Ruthless Cooking


Bravo’s reality cooking show features culinary alumni

By Elizabeth Casella and Elizabeth Chapa Intern and Arts and Entertainment Editor

A new spin off show of “Top Chef” called “Top Chef Duels” has come to an end, and many critics consider the introduction to the twelfth season a success.

top chef
The two Schoolcraft Alumni.

“Top Chef Duels,” which premiered Aug. 6 on Bravo, brought back some of the best culinary chefs seen on earlier seasons of “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Masters.” In each episode, two chefs are pitted against each other in a battle to test their skill, speed and creativity in the kitchen. The season finale winner was Chris Jacobson, also known as “CJ.”

With the end to the spin off series came the premiere the twelfth season of “Top Chef” on Oct. 15. Returning this season as judges are Tom Colichio, Gail Simmons and Hugh Acheson. Also returning is host Padma Lakshmi. For the first time ever, a “Top Chef” winner, Richard Blais, is joining the show as a judge

This season of “Top Chef” includes Schoolcraft alumni James Rigato and Mei Lin in the cast, and features battles between sixteen fresh cooks taking place in Boston. Each week, one or more chefs may be sent home depending on what surprises are in store for the competitors each week.

“The chefs will go knife-to-knife at iconic Boston locales including Fenway Park, Plimoth Plantation and Cheers! Mirroring Boston’s own rich history, Season 12 is full of firsts, including the first meal ever served on the field underneath the Green Monster, a challenge using only ingredients that would have been on hand at the first Thanksgiving meal, the first ‘Top Chef’ food festival and the first fan appreciation challenge where fans of the show were invited to dine inside the ‘Top Chef’ kitchen,” according to Bravo. “The show will also feature a challenge highlighting Boston’s finest from the police and fire departments.”

Season 12 will also introduce sudden death “Quickfire” challenges that will occur without warning throughout the season and will feature a revamped judges table to surprise every chef.

In the first episode George Pagnois was kicked off after challenging Gregory Gourdet to a cook off. The green team who completed the challenge first, securing their spot on episode two, which consists of team members: Adam Harvey, Aaron Grissom, Doug Adams and Keriann Von Raesfeld. Rigato and Lin both competed well in the first episode and remained in the competition even with the very first “Quickfire” challenge thrown into the show as a twist for the competitors.

In the second episode Joy Crump is sent home after presenting uncooked veal to the judges as her final dish. The contestants were able to compete to win $5,000 instead of a team challenge and Chef Rigato was the challenge winner. He prepared sautéed mussels with boar bacon broth, sautéed fiddlehead ferns, sauerkraut and tosaka seaweed.

In episode three that aired on Oct. 29, Chef Gourdet was the winner of the “Quickfire” challenge gaining himself immunity from elimination. Unfortunately, Chef Ron Eyester was told to pack his knives and was sent home after serving a less than fine dining dish and disappointing the judges. Watch to see how far alumni James Rigato and Mei Lin go in the competition. It is definitely a show that any cooking fan should indulge in. Tune in every Wednesday night on Bravo at 10 p.m. for “Top Chef.”


Interview by Lauren Lukens

James Rigato

Q: What’s your all-time favorite dish to make and why? A: It doesn’t exist. I love to be challenged by every dish, but I would say that nose-to-tail is my favorite style.

Q: What was your best experience on “Top Chef”? A: I’d say that the best experience on “Top Chef” was meeting all of the chefs and developing a network with like-minded individuals.

Q: What is it like working and being judged by some of the best chefs in culinary? A: It’s exciting and stressful. Sometimes it was rewarding, and other times frustrating.

Q: Who was your favorite chef to work with on the show and why? A: I really like all of the chefs, honestly, but I feel like Rebecca [LaMalfa] and Mei [Lin] were my favorite people that I’m interested in cooking with again. I like them all, but I felt closest to Rebecca and Mei and I really like their poise and professionalism.

Q: How did Schoolcraft prepare you for the challenges on “Top Chef”? A: Schoolcraft lays out a wonderful foundation for culinary ethos and professionalism. To me, there is a way that chefs should hold themselves. I think Schoolcraft does a great job of teaching that and they certainly treat you the ethics and professionalism required in all culinary arts.

Mei Lin

Q: What’s your all-time favorite dish to make and why? A: My favorite dish to make is congee, which is a rice porridge. Not only is it easy to make, but it’s super comforting and very versatile. You can put anything you want in it. My favorite version is with thousand-year-old egg and pork. Very classic.

Q: What was your best experience on “Top Chef”? A: My best experience on “Top Chef” was just simply being able to meet such wonderful people. The relationships we made are going to last forever.

Q: What is it like working and being judged by some of the best chefs in culinary? A: Working next to some of the best chefs inspire you to be better, and again, being judged by some of the best in the industry…nerve racking.

Q: How did Schoolcraft prepare you for the challenges on “Top Chef”? A: Schoolcraft taught me foundation. I learned the fundamentals, the importance of organization, working clean, and most importantly, having a sense of urgency.

Q: Who mentored you in your journey to “Top Chef”? A: I’ve had a lot of mentors, all of which who have guided me in the right direction. I have learned a lot from all the kitchens I’ve worked in. But working at Ink. has made me develop my cooking style.