The sun was beating down on Mile High City in picturesque Larimer Square where Top Chef: The Tour was being held. It was hot.
Excitedly, I approached the white tents, waiting for the cook-off. As we entered, Top Chef All Star winner Richard Blais and local Vail sweetheart Kelly Liken of Top Chef Season 7 staked out at their respective cooking tables as the crowd whistled and clapped.
Each chef was given ten different ingredients and was allowed to bring a local ingredient from home. The main menu item? Fish. (A little ironic as we’re not coastal...)
Richard brought dry ice as his secret ingredient to mix things up. With a packed house watching, the timed event began.
Kelly’s dish included an orange and lime citrus salad with pickled cabbage. “She’s not cooking anything,” Richard joked about Kelly's final creation, a salmon salad served crudo, which means “raw” in Spanish. When asked what she would drink with her dish, Kelly exclaimed “I would drink tequila!”
Richard broke out avocado to cool over the dry ice. He lightly cooked his salmon on one side and served it with fennel and fresh cilantro. Kelly’s dish was fresh and cooling; Richard’s was creative and different.
The audience and judges got to taste test the goods. For our round (there were three), Kelly’s saucy, citrus salad won over the crowd on a hot day, but Richard ended up winning Denver overall.
My favorite part of the event was getting to see Richard’s humor and ability to work the crowd. Kelly has been running her namesake restaurant for seven years and her local girl charm was witty and endearing. After all, they’re humans too and these events help us interact with them, learn about the show, their favorite dishes and what they're up to post-Top Chef.
Check out the rest of the tour dates to see when they’re coming to a city near you!
Grace Boyle is a Business Manager for Lijit. She writes about her passion for food on Grace(Full)Plate. Follow her on Twitter @gracekboyle and @gracefullplate.
All photos by the author.