The Gorbals

This is an LA eatery, but I thought it might be interesting to those of you elsewhere who watch Top Chef.  Ilan Hall won the second season and he opened The Gorbals in downtown LA.  It is in a Funky space with a capital funk.  In the lobby of a residential hotel.  The hotel has the trappings to be something swanky-marble floors, high ceilings- if redevelopment every makes it to 5th and Spring, but for now it’s still an honest to goodness residential hotel.

I had set this up to be my dinner clubs visit for the month with my co-founder John.  I am a big believer in institutionalizing rituals or else you never see anyone.  I have been seeing this people for the better part of 6 years and we love getting together.  I took most of ’09 off for various (or obvious) reasons, but trying to pull it together for the new decade.  Our coed group met in the spartan, yet chic bar.  They have some great beers on tap.  We sat at a communal table and enjoyed the Jewish/Scottish food as Hall calls it.  Bacon wrapped around Matzo ball is a first, but quite tasty.  No, he is not keeping kosher.  We liked everything, but his fried chicken which was batter heavy, but the pork ribs, the cucumber chick pea salad, everything else was great.  There were flickering votives that made the room feel cozy.  A review of it here.

Either in spite of or because of the off the beaten track (or rather, the very beaten track) the Gorbals feel like a secret.  Check it out.

Side Bar:  I met Chelsea Handler.  I always like to support female comics since any guy with a pulse who comes off of Saturday Night Live seem to get movie deals and funny women have a harder time of it.  We were at a dinner for a bunch of chefs, but since it was sponsored by Belvedere vodka they had to invite the gal who had Vodka in the title of her book.  She was there and was about to leave with a large group.  I had to tap her on her shoulder.  I told her I was a fan.  She was very nice and gracious and not at all like some boozy, crazy like some of her funny books would make her seem.  I didn’t say, “Hey some people say I’m the mom version of you” as that would have sounded kind of stalky.

Mark Peel’s return Top Chef Masters

Okay, I kind of forgot to warn you all my husband was back on Top Chef Masters Wednesday night. If you watched it you might know why.  He did not move on to the next round.  I appreciate the capricious nature of reality TV competition, but this is my guy.

I now what a good person he is and what a caring, careful, exact chef he is in the kitchen. His palate is far more refined than my own–by a country mile, and whatever flaws he has as a human making bad or incomplete food is NOT one of them.  So, that he was sent packing because he had to cook in a broke down pub kitchen where the oven wouldn’t work galled me.

He and the other chefs work very hard on those shows for NO MONEY.  Not so much as a complimentary saucepan.  It ‘s done just to publicize their establishments.  And they take a risk as Mark did because they don’t want prospective new diners to get the idea that if they come to their eateries they are going to be served elimination worthy food.  Mark is an award winning chef who has built successful food establishments.   I’m a little irked about how it played out. He is not a sore loser, but I can be one for him.

I’m sure they will repeat it 45 times if you missed it and they will show it on hulu.com.  Word to the wise, reality shows are scenario shows, made up circumstances.  Not real life.

But, I bet you knew that.

Top Chef Judge

Tonight’s the night!  Where Rex’s dad is a judge on Top Chef (Wednesday, September 2nd). His appearance on Top Chef (not the Masters, different show) came at a provident time for us. April 30th we were loading out the last our possessions from the dream home where we had to sell. And May 1st we were being flown to Las Vegas so Mark could do the show. We were put up in a suite on the outskirts of town, but it was sweet to be sure. I left the kids for 22 hours and had such a great time. Here is where we stayed. It was actually prettier in person and wasn’t chock a block with white trash in the pool the way Vegas can be. We drank, had naked time, got massages in the beautiful spa, and saw a show. What parents away will do. The next morning MP filmed his first bit with Padma. I was a good wifeager and asked them to promote his book, which they kindly did. Then I had to get home to see my babies.

I honestly think that trip really helped me from getting the blues.

MP shot there a couple more days and had a great time. So, it will be fun to watch it.

Wow, seems like so long ago.

Top Chef Masters: My Own Watching Party

Okay, I couldn’t watch it live. Even though I knew the outcome, it made me more nervous than I realized. We went over to Mark’s restaurant and ate, and I had a big glass of white wine (I like them dry and minerally). After the bunnies were in bed, and Mark came home from work, I watched it.

It’s funny since I have hosted reality shows, and I know how much of it is set up and made in the editing room, yet I was still drawn in to see my husband compete.

For those that didn’t see it, I think Mark did very well. He looked handsome, and he was genial and articulate. Which is why I think they used a lot of his sound bites. I also thought the New Orleans chef Jeff Besh came off as a very likable guy. I found the other two chefs were mumblers and a tad harder to understand, but nice enough.

Mark had been saying for months (It was shot a while ago) “I could have done better in the Quick Fire.”  Ironic that his flaw was forgetting the olive oil when I have learned so much about cooking with olive oil.

Stefano stava cucinando
Creative Commons License photo credit: BobbyProm

In the challenge, he had to tie one hand behind his back (they all did). I loved that they had him talking about his dad who was born with only one hand. And that they showed the sweet photo of he and his dad when Mark was little. His dad was pretty solid. He was a teacher. Taught special ed and drivers ed and painted houses in the summer to support his family… with one arm!

The shows goes a fast clip, but Mark was AWOL from home for two and half days. He said there was a lot of sitting around. And the judges’ deliberation that takes about 2 minute in the show? That took 3 hours. He and the other chefs did sit around and drink and wait… and wait.

While we watched, I would pause and ask him things like, “Was your fish overcooked?”  He said probably: “They say you are going to go, and then you have to wait.”  Ah the magic of “reality” television.

When it came down to just he and one other after the other two chefs were ordered to get their knifes and get lost, I said, “Do you feel bad when people are eliminated?”

He said with a smile, “No.”

My Top Chef

Okay, tonight is the night! My husband Mark Peel will be on Bravo’s Top Chef: Masters. I’m a bit of a stage mom so I have to chat him up. He is a very unassuming guy who never blows his own horn. And I want him to have some recognition.

Last year when we got the bad Madoff news I said, “2009 is going to be a good year for you.” His restaurant celebrated it’s 20th year; his cook book comes out in the fall; and his new cocktail bar will open in the fall. I said one of of my goals this year is for you to get on Top Chef. I asked a casting friend I know to submit him and also my agents did so, but it’s so Mark that I think they just found him by his own reputation. In the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, he is the Tortoise.

The Bravo site has different behind-the-scenes stuff with the chefs. They asked Mark to send in some video and pictures. The request sat there for weeks before I took up the task.  I said:

“You know, I know something about doing videos for the web”. I hope they use what I sent in!

Of course, he is also a great dad, and he sweetly carried Rex around Campanile the other night so I could eat with my friend and Vivien and her friend.  No wonder I love him… whether he wins or not tonight.

Top Chef: Masters… the Party

Okay here is my dress… if I’m leading with that it means the party wasn’t that exciting. Granted, I’m a jaded ole basic cable host.

1) My dress is Vivienne Westwood; it was a splurge for me, but it was 50% off. And I bought it at a small store near me that NEVER has customers, so I kind feel like I was helping the economy. The shop owner was so sweet; she held Rex while I tried on clothes. Which was pretty brutal, as I am still 15 lbs overweight, and as moms know, everything has settled oddly. Oh, and I have bad undergarments. It would have helped if I had a supportive bra (a la Jane Russell); instead I have these limp, cotton nursing things that send my guns downward. And I have Spanx, but they roll under my roll. It’s really better to have a Spanx slip. Those are good.

2) I added the broach to the hip. I thought it anchored the ruching.

3) There was a little bit of press, notably my people, TV guide Network. (It’s not a channel, dammit!)  I spoke to them, but otherwise I was there as Mark’s press coach. Mark is a warm, sincere person. So I would say, “Look, that was okay, but if you want them to be sure to use your soundbite say something like, ‘I was afraid the quick challenge would involve Mario Batali in a bikini.’

4) Campanile looked great; the place was packed with people who had worked on the show. But only a few chefs. And chefs and crew people= I could have worn sweats… and clogs.

5) Looking forward to seeing Mark in his episode.

6 ) The party was going strong when I left, but my feet were aching, and I know a sweet,little boy is waking me up at 2:30a.m. So, I think 9:30 is a good exit.

Mrs. Top Chef: Masters

Okay, so for you Top Chef fans, for which there seems to be a considerable amount, this Wednesday is the start of Top Chef: Masters where, instead of lowly rubes trying to win the prize, established chefs compete to be the Top, Top Chef. Well, my sweet husband Mark Peel is one of them. He taped it a couple of months ago. A long grueling production day from what he said.

Scary chef
Creative Commons License photo credit: kevingessner

“We had to sit around and wait forever; it was so boring.” That’s production work for you. He is used to the go-go of restaurant work. I think he enjoyed some of the game of the show. He couldn’t tell me much, or they come and find you!

I’m happy he is going to be on the show. Each week, it’s a different foursome. I don’t think he will be on this week; his is in a few weeks. These “master” chefs don’t compete for money; they compete for charity. Apparently no one told the producers that unless you are Wolfgang Puck, a chef doesn’t make that much money. Mark’s charity was Doctors Without Borders.

What I’m even happier about is that Bravo is having a premiere party at Campanile. There will be some press, lots of chefs, supposedly some celebs, which means I am getting my hair done! And it means I have to find something to wear. My one ace in the hole fab dress I can’t wear a bra with, and at this point in my son’s life, that is NOT an option.

If it’s a good party I’ll blog about it on Thursday.  If it’s not, I’ll just show you what dress I wore.