Season six may have moved on to Vegas, but last season’s Top Chef saw the contestants in New York, clog-stomping their way through some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods. This fall, City Food Tours added a Top Chef tour, which ambles through some of the as-seen-on-TV spots from season five, plus a few locations from past seasons, and other places important to a top chef. Click through for a glimpse of the classic Little Italy dairy shop where Leah and Melissa stocked up in episode one, the Nolita restaurant helmed by season four contestant Nikki Cascone, and our final face-stuffing at an outpost of judge Tom Colicchio’s sandwich shop, ‘wichcraft.
We met up with our guide, Nicole Harnett, at the French Culinary Institute in Soho (her alma mater, and a featured location from season three); then our group of eight set off east along Grand Street toward Little Italy. First stop: Di Palo’s, a latteria (Italian for dairy store) that has stood at the corner of Grand and Mott Streets for nearly 90 years. Today, the shop sells Italian specialty foods like cheeses, cured meats, and fresh pasta. In season five, episode two, Leah and Melissa shopped here for the “Melting Pot” challenge.
After Di Palo’s, we headed east once more. Just across Mott Street, the neighborhood began to transform and suddenly we were in the main shopping district of Chinatown, along Grand Street. This is where Danny and Patrick shopped for their dishes in the “Melting Pot” challenge. When shopping for fish, Nicole advised us to look for a firm, not mushy, texture, clear eyes, shiny scales, and no fishy smell.
Next we headed up the Bowery, which took us by Capitale, the opulent nightclub and banquet space (and former bank) featured in season five, episode twelve, “The Last Supper.” Here the contestants prepared five-course meals for a roster of celebrity chefs: Lidia Bastianich, Marcus Samuelsson, Wylie Dusfresne, and Jaques Pépin.
Our walk up the Bowery toward Nolita then took us through Manhattan’s restaurant supply store district.
Turning onto Prince Street, we were soon outside of 24 Prince, the restaurant where Nikki Cascone from season four is chef. At the bar area, we sampled some appetizers and competed in a Top Chef quiz, before meeting Cascone.
We then took the subway uptown one stop to Greenwich Village, where we hit into the Broadway Panhandler, a venerable cooking supply store that has been around the since the early days of America’s interest in gourmet cooking, in the 1970s. At the knife counter in back, we got a lesson on different types of cutlery and learned about keeping knives sharp.
For our final stop, we crossed the street to ‘wichcraft, one of the eleven New York locations of Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio’s casual sandwich joint. After sampling the chopped chickpea, slow-roasted pork, and grilled gruyère sandwiches, we faced off in a taste test contest with five unidentified edible substances. The winners received prizes, and the whole group enjoyed some hot chocolate.