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Category: Top Chef Master

'Top Chef Masters' ups the spice for L.A.'s Mary Sue Milliken and John Rivera Sedlar

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Mary Sue Milliken called it "my evil vacation." John Rivera Sedlar considered escaping to Paris.

Professional chefs are used to cooking under intense pressure, but the two Los Angeles restaurateurs battling in "Top Chef Masters" underestimated the gastronomic challenges — particularly the ruthless time pressures — that awaited them in the just-launched new season of the culinary competition.

Milliken (Border Grill, Truck) was nearly eliminated in last Wednesday's premiere episode for a chocolate cupcake that was dismissed as insipid by the judges, while Sedlar (Playa, Rivera) sent out a rack of lamb that was not only nearly raw but also featured a garnish flecked with produce labels. "I served 55 perfect lambs," Sedlar said over a recent downtown lunch with Milliken. "And then the last five went out to the judges." Read more in today's Calendar section by John Horn:

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Photo: Top Chef Masters contestants John Rivera Sedlar and Mary Sue Milliken. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

There's a new 'Top Chef'

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It was the showdown in the Bahamas, pitting two polar opposites: Mike Isabella, the brash, swaggering bull of a guy with the passion for big flavor, and Richard Blais, the neurotic perfectionist with the spiky hair who every week seemed to pull a new trick out of his knife bag. With $200,000 plus extras at stake, each was given five hours to prepare "the restaurant of their dreams."

The season finale of Bravo's "Top Chef All-Stars" Wednesday night was vintage material.

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A power trio -- Silverton, Feniger and Tracht -- take center stage at Jewish Federation lunch

Feniger_Silverton_and_Trach 
Feeding lunch to 700 women? That’s an ordinary challenge for the likes of Susan Feniger, Suzanne Tracht and Nancy Silverton. But a lunch that also meets all kosher dietary laws? Now, that was interesting.

The three chefs were featured at a fund-raising lunch Tuesday marking the 100th anniversary of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and to make sure that everyone could eat the meal regardless of how strictly she followed the laws of kashrut, the chefs had to plan their dishes in a new way.

All the equipment in the catering kitchen set up in a tent was blessed. New knives were bought and wrapped in plastic wrap at night to make sure they were not used inappropriately, Feniger said. The salad greens were washed three times to make sure they were insect-free.

“It was an interesting learning experience,” Feniger, co-founder of Border Grill and owner of Susan Feniger's Street, said before the lunch, which   was held in a hangar at the Santa Monica Airport.

Tracht, chef-owner of the restaurant Jar, said she had to use feta cheese rather than the burrata, a cream-filled mozzarella, that she normally uses because she couldn’t locate kosher burrata. And Silverton, co-founder of Pizzeria Mozza, La Brea Bakery and Campanile, had to use a different chocolate for her pudding.

Tracht said she wished she's spent time in a kosher market looking at what was available before she’d started her planning.

She grew up in a kosher household and said one of her childhood meals was borscht, and “it wasn’t always the most attractive thing,” so she decided to use beets in a different way. She made a beet salad with cucumber slices, arugula and feta cheese. (Find the recipe below.)

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.