Atlanta has done very well recently on Bravo’s “Top Chef,” with two chefs reaching (but not winning) the finals: Richard Blais and Kevin Gillespie.
Tracey Bloom, who is the executive chef at Table 1280 in Midtown at the High Musuem, hopes to get at least that far.
“I always thought about trying out and after seeing three Atlantans last season, I thought I can do it,” she said. (She actually worked with season six contestant Eli Kirshtein for a brief time.)
She didn’t consult with past contestants before she participated but said she wished she had. But after the fact, she went to one of her favorite restaurants Pure Vida and talked to the chef Hector Santiago, another season six contestant. “He shook my hand and said, ‘Welcome to the ‘Top Chef’ family.’ He was like my brother. Nobody else can know what we went through. You can’t explain it to anybody. They just don’t get it.”
She has an impressive resume, working at Sia’s in Duluth, the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group (mostly at 103 West under Chef Gary Donlick) and sous chef at Asher Restaurant in Roswell (now the Fickle Pickle) and Oscar’s in College Park.
Growing up in a small upstate New York town, she said her personal family life wasn’t that tight knit, but she built up families in the restaurants she worked at: “They brought me up and made me feel secure and proud about things,” she said. “I worked at an ice cream parlor, a pizza place, a burger joint, hotel banquet facilities, pretty much everything. I’ve gone from taking things out of a can to making everything fresh. I’ve worked my way up.”
She also realized that when it came to casting, she was the only lesbian on the show. “They’ve had a few before,” she said. “I was kind of hoping for more!”
And while men have tended to rise to the top on the show, she believes the women on this year’s cast “have no weak links.”
As a female, she said she can dish it out with the men, no problem, but admits to being tougher on other female cooks at times. “I know how hard it is,” she said. “I want them to learn to handle that. You can’t hide behind a salad. If you want to run a kitchen and be on the front line, you have to let them know you’re there. You don’t have to be a bitch. You just need to work hard and not take any crap from the guys.”
As for the competition, she said it was tougher than she imagined. “You watch someone put a dish together in 30 minutes on TV, you can think easily how you could have done it. Then when you have 30 minutes and you’re in that kitchen, I felt like at times, half my brain didn’t work.”
Bloom said she’s pretty outspoken but pulled her punches on the show. “I didn’t want to call someone out because I knew I might love them a week later,” she said. But she said nonetheless she’s sure we’ll hear some colorful comments come out of her mouth.
During the first episode, which I previewed, Bloom did not land at the top or the bottom so it’s too early to ascertain whether she’s a real player or not.
Win or lose, she said plans to stay in Atlanta long term after having lived here more than a decade. “I’d rather work at a hot dog stand than leave Atlanta,” she said. “It’s my home now.”
Watch for my colleague John Kessler, who writes about food on his Food and More blog, for his incredibly entertaining weekly recaps of “Top Chef: DC.”
“Top Chef: DC” debuts Wednesday June 16 at 9 p.m.