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Instructor Andrea Strong: On Bravo’s Top Chef, Billy Idol, and Black Table Cloths

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I am a reality show fanatic. I am also a foodie. So naturally my favorite show on television is Top Chef. My sister sends me text messages every Wednesday to remind me the show is on. I once hired an intern just because he asked me in his interview if I thought Marcel or Ilan would win the finale. He is now our web production assistant, so I think I made a good call. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I watched last week’s episode and saw that the guest judge was blogger Andrea Strong of The Strong Buzz. Andrea’s reviews are everywhere, including on the wall of my favorite ice cream shop, Maggie Moo’s. She is also teaching an Intro to Food Writing class for us this September. Here is what Andrea shared with us about her judging experience:
How did you get to be a guest on Top Chef?
I was approached by Top Chef a few years ago about being a guest judge for Season One, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. I love the show and was excited to be a part of it. Then they called me in February to see if I was still interested in doing the show and I said “tell me where you want me to be and I’ll be there.” I was flown down to Miami in April. Restaurant Wars was a great episode to be a part of. I have opened restaurants and can understand the stress of it all, and because I review restaurants now for The Strong Buzz every week, it really did seem to be the right fit for me and the show.


What was the single worst thing you ate during the competition?
The worst thing I ate was the probably Restaurant April’s grouper in shellfish and artichoke pistou. It was very acidic and unbalanced and was really unpleasant to eat. My favorite dish was Hung’s tuna tartare from Restaurant Garage. It was elegant and really delicious.
You compared one restaurant’s decor to eating off Billy Idol. Would you call yourself a Billy Idol fan or foe?
I was a huge Billy Idol fan as a teenager. Who doesn’t still love a little Eyes Without a Face? But at Restaurant Garage, I just saw these silver rocks strewn over the jet black tablecloth and was like, what is this? How Billy Idol. How not cozy and inviting.
Is a black tablecloth ever appropriate?
I really don’t think so. Not for a restaurant. You want some sense of lightness and elegance in terms of linens on tables. Look at the table dressings at Daniel and Jean Georges, or even little neighborhood places &#151 always white. It’s just the quality that’s the difference.
Will we be seeing you again on this week’s show for the do-over?
I can’t answer that. I am under a confidentiality agreement. One million dollars, baby!
Who would you have eliminated, had there been an elimination last week?
Howie. His risotto was not made properly and his explanation was “that’s the way I make it.” Two of the country’s best chefs, Tom Colicchio and Daniel Boulud (plus Ted Allen, Padma, and me), are telling you it’s sticky and gummy and he says “well that’s how I do it and I know how to make risotto”? I don’t think so. He’s got a great amount of confidence and not as much ability to back it up.
Any show favorites?
I am a big fan of Tre and CJ. I think Tre is probably the most talented of the lot, but I like CJ’s approach to food and his personality.
Why isn’t there anyone as hot as Sam this season?
Not sure about that one. I think that would be a question for Randy Bernstein, the Casting Director. But I think they did a great job of casting different personality types and good looking contestants. I think Brian is adorable and so are CJ and Tre. And how can you not love Dale? He’s the cutest.
Jessica Eule, Assistant Director of Education
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  • Intro to Food Writing with Andrea Strong starts September 20 (New York)
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