Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Top Chef

Trying to get a reservation at Michael Voltaggio's Ink?


If, like me, you’re trying to get a reservation at Michael Voltaggio’s new restaurant, Ink, but are having trouble -- i.e., when you click on the reservations page the link has disappeared -- that means all the reservations for a table up to 30 days ahead have already been snapped up.

Or that’s what I assumed when I tried to make a reservation yesterday. Confused, I contacted Voltaggio’s PR rep, Joy Limanon, who emailed me a response re how the reservations policy works at Ink (the restaurant spells it ink. -- with the lowercase "i" and period).

 “During this pre-opening period, all reservations are being taken online only. Once the restaurant officially opens on Wednesday, September 21st, the phone line will go live, and at that time ink. will be taking reservations and creating a wait list for cancellations.

Regarding walk-ins, there are 10 seats available on a first come, first served basis at the bar, where guests can enjoy the full main dining room menu," she writes. "For clarification, online reservations are currently the only option. UrbanSpoon reactivates the reservation link daily -- up to 30 days in advance (leaving out dates where 30 days in advance falls on a Monday or Tuesday -- the days ink. is closed.)"

All this is helpful, and when I click on the reservations page today, I now see the message: “No reservations are currently available. Reservations are taken online up to 30 days in advance. As tables become available, they will be shown here.” Keep looking.

Sigh. But kudos to Voltaggio for creating such a demand. 


Food Day is Oct. 24

Fukuburger comes to Hollywood

Green tea workshops at Tortoise General Store

-- S. Irene Virbila


Photo: Aprons hanging in the Ink dining room. Credit: Betty Hallock/Los Angeles Times

'Top Chef' showdown: Antonia versus CJ


"Top Chef" fans: It's going to be Antonia Lofaso versus Chris "CJ" Jacobson.

That's the lineup when Bravo brings "Top Chef: The Tour" to town on June 17 and 18, pulling up the customized "Top Chef" 18-wheel tractor-trailer to the Hollywood and Highland Center at 6801 Hollywood Blvd. The highlight of each stop in the 20-city U.S. tour features a showdown between two former contestants before a panel of judges and audience members.

The Los Angeles cheftestants are Lofaso, a fan favorite, and Jacobson, the executive chef at The Yard in Santa Monica. Live demonstrations are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., and 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day. What else can you expect? We'll let the news release take it from here:

The fourth annual highly-anticipated "Top Chef: The Tour," brings fans and viewers to the next level -- creating an interactive experience where they can physically taste, connect and learn more about the show they're passionate about. Visitors of the tour can meet and greet with "Top Chef" talent, sample food tastings, receive gourmet cooking tips, hear "Top Chef" show "secrets," get cheftestant autographs, and participate in a variety of on-site "Top Chef" activities, including a chance to win prizes."

Ticket information will be available at this link shortly.


Got a great burger recipe? We'll be the judge of that

Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila needs food, STAT!

He's crusty. But that's a compliment to this bread-maker

-- Rene Lynch

Photos: Antonia Lofaso and Chris "CJ" Jacobson. Credit: Bravo

'Top Chef: The Tour' coming to Los Angeles, San Francisco in June

Bravo is taking it's "Top Chef" show on the road once again.

The channel just announced a 20-city nationwide tour that begins April 15 in St. Louis.  Each stop is expected to feature a live showdown between two former chef'testants, with local judges making the call.

" 'Top Chef: The Tour,' brings fans and viewers to the next level -- creating an interactive experience where they can physically taste, connect and learn more about the show they’re passionate about," Ellen Stone, Bravo senior vice president for marketing, said in a news release.

Also from the release: "The free event provides fans with a chance to meet and greet the chef’testants they’ve come to know and root for, hear "Top Chef" show "secrets," and, for the first time ever, step into the judges' shoes and rate their favorite Chef’testants’ food...Additionally, fans can snap photos and upload images from 'Top Chef: The Tour' to unlock the 'Top Chef Tour' badge on Foodspotting."

"Top Chef: The Tour" hits California in June, with stops in Los Angeles on June 16, 17 and 18 and San Francisco on June 20 and 21. Stay tuned for details on exactly where that will be, and which "Top Chef-ers" will be in attendance.

Which "Top Chef-ers" would you like to see up close and live?

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: "Top Chef" judges Padma Lakshmi and Tom Colicchio. Credit: Bravo

3 Food Events You Should Know About: Pizza- and pasta-making from scratch, 'Top Chef' casting call, and Planned Parenthood Food Fare


Have what it takes to be a Top (Pastry) Chef? Put away the knives and pick up your pastry bag.  Bravo announced that it will film a second season of "Top Chef Just Desserts." Casting calls for the new series, along with a new season of "Top Chef," will take place in Los Angeles at the Foundry on Melrose on March 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Time to start practicing the monologue on how your prized signature dish has been passed down five generations, proving that you have what it takes to win (the audition).

Pizza and Pasta 101: Confounded by the art of pasta fresca and homemade pizza?  Pizzeria Ortica is hosting hands-on cooking demonstrations with chef Justin Miller that teach how to make pasta and pizza from scratch. Guests can reap the joy of their hard work, accompanied by Italian wines, at the end of the class. The demonstration classes begin at 11 a.m. March 26, April 23, and May 21. 

Planned Parenthood Food Fare 2011: Planned Parenthood's annual Food Fare, kicked off more than 30 years ago by Julia Child, is set for March 10 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. This year, more than 150 restaurants and caterers are taking part, ranging from A.O.C. to Pink's hot dogs.  Tickets cost $150 for the daytime event and $225 for the evening session. Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, 1855 Main St., Santa Monica; (213) 284-3316.

Photo: "Top Chef Just Desserts" judges, from left, Hubert Keller, Gail Simmons, Johnny Iuzzini and Dannielle Kyrillos surround the show's first winner, Yigit Pura.

Water Grill announces new executive chef Amanda Baumgarten


Water Grill, the 20-year-old downtown seafood restaurant owned by King's Seafood Co., says it has a new executive chef: Amanda Baumgarten. Baumgarten, who was a "Top Chef" contestant last season, has been promoted from sous-chef. 

In September, former Water Grill chef David Lefevre announced he was leaving to open a new restaurant, and King's Seafood said it would conduct a search for his successor.  

"We conducted a national search, interviewed many talented chefs ... from New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and of course Los Angeles," said King's Seafood Chief Operating Officer Jeff Goodman in a release. "After rounds of interviews and menu tastings, it became crystal clear that the best chef for the job was already in our kitchen."

Baumgarten trained at Le Cordon Bleu in London and has cooked at Patina, Melisse and Ford's Filling Station.    

544 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 891-0900; Watergrill.com.

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Amanda Baumgarten in "Top Chef." Credit: David Giesbrecht / Bravo

'Just Desserts': Edible arrangements, celebri-tea and Shinmin Li

Chocolate flowers

Warning: Do not read this or scroll down if you haven't watched Wednesday night's episode.

The latest episode of "Just Desserts" brought collapsed edible arrangements, a failed celebri-tea party and Shinmin Li's wrath. But what was most upsetting of all was the departure of Eric, the underdog baker who had blossomed into a pastry chef throughout the season.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs were tasked with making flower sculptures out of pulled sugar, chocolate and other sweets. Zac made a mirrored disco arrangement that looked like a mini version of Jean-Philippe's giant 5-foot mobile flower display in Las Vegas (pictured above), and Danielle put together a sloppy but creative compilation highlighted by candied orange zest roses. Being less comfortable with making large showpieces, Eric the Baker made a giant cupcake using a brioche mold and topped it with dainty buttercream flowers. Guest judge Shinmin was not impressed, and seemed to look down on the fact that he didn't know how to make a proper showpiece.

She did, however, like Morgan and Yigit's creations, both of which utilized pulled sugar. Morgan ended up taking the win, but who knows how that challenge might have resulted had he not accidentally bonked into Yigit's sugar vase, leaving it shattered, and him without an edible container for his chocolate roses.

Continue reading »

'Just Desserts': Dessert Wars

NUP_138928_1480 Thursday night, the first Dessert Wars ensued, Team Diva disbanded and Nancy Silverton paid a visit to the "Top Chef" set.

The remaining six pastry chefs were divided into two teams for the bakery challenge, in which each team had to make nine desserts: three per contestant, including one bread item and two prepped a la minute.

After losing the pastry prep quickfire, Morgan, Danielle and Eric were hungry for a win. (Hey, I'd be salivating over a $30,000 prize too.) They stocked the beautiful display case with Eric's vanilla malted cake with chocolate butter cream and a banana loaf with brown-butter-and-tangerine icing; a pistachio shortcake and coffee cream pie with hazelnut brittle from Danielle; and chocolate cake with mousse and creme brulee center and chocolate glaze, as well as a lemon fried pie with salted caramel ice cream from Morgan.

Though the Divas proclaimed that they were superior in style, their Adult Playground concept presented their customers with a sad, sparse display case. And Heather, who insisted on rolling the dough by hand instead of using a sheeter, whipped up some of the thickest crust the judges had ever seen. To make matters worse, she was in charge or rolling dough for Yigit, whose chocolate tart with salted peanuts and caramel was ruined by the dense dough.

Keeping true to the format of a real bakery, the other team's Whisk Me Away bakery had stocked jars with staples such as chocolate chip cookies. But when it came to the bread, guest judge Silverton was more impressed with Zac's white-truffle-and-kalamata-olive brioche than Morgan's soft, salted pretzel. That was about the only thing that Team Diva had going for them, though.

Well, that and the fact that they had the adorable Yigit working the front of the house. The judges didn't quite take to Danielle's lackadaisical hosting, but it wasn't enough to whisk her team away to the chopping block.

In the end, Heather got the boot, breaking up the giggly Diva crew. With Team Diva disbanded, will Zac and Yigit still have their flare? As long as there's disco dust, it's safe to say so.

-- Krista Simmons

Photo: Morgan's chocolate cake with creme brule center Credit: NBC UMV


'Just Desserts': Black and white and read all over

Judges with L_sm Wednesday night's episode got a little close to home, as the "Just Desserts" cast descended on the L.A. Times building to cater our 128th birthday party.

The chefs were all baffled by the challenge, which required them create pastries devoid of color, utilizing only black and white. The task was like taking away the primary colors from a pack of painters, and no one seemed pleased. Given they don't make black disco dust, Zach was in quite a jam.

Michael Liaskonis of Le Bernardin came over from the Big Apple to judge the episode, which had me wondering, "Where's the local flavor?" And more importantly, "Why wasn't I invited?" If this were high school I'd have been face-deep in a pillow.

While I maintained my cool, Heather certainly did not. When her white chocolate Rice Krispie treats went missing a la pea puree, she immediately assumed it was her nemesis Morgan who absconded with them, barking to the rest of Team Diva (Zach, Heather and Yegit) about her disgust of her competitor. It's hard to believe someone so bitter has dedicated their life to sweets.

Erik, who was moping around the supermarket while shopping for ingredients, felt defeated too early. Gail and the gang thought that his Mississippi mud cake with earl grey whipped cream and hot fudge sauce was beautifully plated, and Johnny Iuzzini stated it was his best dessert yet.

Morgan The monochromatic match really pushed the contestants. They extracted the essential flavors from items like tea and fruits and utilized various textures to create visual appeal. Morgan's sticky toffee pudding and chocolate date cake with banana anise cream and coffee Kahlua jelly, pictured at right, was a perfect example. His columnar design was inspired by the design of our paper, and visually it worked.

But it was Yigit's chocolate cake with white chocolate mousse, berry compote and almond milk ice cream that made headlines. He took home his first quick-fire win, beating out the rest of the boys that were in the top rung.

The three remaining ladies' desserts were deemed the worst by the judges, and even though Danielle's ill-planned 128 petit four plate lacked insight and flavor, Erika and her gluey ice cream got sent home.

Thank goodness it wasn't our local girl. We love L.A.!

--Krista Simmons

Follow me on Twitter @kristasimmons

Photo: From right, Gail Simmons, Michael Liaskonis and Dannielle Kyrillos. Courtesy of NBC UMV.

'Just Desserts' recap: Food and fashion collide

Morgan Last night the renowned Sherry Yard of Spago paid a visit to  "Just Desserts," judging challenges based on two of my favorite things: souffles and shoes.

For the quickfire, each chef presented their own version of the delicate egg-based French dish, and although Yigit's winning souffle seemed lovely, nothing looked as luscious as Ludo's dark chocolate rendition. For the elimination, the remaining pasty chefs were to design edible fashion inspired by a pair of shoes.

The chefs were given a bonkers 8-hour time limit to design, and they also had to create petit-fours accessories to complement their outfits. Danielle and Heather C. seemed confused by the challenge and used vegetables rather than pastry skills to craft their dresses. They veered so far from the show's dessert theme that they might as well have presented Gaga's meat dress to the judges.

Regardless of Zach's experience designing chocolate clothing for the Salon au Chocolat, Morgan came out on top. He put together every woman's must-have, a sultry LBD (little black dress) that paired perfectly with the blood-red pumps, a spiced raspberry ruby ring and red-hot cinnamon macaron earring.

More photos after the jump....

Continue reading »

'Just Desserts' recap: Ice cream, you scream. Contestants scream, 'Get me out of here!'

Koqreznc What happened to the cast of 'Just Desserts' last night?  At this rate, Bravo is going to have to bring in the cast of the "Real Housewives of Atlanta" to finish out the season, because everyone is leaving.

First came Seth, whose anxiety attack left him unfit to compete. Then came Malika, who offered to bow out at the judges table regardless of the fact that Gail Simmons said this was her best dessert yet.

Seth did throw up a few red flags in previous episodes: his manic reactions to stressors; his frantic running around the kitchen; and his instability in the stressful environment. Time and again, he caved like an improperly baked souffle, buckling under pressure and taking the fun out of the competition for the other contestants. When he left, you could see from the disguised smiles that everyone felt a cloud had been lifted. It was a bit sad because obviously the guy was struggling with some issues.

Continue reading »

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.