radhika

Meet one of the contestants of Top Chef — Radhika Desai (right), executive chef of Between Boutique Café & Lounge.

Expect her to show her mastery of spices, which (she says) she combines with “grace and restraint.”

raymond blanc

Chefs aren’t easily impressed, but hands down, many of them agree that Raymond Blanc is one of the best. The man behind Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons has proven his mettle as a restaurateur, hotelier and businessman. He is also one of the key influences in French cuisine and reinvented many of its classic dishes. “I just want to show the beauty of the flavour and texture… even when I peel a carrot, I think how to produce the flavour better,” he says.

His first foray into the kitchen wasn’t automatically successful, though. When he was 17 he tried to impress his mother by making a crêpe suzette. But he used a glass dish instead of a frying man, and ended up blowing up the glass and smearing the kitchen with caramel.

But despite that accident his love for cooking returned when he looked through a restaurant window and saw a chef flambé a sea bass.

From there he climbed up the ladder, starting as a dishwasher, then a waiter, training under chefs and working double time to save for his own restaurant. He opened Les Quat’ Saisons in Oxford when he was 28 years old. He also has his own show, The Restaurant.

achatz

Here’s a truly inspiring story about a celebrity chef who beat the odds. Last year, award-winning Chicago chef Grant Achatz was diagnosed with mouth cancer. Doctors said that he may lose his sense of taste. But he took the challenge — going through months of painful therapy and treatment — and in June 2008, was named America’s top chef last night by the James Beard Foundation. “I look at the award as the point of starting over.”

Achatz says that his training to be a chef — including a gruelling apprenticeship at the French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley — helped him face the cancer with unflinching courage. “That dedication that I took in at that restaurant … it became a part of who I am 12 years later and helped me get through a pretty ridiculous battle.”

bourdain

Read this article on Anthony Bourdain, which tracks his career and accomplishments. A short, yet informative read on one of the coolest celebrity chefs on the block.

rachael ray

Rachael Ray is planning to write a tell-all book on her life, from her struggles with alcohol, to her dysfunctional childhood and the “issues” with men she developed after being mugged.

WIll she really drop her perky exterior and allow fans to see her darker side? it might win over critics… or just give them more ammo to poke fun at her.

She will supposedly get 3 million as an advance for her book.

wylie-dufresne.jpg

Wylie Dufresne is known in the culinary world for his unique approach to cooking (“molecular gastronomy”) that combinies the science and art of making a perfect meal. Fascinating factoid: he was actually a philosophy major!

He recently guested on Top Chef, and granted an excellent one on one interview with his comments on each Top Chef contestant.

the-perfectionist.jpg

The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine tackles a well-known case of a three-star French chef commiting suicide in 2003, just after finishing the daily lunch service.

This elegy to Bernard Loiseau of La Cote d’Or was capably written by food journalist Chelminski. It chronicles Loiseau’s total lack of social skills, his bipolar personality, and his obsession with the Michelin Red Guide. It also talks about the intense competition and politics in the culinary world.

james-beard.jpg

James Beard, considered by many as the Father of American Style cooking, would frown on the calorie counting. “A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch.”

This could largely stem from his own eating habits. “In a time when serious cooking meant French Cooking, Beard was quintessentially American, a westerner whose mother ran a boardinghouse, a man who grew up with hotcakes and salmon and meatloaf in his blood,” says one food writer.

It didn’t hurt him. He died at the ripe old age of 81 after a full life, and with a full tummy.

padma-on-voue.jpg

Most men won’t bother trying to be poetic. “She’s Yummy!” they say, of celebrity chef / supermodel / goddess Padma Lakshmi. But they also notice her scar — though the story behind it makes her more beautiful. She got it in a car accident she experienced when she was 14. The wreck was so severe that they had to use the “Jaws of Life” to get her out of the car. When she woke up, she had a 7-inch long scar on her arm.

She was very conscious of the scar and even practiced a pose in the mirror that would let her hide it under her hand and thumb. “But I also knew my scar was a symbol of my survival,” she said.

Many people thought the scar marred what otherwise would’ve been perfect beauty. “Such a shame,” said strangers, “she could have modeled.” When she starred in a college play, the director had the scar hidden under makeup. Later discovered by “Elle” magazine during a trip to Spain, she also hid the scar under makeup — or had it Photoshopped. Microdermabrasion was too painful.

However, photographer Helmut Lang taught her to see the scar as something beautiful. “When he caught a glimpse of my arm, he shrieked, “What have you done?” “Didn’t they tell you about my scar?” I began to panic. “Yes, yes,” he answered, “but why have you erased a part of it? You’ve ruined the beauty of it.”

Today, Padma says she “loves thes car, because it is part of me.”

Chef TEll

Chef Tell — one of America’s first TV chefs — passed away from heart failure at the age of 63.

Born Friedman Paul Erhardt, Chef Tell was beloved for his quick wit and Santa-like disposition. He was friendly, fun, and “peppered” his recipe demonstrations with humor and lots of entertainment.

He was often invited to guest on shows like Regis and Kathie Lee and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and even did comedy segments for Saturday Night Live and The Muppet Show. He was given his own show with PBS. “He was the first of the great showman chefs,” former Inquirer restaurant critic Elaine Tait said. “Up until his era, chefs stayed in the kitchen.”

Tell also ran several successful restaurants, and had developed several cookbooks and product lines. His last cookbook was about cooking for diabetics, based on his own experience.