist Cuisine Crew) and some fantastic chef doing amazing stuff with local and seasonal ingredients. It would be a real boon to Seattle’s culinary reputation if they get Top Chef, although somehow I see an elimination challenge involving digging up a geoduck.

Marche Jean Talon in Montreal. Everything is local and seasonal here. There is a reason why most Montreal chefs shop here.

I bring this up because I read an article on boston.com that the Boston mayor is pushing for a twitter campaign to have Top Chef come to Boston. I lived in Boston for 12 years and I am back there a couple of times a year on business, so I am still pretty in tune with the Boston dining scene. Let me tell you, cutting edge and memorable are 2 words you won’t hear me use to describe it. Staid, stogy and mediocre are the ones I would use. Yes, there are some great restaurants in Boston (check out my review of what may be the best one here), but generally most places are generic and dated. Folks in Boston are not cutting edge when it comes to dining out nor is there the push for local/sustainable/organic that you would expect to see from a city with that many institutions of higher learning.
You want Italian in Boston, everyone will tell you to go to the North End. What you will find is 30 restaurants all serving “classic” Italian dishes like lasagna, chicken parm and veal piccatta. There are a few “trendy” places there, but their menus are equally as lackluster. You won’t find any place like Altura, or Assiaggio or even Swingside café there, and the North End is “the” Italian neighborhood in Boston.

If you want the best food in Boston, you have to go very high end, which in most cases excludes the bulk of the dining public (Zagat’s has the Legal Seafood restaurants ranked 1-10 and they aren’t at all cheap; everything in the top 25 is $30+ entrée type places). By contrast, the #2 and #3 rated food places in Seattle by Zagat’s are the sister locations of Paseo, where nothing is more than $15. The number 4 place? Mashiko, one of 2 sustainable sushi places in the US where you can easily fill up for less than $25 a person. Paseo and Mashiko are both amazing places to eat.

You want gastro pub, forget it in Boston. You won’t find a Quinn’s or a Tavern Law there. Great burger joint? None that I can think of in Boston (although there are a few pretty good ones around).
My favorite quote from the article:

But so far, Boston — a.k.a. the land of the bean and the cod and the home of the first gastronome to put cream in the chowder — has been terra incognita for “Top Chef.”

Right there to me is the reason to NOT shoot in Boston.

Top Chef has been to New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and Austin, all culinary hot spots. Seattle and/or Portland are due. Boston, meh, not so much. Heck, I would love to see them shoot in Montreal before they shoot in Boston. They could have an amazing challenge just by dropping the chefs in either Marche Jean Talon or Marche Atwater and letting them go to town.

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