I don't watch much reality TV but there are two shows that I enjoy* and watch regularly when they are on. One is Survivor, a challenge of mind and body for a million dollars that seems to get better every year. The other is Top Chef, where chefs compete in various cooking competitions to determine who is the best. This year Top Chef got a little more interesting for us South Florida folks as we learned that Andrea Curto-Randazzo of Miami Beach's Talula would be a contestant (or "cheftestant" as they would say) that would be competing for the title of Top Chef. I'd dined at Talula many times and had some fantastic meals there so I was looking forward to seeing how well Andrea would fare.
After watching the first two episodes of the show while on business trips, I was able to finally make it into Talula on a the night the show airs (Wednesday, 9pm, Bravo) where I understood that they would be showing the episode at the bar. It was fun to watch Andrea compete on the show while eating at the bar and then see Andrea watching along too. I can't imagine how weird it feels to see yourself on TV, especially when it's reality TV where only bits and pieces of clips are tied together to make a show. I'm sure wine helps.
Admittedly, it had been awhile since my last meal at Talula and I had forgotten how much I love the food. Braised tripe on two out of three Top Chef visits was phenomenal. Then there's the shortrib that I have ordered almost every time I've dined there because it's that damn good. A smoked trout with potato, malt, and creme fraiche was also extremely good pn my last visit. With each meal, I thought about why I hadn't came in more often and decided that it was the South Beach location that I usually dismiss as "out of the way" when in reality it's really not. Parking at the meters on the streets nearby is also easy to come by which is nice.
With all that said, as I have sat at the bar for the past three weeks I've been surprised at the lack of support from the locals here. You would think that a local chef on a show as popular as Top Chef would bring in some diners to watch the show and have some dinner but the bar has never been full for the show. With the amount of people in South Florida that love to call themselves "foodies" and dine out a lot, why doesn't anyone come down to show some support and love for a local chef that's been cooking great food on Miami Beach for years? I talked to a guy this past week who was on vacation from New York and had never been to Miami. He was here 10 days and ended up eating at Talula three times because he liked the food so much. He's right too. The food is superb and the chef couldn't be a nicer gal even when she talks smack about me being a Red Sox fan and her a Yankee fan. She's just lucky I love her cooking... Actually, now that I think about it, I am glad no one comes down to show support on Wednesday nights. The bar is small and I don't want competition for a seat.
*This season of Top Chef, outside of seeing a local contestant on it, has been less than stellar and less enjoyable than usual.
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