D.C. chefs see if they can cut it on 'Top Chef'

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Entertainment,Robert Fulton

When it comes to the upcoming season of Bravo's "Top Chef," Bart Vandaele has a few advantages.

He brings a European flair to the proceedings thanks to his Belgian background. Add in his time in culinary school and his experience running a restaurant in D.C., and maybe he has what it takes to wind up as the top chef.

"I think if you're a good businessman, you have to be a little bit competitive," Vandaele said.

The 10th season of "Top Chef" premiers Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Bravo.

On TV
'Top Chef'
» When: 10 p.m. Wednesday
» Channel: Bravo
» Info: bravotv.com

Vandaele, born and raised in Belgium, moved to Washington 15 years ago. He's the owner and executive chef of Belga Cafe, home to Belgian food and beer in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. He's also working on opening a second restaurant called B Too in Logan Circle.

Despite his busy schedule, Vandaele was up to the challenge of competing on "Top Chef."

"I think after the restaurant, and also my next one coming, I just wanted to do something different, a new challenge in life," Vandaele, 42, said. "I think being just a Belgian in this big wide world here in the U.S., I was like, why don't we try it, be on American television? I was very excited about it and to see what the competition is about.

"I just have a very, very good team," Vandaele added when asked how he balanced it all. "I have people who have been from day one with me at the restaurant, so they knew what to do."

Also appearing on this year's cycle are Daniel O'Brien, owner and chef of D.C.'s Seasonal Pantry, and Jeffrey Jew, formerly of Marvin.

Popular former "Top Chef" constants include Carla Hall and Spike Mendelsohn, owner of the Good Stuff Eatery locations on Capitol Hill and in Crystal City.

Vandaele said the "full package" that is the "Top Chef" gauntlet posed a challenge.

"You don't know exactly where you're going to go, you're living with a whole crew of chefs who have all their personalities and everything in one big house," Vandaele said. "You have everything together. And the challenges themselves -- you have to think fast, you have to cook fast. That was the biggest challenge overall."

And lest you think "Top Chef" is just hanging out and whipping up a few dishes, Vandaele said it is a lot of work.

"It's like a restaurant," Vandaele said, careful not to reveal who won this season. "The restaurant business is a hard business. It's not a vacation and cook a little bit. It's the real deal."

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